As a driver, you depend on your tyres on a daily basis. But how well do you know them?
It’s easy to take them for granted, but there’s more to your tyres than you might realise. Understanding your tyres better will help you take care of them, reduce avoidable wear, keep them in good condition for longer and choose suitable replacements when the time comes for a change.
This essential guide to tyre labelling and reading your tyres has all the information you need.
What is Tyre Labelling?
Tyre labelling was introduced under European Regulation in November 2012. This was launched to help consumers develop a stronger grasp of tyre safety and their environmental impact. For example, Giti tyres has a strong environmental production focus, which is very important these days.
The labels added to tyres carry multiple types of information:
Eco-friendliness and fuel consumption
Fuel economy is a major concern for drivers. Not only from an eco-friendly approach, but a financial one: the more fuel-efficient your car is, the more money you’ll save on refuelling over years of usage.
These labels show the fuel economy of your tyres in a user-friendly, at-a-glance way: fuel-efficiency is ranked on a simple letter-based scale, from A to G. Each letter has a specific colour, beginning with deep green and transitioning to yellow before ending at red.
The label indicates which category your tyres belong in, and reflects the amount of money you can expect to save by fitting them.
For example, driving a car with four tyres at an A rating will consume over 7 percent less fuel than tyres slotting into the bottom-end of the scale (G). While this may not sound like much, this will all add up over time — leaving you with a handsome saving by the end of your first year with the tyres.
However, bear in mind: this can vary based on numerous factors. The type of car you drive, the surfaces you tend to cross every day and the weather conditions in your area. But rest assured, choosing tyres with an A or B rating is much more fuel-efficient for you and better for the environment.
Another thing to consider when choosing tyres is their rolling resistance. Tyres with a lower rolling resistance demand the smallest amount of energy when on the road, consuming less fuel. Tyres at the top end of the fuel-efficiency scale have the lowest rolling resistance.
Pay attention to rolling resistance and fuel economy when investing in new tyres. You’ll notice the difference in the long run.
Braking capabilities on wet surfaces
We all know wet roads make driving more dangerous. Whether you live in a location prone to heavy downpours or just get caught in a rare storm, you have to take care when crossing wet surfaces.
Your tyres obviously contribute to your safety. Tyres which have already been used for years of driving will have less grip than brand new ones, reducing their ability to stay stable on the road.
You’ll have to drive slower and steadier on older tyres — this can be a huge inconvenience when you have a tight schedule to stick to and time is of the essence. But your safety, that of your passengers and other drivers on the road should outweigh any sense of urgency you may feel.
Investing in tyres with strong braking capabilities on wet roads will help you and others stay safer in wet conditions. As with fuel economy, braking power is rated on a scale of A to G. Tyres at A are designed to offer optimal safety, able to stop in the shortest distances.
Driving on tyres with an A rating provides added peace of mind: you know your car will come to a halt on even the wettest roads sooner, reducing the risk of your colliding with a vehicle, pedestrian or obstruction ahead of you.
In a situation demanding an emergency brake, A-rated tyres can make a huge difference to the outcome — possibly enough to save lives.
Tyres with a G rating will obviously take longer to come to a stop. A-rated tyres can halt a vehicle within 18 metres, assuming you’re driving at 50 miles per hour. G-rated tyres can take as much as 30 percent longer to stop when you apply the brakes.
Take the time to find A-rated tyres if you believe you’re likely to encounter wet roads more often than not. If you live in a region of regular sunny skies and low chances of precipitation, this may seem less important, but is still worth considering when buying new tyres.
External noise level
Cars with high noise levels are annoying for everyone, especially those outside the vehicle. Tyre labelling gives you an insight into their volume levels, in a simple way.
Labels carry an image of a tyre with sound waves projecting from it. A number beside this represents the volume in decibels: the more waves featured in the diagram, the louder the tyres will be.
Try to choose tyres with the lowest noise level. This increases your chances of essentially future-proofing them in case of any further changes in legal limits for noise regulations.
That’s everything you need to know about tyre labelling, so keep these factors in mind when the time comes to invest in a new set. This information can help you spend your money wisely and avoid tyres unsuitable for your driving habits and location.
But that’s not all — there are other visual cues you must consider when browsing new tyres for your car. Let’s explore how you can read your tyres and translate the different details you’ll see.
Understanding Tyre Codes
On the sidewall of a tyre, you’ll notice several numbers imprinted into the rubber. These relate to the tyre size, speed rating and more. In the UK, the most common number you’ll see is 205, but there are numerous others out there.
You should take the time to check the tyre size recommended in your car’s manual, to ensure you have the right ones fitted. Putting tyres of the wrong size onto your vehicle can cause handling difficulties, disrupt the weight distribution and affect your transmission too. While it may not seem such a big worry, the wrong tyres could be dangerous for your car and your safety.
The tyre size incorporates the following:
Tyre width is represented by the first three digits on the sidewall. This is in millimetres and measures from one side of the tread to the other.
Your tyre code’s fourth and fifth digits are right next to the width reading. These cover the aspect ratio of the sidewall, presented as a percentage of the tyre’s overall width.
So, if your aspect-ratio number is 45, that means the tyre’s height in profile is 45 percent of the width.
If you have a radial tyre, you’ll see an ‘R’ on it. Radial tyres feature cord piles at an angle of 90 degrees to the direction of travel. This design provides the tyre with extra strength, and almost all new tyres produced now are of the radial variety.
Look out for this if you’re only interested in buying a radial tyre. If you’re purchasing an older or second-hand tyre, make an extra effort to search for that ‘R’ — otherwise, you could end up with a different design to the one you expect.
Your tyre code’s next two digits relate to the size of wheel rim the tyre may be fitted onto, and is the tyre’s diameter too.
If your tyre’s wheel diameter is marked as a 14, that means it will be suitable for a wheel with a 14-inch rim. This is vital to make sure you invest in the right tyres for your car: choosing a set that simply don’t fit means you’ll have to hope for a refund or exchange. Otherwise, your mistake could cost you — big time.
Your tyre’s speed rating appears as a letter, such as V, Q, S, T or H. This is based on the maximum speed capabilities and is extremely important to prevent drivers burning their tyres out ahead of time.
The load index is a figure towards the end of your tyre code (78, 85, 90 etc.). This equates to the tyre’s maximum weight allowance.
Aim to have a load index lower than that recommended in your car manual, to allow for measurement inaccuracies down the line.
You’ll find the manufacture date close to the letters DOT (Department of Transport) as a four-digit figure.
The first two represent the week of the year the tyre was manufactured, and the final two the year.
Some tyre manufacturers include symbols related to the extra load they’re capable of carrying. You may see EXL, XL, RF or similar as an indication.
Many tyres are marked with a manufacturer symbol, meaning they have been designed specifically for use with vehicles from the respective brand.
For example, AO relates to Audi, MO is Mercedes, J is Jaguar, LRO is Land Rover and so on.
We hope this guide helps you make an informed choice when buying tyres for your vehicle. Though you might never have considered it such a complex area before, knowing more about the tyres available minimizes your danger of investing in totally unsuitable ones that could cause problems.
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