This page contains following topics:
- General tire laws in Germany
- German winter tire laws
- Installation of mixed tires on a vehicle
1. General tire laws in Germany
- Tires must comply with the provisions listed in the annex.
- The size and build type of tires of a vehicle must correspond to the manufacturer's design, especially the load index and the maximum speed. Also, the profile must be manufacturer recommended. It's illegal to use other sizes without permission.
- Tires or other running surfaces that are in touch with the road, must not have any bumps or asperities that could damage a solid road surface.
- Tires with plane surfaces are not allowed on public roads. Tires of vehicles, as well as trailers, must have tread grooves (profile) around the entire circumference and across the entire width of the tread.
- The main profile must have a profile depth of at least 1.6 mm over the entire circumference of a tire. However, for bicycles with electric motors, mopeds, and light motorcycles, a tread depth of at least 1 mm is sufficient.
2. German winter tire laws
In winter weather conditions, “winter tires” or “snow tires” are mandatory. This mandatory winter tire requirement is only considered fulfilled if winter tires are fitted on all wheel positions in a vehicle. In a passenger car, for example, all four wheels must be fitted with winter tires.
Contrary to some neighboring countries, there is no official date or month to install and uninstall winter tires in Germany. In Austria for example, there is a fixed period from November 15 to March 15, in which winter tires are mandatory for any vehicle traveling on public roads.
In Germany, the installation of winter tires depends upon the weather situation and road conditions in the winter months. That means under conditions of black ice, snow, slush/sludge, and frost, vehicles must be fitted with winter tires.
A local rule of thumb for winter tires is “O bis O (Oktober bis Ostern)”. This indicates October to Easter is the time for winter tires. However, this saying has no legal value and is only a rough guide. Another guide can be when the temperature starts going below 7°C, it’s time to install winter tires. As road surfaces can get slippery during nights and early mornings.
All winter tires are marked with the Alpine symbol, a mountain pictogram with a snowflake.
Alpine symbol. All winter tires from September 30, 2024 must have this symbol. Otherwise, they would not be considered winter tires.
For the time being, all-weather tires with M + S (Mud + Snow) marking are also considered suitable for winter months.
The average of accidents is much higher in the winter months than in summer, and the main culprit for these accidents are cheap M + S tires. M + S tires remained under criticism by experts in Germany and eventually their final date as winter tires was decided. Therefore, all-weather M + S tires are valid winter tires until the 30th of September 2024, if they were manufactured before December 31, 2017.
Mandatory profile depth for winter tires is at least 1.6 mm but the recommended profile depth is at least 4 mm. The recommended winter tires changing period is 6 years, even if they have enough profile depth left on treads. When the rubber becomes harder it loses grip in low temperatures.
The situational winter tire obligation also applies to foreign visitors with vehicles of foreign registrations.
There are a few hilly areas where snow chains are required. It's indicated by sign 268.
This sign belongs to mandatory signs. It means only vehicles with snow chains are allowed to proceed. The speed limit on roads marked by this sign is 50 km/h (31 m/h).
2.1 Violation of situational winter tire obligation
- If a vehicle is driven in winter road conditions without winter tires, this can result in a fine of 60 Euros. Also, a point is entered in the driver's license register in Flensburg.
- Any obstruction or hindrance to a third party (other road users or property) caused by the violation of winter tire obligation, the fine can increase to 80 Euros.
- If a third party is endangered by this violation, the fine can increase to 100 Euros.
If an accident is caused by the winter tire violation, the guilty must pay a 120 Euro fine in addition to other applicable allegations of the accident.
This can also lead to a considerable reduction in benefits from all three types of vehicle insurances. To read more about car insurance in Germany, please visit the page Car insurance in Germany.
- If the owner and driver of a vehicle are different persons, the owner who allows the driver to drive in winter conditions without winter tires must also pay a 75 Euros fine, and a penalty point is marked in the Flensburg register.
- Winter tires are legally allowed to be used in the summer months. However, there are other mechanical and economical disadvantages of using winter tires in summer. All-weather M + S tires can be used around the year till September 30, 2024.
2.2 Vehicles that do not require winter tires
Following vehicles are free from winter tire obligation. However, they are not allowed to travel over the speed of 50 km/h in winter road conditions.
- Motorcycles, mopeds, and other single-lane vehicles. (A vehicle is considered a single-lane when it leaves only one line in the snow. The “einspurig” (single lane) and “mehrspurig” (multi-lane) are common terms in German traffic vocabulary.
- Tractors and other agricultural machinery
- Commercial vehicles for forestry
- Machines used for construction work and road maintenance, for which no winter tires are commercially available
- Emergency vehicles of the government organizations (armed forces, police, fire brigade, disaster control, and customs service)
- Wheelchairs with electric motors
- All types of unregistered or parked vehicles that are not going to use public roads in winter conditions. This also includes registered vehicles, which are parked on roadsides but are not driven in winter conditions.
- In case of a flat tire or any kind of other tire damage, the spare tire must not be a winter tire. It is allowed to travel to a safe distance until the next tire repair/selling shop.
3. Installation of mixed tires on a vehicle
- Radial tires and bias-ply tires cannot be mixed on a vehicle. All four tires must be the same (radial or bias-ply).
- Winter tires can be mixed with summer tires in the summer months. In winter road conditions, mixing of winter and summer tires is prohibited.
- All-weather tires and winter tires can be mixed in winter road conditions. However, all-weather M + S tires are only allowed as valid winter tires until September 30, 2024.
Tires of different sizes or widths are not allowed to mix on a vehicle. Official written permission is required to mix tires of different sizes and widths. Police may ask for this permission letter in routine traffic controls.
Some sports models have factory-fitted tires of different sizes and widths. These models do not need any further permission because that is installed and recommended by the manufacturer.
- Tires of different profiles, different tread depths, and different manufacturers can be fitted together on a vehicle.
- Run-flat tires and standard tires are allowed to be mixed.
- Mixed tires are also allowed on motorcycles unless a specific combination is mentioned on the registration papers of a motorcycle. In this case, an application can be submitted to change the pre-defined combination.