Winter Tires In Norway: When To Change Tires On Your Car

Norway has a big change in weather from summer to winter, and this requires you to use two sets of tires when driving in Norway. During the summer we use regular tires (summer tires), and after there’s snowfall or ice on the road, we switch to winter tires to get better traction and braking response.

If you’re visiting Norway with your own car, or even moving to Norway, getting to know the different types of tires and when you need to change them is vital. It can be deadly to use the wrong tires, and you can also end up with a big fine for riding a car with the wrong tires on them.

You are required to use winter tires during the winter or when it is snowy or icy on the roads in Norway. Not doing so will give you a big fine, and your tires will have much less traction than they should have. The risk of accidents when using summer tires during the winter is many times higher than when using winter tires.

Let’s take a closer look at how and when to change tires for your car in Norway, the different types of winter tires, and how you should plan for this if you are coming to visit Norway.

Snowy road close to Gol
Roads can be very snowy and icy in Norway. Photo by Jack globetrotter / CC BY-SA 3.0.

The difference between normal summer tires and winter tires

Normal tires have bumps in them to allow for the car to have traction on the road. This is great for getting traction on roads as long as it’s not covered with snow or ice, and they will instead become completely useless if the road is covered in this.

This means that you need to use special tires when driving on snow or ice, or else you won’t get any traction at all. The practical solution to this is to change to winter tires when the first snowfall of the year hits, and use these until it’s guaranteed to be no more snow or ice.

Winter tires are designed to give better traction and break response on snowy and ice cover. However, they will be worse on roads without ice or snow, so you should not be driving your winter tires all year round.

There are two types of winter tires, studded winter tires and non-studded winter tires. Both of these are OK for driving in Norway, but there is actually a pretty big difference between them.

Northern lights outside of Tromsø
Northern lights outside of Tromsø in the winter. Photo published with permission.

Studded tires vs. non-studded winter tires

Studded tires has metal spikes in them to give it more traction, and this works great. The downside is that it also creates a lot of damage to the road after the ice has melted.

If you are driving on ice-covered roads, studded tires are by far the best option. You will want to use studded tires if you are driving in the mountains or anywhere where you expect the roads to have a layer of ice on them (which means pretty much any road outside of highways).

Non-studded tires have a special design that allows you to get traction even at winter, and they are decent at driving on snow cover. They are not that great at driving on ice cover, so they will have trouble on ice-covered roads. You will typically find ice-covered roads late in the winter or beginning of the spring, and this can be a bit tricky with non-studded winter tires.

The positive side to non-studded tires is that they are more fuel-efficient, and creates less damage to the roads. Some municipalities like Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim encourages people to ride non-studded tires by having a studded tire fee, but keep in mind that non-studded tires are lackluster as soon as you get 30 minutes outside Oslo (unless you only stick to E6, E18 etc).

If you’re driving with studded tires in either of these cities, make sure to pay the studded tire fee at a parking station. There will be signs all over Oslo, Trondheim and Bergen saying how to pay this fee, so that should not be a problem. You risk a fine if you do not pay the fee.

Non-studded winter tire
A non-studded winter tire. Photo published with permission.

If you are planning on driving around on a roadtrip in Norway at winter, choose studded tires. Only choose non-studded tires if you will mainly travel on highways and inside the big cities.

When to change tires

The date for changing tires is both written down in the laws of Norway, but there are also laws that say you should always drive with the proper equipment. This means that you will have to prepare for changing tires before certain dates, but at the same time be prepared to change on short notice if snow or ice suddenly makes it necessary to do so.

Change from winter tires to summer tires

You must change from studded winter tires to summer tires before the end of Easter (changing date in April). If you are travelling in Nordland or Troms og Finnmark counties, you have until April 30 to change from winter tires to summer tires.

There is no set date to change from non-studded winter tires, but most people also change these around the Easter time, so pretty much at the same time as studded tires.

Even though there are set dates for when you have to have changed from studded winter tires to summer tires, there will be exceptions from this. If you are travelling to a place where there might be ice on the road, you should keep your winter tires on. Safety will always be more important than these dates, so drive with the tires that are most safe to use.

Change from summer tires to winter tires

There is no set date for when you should change from summer tires to winter tires, but the general rule of thumb is a few days before the first snow sets in (so make sure to check the weather forecast).

Trust me on this: it’s no fun changing to winter tires in a hurry before getting to work in the morning on the first snow!

You are technically allowed to change to studded winter tires after November 1 (October 16 in Nordland and Troms og Finnmark counties), but again, safety always comes first. So if you are driving on a road where it is expected to snow before this date, change to your winter tires.

If there’s no snow in November, you are free to change to your winter tires any time you want, which might be a good idea, because rogue snow can appear at any time.

Don’t use summer tires while crossing mountains in spring or fall

It’s important to be aware that the snow and ice tends to stay very long on the mountain passes in Norway, such as on Hardangervidda, Dovre or any other mountain pass between the western and eastern part of Norway. You might need to have winter tires even in May, and as early as October to be safe.

There are plenty of people who have gotten into accidents because of wrong types of tires when crossing mountain passes in the late spring and early fall, so be on the safe side and choose winter tires for this trip.

Hardangervidda
Hardangervidda / Hardanger plateau will have snow far into the spring. Photo published with permission.

Can you drive with summer tires in Norway at winter?

You should never drive with summer tires when there’s ice or snow on the road. This will give you a lot less traction than you are used to, and increases your chance of collision by a huge amount.

Never, ever drive with summer tires in Norway during the winter. It’s guaranteed to make driving very unsafe for you and everyone around you. You will also get a huge fine if you are caught driving with summer tires at winter in Norway.

There are no good all-season tires for the climate in Norway.

Norwegian mountain road
Norwegian mountain road in nice conditions. Photo published with permission.

Driving with winter tires during summer

You are theoretically allowed to drive with non-studded winter tires during the summer in Norway, but you are not advised to do so.

The rubber in the winter tires are not designed to be as good whenever the temperature is above 10 ºC (50 F), so they will have a lower durability. In addition, these tires will have much less traction on the roads in warmer temperatures, so it will increase your risk of accidents.

You are not allowed to drive with studded tires in the summer, and will be fined if you do so. It’s very easy for police cars to spot cars driving with studded tires in the summer due to dust from the tires, so you will likely get a fine pretty soon if you do so.

Do you have to worry about tires on rental cars?

Can rental companies will make sure that you have the correct tires, and you probably won’t have to worry about changing tires at all when driving your rental car. You might want to request studded winter tires if you plan on driving outside the big cities and highways, but other than that, the car rentals will make sure your tires are what they need to be.

That said, the fault is on you if you have the wrong tires, so you should double check even when driving a rental car.

How you change your car tires

Most Norwegians are able to change their tires from summer to winter tires or the other way around by themselves, and it’s actually pretty easy to do. There are plenty of tutorials on how to change tires on YouTube.

However, if you don’t want to deal with this by yourself, there are plenty of places to get it done. The price is usually around 500 NOK for a set of changed tires, and most auto shops will provide this service. It is also common for places that sell car tires to offer a service of changing tires (even when not buying new tires) for a fee.

Avis Rental Car in Lofoten
Rental Car in Lofoten. Photo published with permission.

What type of winter fires that are legal and suitable for driving in Norway

The Norwegian laws requires you to have at least 3 millimeter of depth as well as “appropriate tires for the driving conditions”, and the exact type is not specified. So, which winter tires should you be using?

There are several types of winter tires, but not all are suitable.

M+S winter tires are generally not considered good enough for Norwegian driving conditions. This type is short for “mud and snow”, but they can only handle a tiny amount of snow, and barely no ice, so they are close to unusable for Norway.

You will never find that M+S winter tires are sold as winter tires in Norway.

You should look towards using 3PMSF (3 peak mountain snowflake symbol) instead. This is a symbol with three peaks with a snowflake on top, and is a good measurement that the winter tires can handle real snow and ice conditions.

The 3PMSF symbol can be seen on the photo below:

3PMSF winter tire symbol
3PMSF winter tire symbol. Photo by Carlider / CC BY-SA 4.0.

PS. everything in this article is for regular cars. If you drive a semi or a truck, there will be other rules regarding the tire requirements.

2 thoughts on “Winter Tires In Norway: When To Change Tires On Your Car”

  1. Good article. However there is no mention of chains or other add-on equipment.
    I have a 4×4 GMC truck fitted with M+S All season tires. I am visiting Geilo for 2 weeks between Feb 25-March 08. I have chains for each wheel. Does this setup comply with Norways driving laws?

    Many thanks
    David

    Reply
    • Hi, David.

      M+S All season tires are not suitable for driving in Norway during winter. Especially not as high up as Geilo, which can have a high amount of snowfall at this time of the year.

      The law says to use “appropriate tires for the driving conditions”, but M+S tires will not fit this description in the winter, so you can face legal problems if you crash or get pulled over.

      And taking the legal stuff aside for a minute, driving in Geilo with tires like that will be a big safety risk to both yourself, other drivers and potentially pedestrians.

      The recommended type of winter tire is one with 3PMSF (3 peak mountain snowflake symbol).

      Chains are fine to use if you get stuck, but you should not be using it for more than a short distance.

      Best regards
      Nicklas

      Reply

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