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Are Off-Road Tires Good in the Snow?

Have you ever wondered if off-road tires are good in the snow? Or maybe you have actually tried using different tire sets to conquer winter conditions?

Whichever the case is, it is important to know the performing capabilities of off-road tires.

So, let's take a look at how different off-road tires will perform in the winter season.

What Is an Off-Road Tire?

The normal driving conditions of an off-road tire are, as the name suggests, on various off-road surfaces. They are designed specifically to conquer soft, loose, and uneven terrains without difficulty. This ensures their consistent forward motion on such terrains, preventing loss of surface grip during the drive.

Off-road tires can be categorized in three ways. Each performance has its own specific pattern and application, allowing them to securely perform in such conditions.

All terrain tires

All Terrain Tires provide great taction both on- and off-road. They are the true all-rounders of the tire world.

They utilize their staggered tread blocks to provide the necessary grip on different terrain surfaces. You will find wider voids on their footprint, between the elements - which ensures their self-cleaning capability.

The footprint is also detailed with multiple sipes, which optimizes its on-road and different terrain applications. However, surface grip issues can arise in muddy conditions and during winter driving. While some all terrain tires provide tread designs pinned for studs, sadly, not all models will guarantee a secure snowy weather performance.

All Terrain tires

Mud Terrain Tires

Mud tires or  mud terrain tires are designed strictly for off-road use. These off-road tires are made to handle muddy conditions with ease, and they do not offer good highway terrain performance.

You will find high void ratios and larger, detailless, staggered blocks on a mud terrain tire. This pattern is utilized to ensure the model's secure soft and loose surface traction. They provide a higher number of sideway biting edges, allowing the mud tire to climb out of sticky situations.

Their aggressive tread pattern sacrifices the mud tires' good on-road and snow performance. This tread type does not offer the necessary grip to hold the tire's surface grip on dry pavement or on icy roads.

Rugged Terrain Tires

Rugged or hybrid tires have risen in popularity in recent years. This is the best tire type if off-road traction and on-road comfort are needed for your vehicle.

This is basically a tire category between all and mud terrain models. They feature similar patterns to mud tires, with their staggered block placement and high void ratio. Yet, they still provide the necessary biting edges for harsher terrains, unlike all terrain models.

Additionally, they do not sacrifice driving comfort to achieve this. Rugged terrain tires will ensure your driving comfort when your vehicle is used on the road. The better grip and all weather performance make this the best year round tire out of the three off-road types.

Rugged Terrain tires

If you are interested in reading more about off-road tires, take a peek at our blog post which explains the difference in better detail.

Are Off-Road Tires Better Than Winter Tires?

Off-road tires are mainly made for all season applications. However, most all season tires do not provide the needed grip for severe snow service and icy conditions.

But, what do we mean by that?

Well,  winter tires are specifically manufactured for winter conditions. Their detailed footprint, deep grooves, and ideal tread block placement are modeled from a soft rubber compound. This allows the tire to remain pliable in cold temperatures, while also creating better traction on snow and ice.

Therefore, winter tires provide better performance in winter situations. This is why they are marked for the three-peak mountain snowflake symbol - which denotes a good winter tire.

So, how do all terrain, rugged terrain, and mud tires come into the picture?

With our busy lifestyles, sometimes it is hard to run around switching tires on our vehicles when the weather changes. This is especially true when we live in areas with lighter winter conditions.

Yet, off-road tires are NOT designed for winter weather use.

LT Winter tires

Can Off-Road Tires Be Used in Snow?

So, the question still stands. Can an off-road tire be used in winter?

Most off-road tires are all season models, which means that they are basically mud and snow tires. Yet, this does not mean they will be good in the snow or during the winter months.

Let's take a look at the issues these terrain tires will face.

All Terrain Tires in Snow

All terrain models feature a similar tread pattern to regular all season tires. So what's the issue here?

Basically, the footprint's lack of biting edges and the rubber compound.

Winter tires use natural rubber in their tread compound to keep it pliable in cold temperatures. On the other hand, their high-density siping placement provides grip on ice and snow.

Contrary to this, all terrain tires do not feature the necessary tread elements and durable compound to conquer snowy conditions. Snow sticks between the blocks, blocking the surface contact. This instantly makes the tire lose its grip - which can be dangerous in winter situations.

While some all terrain models are marked with the three-peak mountain snowflake symbol, those ones are usually pinned for studs. In other words, they will gain winter grip when snow studs are inserted into the tread area.

Mud Terrain Tires in Snow

The biggest issue with using a mud tire in the snow is its lack of tread detail. Not even taking the rubber compound into consideration, this alone is enough to disqualify its usefulness in the winter months.

But, why is that so?

Mud tires' good off-road traction is provided with its lack of detail. The high void ratio and the tread block placement are designed with loose dirt and deep mud in mind. This footprint does not provide the needed surface grip on snow and ice.

Additionally, the deep channels found on the footprint will cause snow to stuck between the tread blocks. Packed snow is dangerous as it blocks the surface contact and ruins the tire's grip.

Mud Terrain tires

Studdable Mud Tires

Again, mud tires can be pinned for studs or studded, and they can be marked with the three-peak mountain snowflake symbol.

Unfortunately, this still does not mean it will be good in the snow and on ice. While they are mud and snow tires, they still do not provide true severe winter weather driving safety.

Rugged Terrain Tires in Snow

Maybe the closest to a snow tire is a rugged terrain tire. Still, these models do not perform as well as winter tires do.

Their specialty is on-road comfort and harsh off-road grip. Deep snow performance is not entirely out of the question, but it is not able to offer the same traction as a snow tire does.

The same problems arise here as with all terrain and mud tires. Snow packs between the tread blocks, cutting off its surface traction as the tire rolls. Adding snow chains might fix the issue, but the rubber compound will still cause problems.

Rugged tires, due to their inadequate compound materials, lose their rubber flexibility as soon as the temperatures dip. Furthermore, like with all models, its tire pressures will also decrease in such instances.

Types of Winter Surfaces That Cause Issues

If you still decide to use your off-road tires instead of getting a good winter tire set, there are a few road types you should avoid. These roads can create a challenge for winter tires are well, so all terrain, rugged terrain, and mud tires do not stand a change.

The winter weather road types that should be avoided are:

  • Black ice
  • Freezing rain
  • Sleet
  • Hailstorm

types of winter surfaces

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Off-Road Tires Good on the Road?

Most off-road tires are not good on the road. While all and rugged terrain models provide the needed traction for on-road use, their main objective is the different terrain traction. Mud terrain tires should not be used on-road, as they are not for highway applications.

Why are Mud Tires not Good in Snow?

Mud tires are not good in snow due to their lack of tread detail. Their footprint is not able to provide the needed surface grip when the tire is performing on ice and snow. Furthermore, snow packing in the footprint ruins the surface contact and causes the tire's dangerous winter performance.

Do All Terrain Tires Count as Snow Tires?

All terrain tires do not count as snow or winter tires. They do not offer the needed traction for ice and snow traction, and their rubber materials are not for freezing temperatures. This means that the same tire should not be used for winter performance as it is used for all terrain grip.