Winter Tyres France- Are you Breaking the Law?

Planning a winter road trip to France with a car, motorhome, campervan or caravan? Concerned about the French winter tyre law and if you comply? Here’s everything you need to know.

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The France winter compulsory equipment law (often call the French tyre law)

Since 01 November 2021, it has been a legal requirement in many regions in France to either:

  • have proper winter tyres fitted to your vehicle or
  • to carry and wear snow chains or snow socks where directed.

The dates for this are between 01 November and 31 March each year, regardless of weather conditions.

However, it’s a Mountain Law (Loi Montagn) and only applies in 48 departments located in or near the French mountains (Alps, Massif Central, Massif Jurassien, Pyrenees, Massif Vosges)- so if you’re staying in the north of France in places like Brittany or Bordeaux, you don’t need to worry about complying with the law, as it doesn’t affect these areas.

You can find a map below which shows the areas.


What is the point of the French winter tyre law?

The French wanted to “reduce road congestion in mountainous areas and improve road safety” when driving on snowy or icy roads.

Each year, unequipped vehicles block roads and cause accidents on their winter road trips and they want to reduce those.

Before 01 November 2021, you only needed winter tyres/ chains when roads marked « B26 mandatory special equipment » were actually covered with snow.

Now, you’ll need tyres fitted or to carry chains/ socks if you’re winter motorhoming and planning to drive down an affected road, regardless of current weather conditions.


Where are the affected areas?

The affected departments include:

Ain, Allier, Alpes-de-Haute-Provence, Hautes-Alpes, Alpes-Maritimes, Ardèche, Ariège, Aude, Aveyron, Cantal, Corrèze, Côte-d’Or, Creuse, Doubs, Drôme, Gard, Haute-Garonne, Hérault, l’Isère, Jura, Loire, Haute-Loire, Lot, Lozère, Meurthe-et-Moselle, Moselle, la Nièvre, Puy-de-Dôme, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Hautes-Pyrénées, Pyrénées-Orientales, Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin, Rhône, Haute-Saône, Saône-et-Loire, la Savoie, Haute-Savoie, Tarn, Tarn-et-Garonne, Var, Vaucluse, Haute-Vienne, Vosges, l’Yonne, and Territoire de Belfort.

However, it’s doesn’t necessarily mean every road in every department is covered- the local council and prefecture determine which roads and areas are affected.

This map is taken from the French Connexion website and shows all the departments where at least one road is included in the law.


How do you know which roads are affected in France?

Signs will tell you when you’re about to enter a winter compulsory equipment area. The dates which you must comply with are 01 November and 31 March each year- you can ignore the signs at other times.

One sign shows you where the compulsory area starts, and one where it finishes:

signs to show new winter compulsory equipment area in France
signs to show new winter compulsory equipment area in France

What do you need to comply with the France winter law?

If driving or motorhoming in France one on of the mandatory roads in one of the affected regions between 01 November and 31 March each year, these are the rules you must comply with:

  • all 4+ wheeled vehicles without a trailer must have winter or 4-season tyres fitted and/or have non-slip snow chains or ‘socks’ mounted on the vehicle (or at minimum present in the vehicle)
  • Heavy vehicles without a trailer can choose between winter tyres or chains.
  • If you have a trailer, you must have winter tyres fitted AND snow chains fitted on two driving wheels

Winter Tyres France- what’s needed?

Winter tyres have special markings on them.

Until November 1, 2024, tyres only marked “M + S” will be tolerated.

On and after 01 November 2024, tyres will need to be marked with “3PMSF” (3 Peak Mountain Snow Flake) and one of the “ M+” markings. S ” , “ MS ” or “ M&S ” 

Winter tyres must be mounted on at least two steered wheels and at least two driving wheels. If the vehicle has multiple steered axles, these are the steered wheels of the main steering system

4-season/ all season tyres are valid as long as they are stamped “3PMSF” (or at least “M + S” until November 2024)

Read the official wording here.

If you don’t have winter tyres fitted, you must:

  • carry snow chains or socks for at least two driving wheels

OR

  • have stud tyres

If you are a heavy vehicle or have a trailer

Heavy vehicles without trailers (I would suggest a motorhome over 3.5 tonnes counts as a heavy vehicle) can choose between chains or winter tyres.

Heavy goods vehicles with trailers will be required to carry snow chains for at least two driving wheels, even if they are equipped with winter tyres.

RELATED POST: How to plan a winter motorhome trip & live in a van during winter


Are snow socks allowed in France?

Snow socks are undeniably cheaper, easier to fit and use, not to mention better for your motorhome payload! And yes, they are allowed under the French winter law.

However, they aren’t as robust as chains and are designed for short trips, not lots of travel in snow, so if you’re planning to do a long trip or several short ones, get chains.

Whatever you choose, make sure you practice fitting them in advance- we accidentally order the wrong size chains and didn’t realise until we were in the mountains. Luckily, it was all fine but could have been a big mistake.

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Does the law apply to motorcycles?

The law only applies to 4 wheeled vehicles, so it seems motorcycles are exempt (but, honestly, do you want to ride a motorcycle in snowy conditions without proper tyres??!)

Is it law to have winter tyres in France?

In a word, no. If you carry chains or snow socks, you’re covered in terms of the law. But if you’re planning to take a motorhome skiing or travel into mountainous areas during winter, I recommend you get winter or at the very least all-season tyres fitted and carry chains or socks in addition.

Better safe than sorry!


What if I am not equipped properly?

If you are wintering down in Spain or ‘popping through the Alps’ and drive through an area where winter tyres or snow chains are mandatory without complying with the above, you may be stopped by the authorities and fined €135. You may also not be able to continue your journey and the vehicle immobilised.

B26 traffic sign

The B26 traffic sign (the one showing snow chains) will continue to mean that you must WEAR (not just carry) chains on those roads when snow is on the ground, even outside the winter period. These are clearly marked on the roads and there will be an area of chainage for you to pull in and fit chains if needed.


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