Buying the right tyres for your car needn’t be a confusing business.
Shopping for a new set of car tyres?
This guide will help demystify some of the labels and markings you’re bound to encounter.
Tyre labels explained
All new tyres sold in the EU after November 2012 come with a standard label. It classifies the tyre into three categories – fuel efficiency, wet grip and external noise – with a rating for each area.
The rating goes from green A (best) to red G (worst). And external noise is measured in decibels (dB).
The label itself looks very similar to the one that household appliances have. The aim is to provide drivers with enough objective, and reliable information to make an informed decision when buying new tyres.
This label relates to a tyre’s rolling resistance. It measures the amount of energy lost when a tyre is rolling, which is affected by the day-to-day wear and tear.
Tyres which have lower rolling resistance tend to provide better fuel efficiency. Thus receiving a better energy rating.
The rating of the Wet grip label is based on stopping distances in wet conditions. In the real world, stopping distance is affected by a number of factors, but the main ones remain tyre grip and tyre pressure.
Tyre manufactures have the difficult job of balancing rolling resistance, which affects fuel economy, and road grip, which affects stopping distance.
The External noise rating is measured in decibels (dB) and was introduced to help drivers be more aware of noise pollution generated from a tyre. The goal is to reduce noise from road transport. It’s represented with black sound waves, starting with one for the lowest noise level.
Driving with quieter tyres is not only better for those around you, but it also reduces cabin noise making your journey more pleasant.
Understanding tyre markings
Every tyre has letters and numbers which provide enough information for you to choose the right one for your car and needs. The markings represent a tyre’s width, sidewall height, diameter, profile, load index and speed rating.
See the example below:
And here’s what each marking means:
193 – The width of the tyre in millimetres.
60 – The height of the tyre sidewall as a percentage of the width of the tyre.
R – The tyre is of radial construction.
15 – The diameter of the wheel’s inner rim in inches.
94 – Indicates the load rating of the tyre.
W – Indicates the tyre speed rating.
These markings are also used to figure out your car's ideal tyre pressure.
Tyre speed rating
The tyre’s speed rating is the last letter of the markings. It shows the maximum speed a tyre can handle. An average Ford Fiesta is best suited to V-rated tyres, which allow for speeds of up to 150mph.
Here’s the full table of tyre speed ratings:
||Speed in mph
Tyre load rating
As the title suggests, this rating represents the maximum weight a tyre can carry.
A tyre with a load index of 91, for example, is capable of carrying 615kg. Multiply that by four and you’ll have 2,460kg – the absolute maximum weight your car can handle (this includes the weight of the car).
For example, the basic trim Ford Fiesta weights approximately 1,045kg. Standard tyres for the car have a load rating of 81, which means the maximum weight they all-together can carry is 1,848kg. This leaves you with roughly 804kg to carry people and luggage.
Overloading a car could compromise safety and result in an accident. It also affects handling and fuel economy.
Here are all load ratings: