Mud Terrain Vs. All-Terrain In Snow

Looking for a car that will suit your needs doesn’t stop just looking at the vehicle’s exterior look, features, and interior. Tires are also essential, whether, for everyday use or off-roading, you have to carefully choose which one is best, especially for the winter season.

When driving in snow, all-terrain tires offer traction adequate not to change to winter tires, and it is designed for multiple purposes. Mud terrain tires are less efficient in snow as they are designed with a more specific purpose, such as conquering mud and rocky and steep landscapes.  

But if you are still torn about the right tire for your vehicle, let us dig deep into these two types of tires and which one would fit.

Types Of Snow and How It Affects Your Tires

If you think all snow is the same, then you’re wrong.

We have to understand aspects of snow, so we’ll know better when it comes to tires and driving in snow.

  • Hailstones – This phenomenon can happen any time, and hailstones limit your driving visibility requiring you to slow down or pull over.
  • Sleet is a mixture of rain and snow caused by snowflakes melting as they go through a warm layer of air and freezing as they journey through the cold air.
  • Freezing Rain – This and sleet can happen at the same time. Whereas sleet comprises ice, freezing rain begins when snowflakes turn into rain and freeze as ice once it hits the ground with a temperature of 0°C, which is dangerous for driving.
  • Graupel – Also known as snow pellets or soft hail. Graupel is developed when droplets freeze and become ice crystals. In contrast to hail, snow pellets are made of snow, not ice. Driving on graupel is not dangerous, as long as it is fresh.
  • Black Ice – Driving on black ice is extremely dangerous because it is invisible. Black ice looks similar to the road, and it consists of freezing rain and sleet.

The weather impacts your tire pressure. Gasses increase when heated, so when the temperature is warm, pressure increases, and during the winter season, it declines. Take note that you will lose one pound of pressure for every 10 degrees drop in temperature, so don’t be surprised if that requires you to fill up your tires in the morning.

In addition, cold or low temperatures can also impact your tire’s rubber. Cold temperatures tend to turn rubber products more stiff and fragile, and tires are not exempted. This is why it is essential to ensure that you have the right tires during the winter season.

Characteristics Of All-Terrain Tires

All-terrain tires can be considered an all-purpose tire as it provides traction for both on and off-roading and comfort when driving in wet and snowy pavements. All-terrain tires are a fusion between mud tires and street tires as it provides a smooth journey, even if you’re driving on the rocks.

What are the characteristics of all-terrain tires?

  • All-terrain tires have an open-tread design that helps enhance their grip on off-road surfaces. The interlocking tread sections offer sufficient traction on rocks and mud, as well as on paved roads.
  • It can be used all year round. Since all-terrain tires are all-purpose, they are good to use even during the winter when roads are icy. Usually, there would be no need to change to winter tires with all-terrain tires if you are only looking for satisfactory performance. But, note that winter tires would still have the advantage over all-terrain tires for snowy roads.
  • The reinforced sidewalls on all-terrain tires allow for more load capacity. These tires are usually more aggressive and made for heavy trucks and off-road use. Camper vans also use reinforced all-terrain tires because of their capability to carry heavier loads.

Vehicles that mostly use all-terrain tires are light trucks, SUVs, and pickup trucks. But, sedans and crossovers are slowly surfacing since manufactures are continuously developing vehicles equipped for off-roading.

What makes an all-terrain tire suitable for snow and winter?

All-terrain tires have a natural advantage in the snow because of their tread design. The big tread blocks and multi-angled edgings are beneficial in scraping your vehicle’s way out of snow. However, if the treads are excessively wide, it can lessen the grabbing edges and affect its snow grip.

On icy roads, all-terrain tires with a large number of sipes in their tread pattern are more suited in freezing conditions. Sipes helps tread block edges with more traction on ice; it’s an effective way to increase its biting edges in the tread pattern without impacting the patterns itself.

If you experience extreme winters resulting in several inches of snow, the snow traction feature of an all-terrain tire would be beneficial. When purchasing this type of tire, make sure that it is marked with Severe Snow Traction performance identification ( a logo with a 3-peak mountain snowflake) on the sidewall.

Characteristics Of Mud Terrain Tires

Compared to all-terrain tires, mud tires have a specific purpose and are designed for off-road conditions. Mud terrain tires possess massive tread blocks to help with digging out mud more swiftly.

Mud terrain tires are designed to provide drivers with more traction when going up and down steep trails. Unlike all-terrain tires, mud tires have more aggressive tread patterns.

What are the characteristics of mud terrain tires?

  • Mud tires possess elements that can clear debris out of the tread. Mud and stone ejectors are inserted to drive out debris that would stick between the tread blocks.
  • Mud terrain tires have substantial tread depth allowing a strong biting edge.
  • Depending on the manufacturers, patterns on mud tires may vary, but the common characteristic is its aggressiveness.
  • Mud tires are created with great endurance in mind.
  • Mud terrain tires sometimes have 3-ply sidewall construction to create puncture protection, allowing the strong sidewall to air down, which is beneficial for off-road conditions.

Mud tires are best for vehicles that are used mainly on unpaved roads. Occasionally, it can be used for road driving, but you might encounter some noise issues, so it’s not recommended for daily use.

Are Mud Terrain Tires Good In Snow?

Contrary to what others believe, mud terrain tires can be driven in snow, but it all depends on the type of tires, snow, and the weight of your vehicle.

Mud tires have deep channels that allow them to drive through the mud. These tires emit dirt out the side so they will retain their traction. With snow, it will fill the tire’s deep channel, lessening its traction. Once it’s complete, the tire will lose most of its traction.

A set of mud and snow tires is also an option for the winter months. The material used to formulate the mud and snow tires are flexible for cold temperatures. They have deep channels in the tread that can assist in plowing snow and ice on the sides. However, a specific type of snow can pack the channels, not enabling your mud tires to use for icy roads. Check for the “M+S” symbol on the tire’s sidewall indicating this type of tire.

If you still plan to keep your mud tires during the winter, another solution is to add tire chains. These chains will provide you with the needed traction to hold you on the road. The tire chains break up the wedge when driving on slush, snow, or ice, so your tire will remain connected with the road.

But, be sure that you know your vehicle’s warranty, especially on chains. Some vehicle manufacturers have restrictions on its placement.

Things To Keep In Mind When Choosing Between All-Terrain And Mud Terrain Tires

When you decide to go off-road, especially in the winter season where you have to consider the snow and ice, any set of tires won’t do.

Understand your needs. Tires are designed for various purposes and different terrains. The first thing you have to ask yourself is what would be the primary use or mission of your vehicle. Is it 80% off-road and 20% daily driving or vice versa?

You also have to remember that off-road tires such as mud-terrain will create noises when driven on paved roads, so it’s that what you would want? Having an understanding of what kind of terrain you’ll be tacking is critical before purchasing any tire.

Consider your budget. It might not be an issue for some, but buying new tires requires you to spend a small fortune, so selecting your preference and size are also factors to consider. Tire sizes have different sizes, and it might need you to change your rims for maximum safety and performance.

Keep in mind the temperature you live in during the winter months. Generally, if you live in a state or region where snowfall is rare, it might be better to stick with an all-terrain tire perfect for all seasons and help you drive through snow. However, if snow, ice, or freezing rain often comes, maybe instead of these two options, you’ll have to go for winter tires.

Extending The Lifespan Of Your Tires

Over time, tires will lose tread and can be replaced. However, with proper maintenance, it might last longer than you can expect. All-terrain and mud tires have rougher life compared to other types of tires. Using the wrong cleaner can reduce their lifespan.

Check the products you use to clean your tires. Household cleaners such as dishwashing soap and bleach can remove the mud and bring back its black finish. Getting it done in a car wash may be different, and other products on the market can also affect the cleanliness of your tire.

Regular tire inspection is also a good practice. If you have plans to go on an off-road adventure, it’s best to check your tires before and after. Cleaning it can also help you determine the condition of your tires, so while you’re doing it, look for any sidewall cuts as it damages the tires over time.

Another thing to look out for is tread depth. While other tires’ lifespan is considered over as soon as the depth reaches 2/32-inches, the all-terrain and mud terrain tires need a lot more to be effective.

Rotating with your spare is also a common practice. The rotation will depend on how you drive your vehicle. Most vehicles require different weight measures between the front and the rear, leading it uneven wear. This scenario is the reason why rotating your tire is essential to extend its lifespan.

Remember that it’s vital to be on top of your vehicle’s maintenance, including the tires and wheels, to prevent any road accidents or hazards. Proper tire care will contribute not only to its longevity but also helps in improving its overall performance, including the safety of your vehicle.


If you are looking for versatility, especially in snow, the all-terrain tire is a good match for you. It’s all-purpose and prevents you from changing your tires for every different season. But, if you use your vehicle for more off-roading adventure than daily driving, go with mud tires.

The flexibility of all-terrain tires will offer good performance on icy and snow-covered highways or terrains. You have to determine the range of your driving conditions because these tires are ideal for vehicles that encounter a balance between off-road and on-road driving.

Mud terrain tires are also diverse. Even if it’s all created for regular off-road use, some manufacturers also consider its capability on-road. Deciding on mud tires requires you to understand the condition of the terrains you will use them for.

Still, similar to how an individual purchases a car, house, or other product, their preference would still be the deciding factor. While all-terrain tires are the first option because of their versatility, especially in snow, mud terrain tires can also be a choice for some.


Louis Pretorius

As an amateur off-road enthusiast, I have always been drawn to outdoor adventure. I have decided to share all of my learning experiences with you as I dig a little deeper into my new-found passion and wonderful world of off-roading. My mission is to create the Ultimate Off-roading space on the internet in the process. Stay safe and happy Off-Roading!

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