The M+S marking on tyres is very misleading. All Nokian winter tyres, however, have the Snowflake symbol (3PMSF), indicating that they’ve been officially approved for winter use.
M+S tyre marking
Many AWD tyres are rated M+S (mud and snow) but the M+S designation refers only to the tread pattern.
You can find the M+S symbol on most all-season tyres, on off-road and on all-terrain tyres and even some high performance summer tyres may have this designation. However, there are no performance standards to meet or traction tests to pass. Any tyre with grooves at angles and with 25% of the tread void can be labelled as M+S.
On icy snow and on ice, the open tread grooves have zero effect on performance. Control of the vehicle comes strictly from equal parts of the tyre rubber compound that provides adhesion and the effects from the tread sipes.
Snow flake symbol
In 1999, the USA Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) defined a real ‘snow’ or winter tyre with its severe snow-rating. All tyres that pass this performance test are marked with the Three Peak Mountain Snow Flake symbol (3PMSF). Off-road, all-terrain and all-season tyres, marked only with M+S, do not pass this test.
All Nokian car, SUV, van and truck snow tyres have the Snowflake symbol (3PMSF), which indicates that the tyres have been officially approved for winter use.
As you can see the M+S rating doesn’t really mean much. The (3PMSF) severe snow rating does.
EU tyre labels
Starting in November 2012, the European Union introduced a new EU tyre labelling system. The EU label, while not used at this time in Australia, helps consumers compare tyres in terms of fuel economy, wet grip and external rolling noise. For now this new EU tyre label does not take into account grip on ice, which is essential for snow tyres and driving in real winter conditions.
The following video explains the EU tyre labels in more detail.