Understanding tyre labels, markings and ratings

Buying the best tyres for your car needn’t be a confusing business. Here we take an in-depth look at tyre ratings and tyre marking.

Car tyre labels explained

EU tyre label

All new car tyres sold in the EU after November 2012 come with a standard label or sticker attached. The label ranks the tyre on three criteria:

  • Fuel efficiency

  • Wet grip

  • External noise.

Fuel efficiency and wet grip get a rating from green A (best) to red G (worst). External noise is measured in decibels (dB).

The label itself looks similar to the one found on household appliances such as washing machines. This familiar format provides drivers with enough objective, and reliable, information to make an informed decision when buying new tyres.

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Fuel efficiency

Fuel efficiency label

The fuel efficiency part of the label relates to a tyre’s rolling resistance.

It presents the amount of energy that you’d expect to lose when a particular tyre is rolling, due to day-to-day wear and tear.

Tyres that have lower rolling resistance tend to provide better fuel efficiency, and get a better energy rating. The difference between each category is around 3% to 4% fuel efficiency.

 

Wet grip

Wet grip label

The rating of the wet grip label is based on stopping distances in wet conditions.

In the real world, a number of factors affect stopping distance, but the main ones are tyre grip and tyre pressure.

Tyre manufacturers have the difficult job of balancing rolling resistance, which affects fuel economy, and road grip, which affects stopping distance. 

These two ratings are important, as the difference between each rating from A down to G can add up to two car lengths to the stopping distance.

 

External noise

External noise label

The external noise rating is measured in decibels (dB) and makes drivers 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 and moving up to three for the noisiest tyres.

Driving with quieter tyres is better for those around you, and it also reduces cabin noise to make your journey more pleasant. 

 

Do all new car tyres need a label?

Not all car tyres have to have the tyre label attached. The following tyre types are exempt:

  • Non-road-legal tyres, such as those on race cars

  • Re-treads

  • Temporary ‘T-tyre’ tyres

  • Vintage car tyres and those made for cars before 1990.

 

Tyre markings explained

In addition to the three ratings, every tyre has letters and numbers embossed on them, 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.

 

Tyre markings – what do they mean?

Tyre marking example

It’s important to understand what each rating means and how it applies to your vehicle, as fitting the wrong tyre could be unsafe. Using our image as an example, 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 also help figure out your car's ideal tyre pressure.

 

What is tyre speed rating?

The tyre’s speed rating is the last letter of the markings. It shows the maximum speed a tyre can handle.

While the speed limit in the UK is 70 mph, this could be useful if you drive in Germany, where some autobahns have no upper speed limit.

Here’s the full table of tyre speed ratings: 

 
Sidewall Marking Speed in mph
N
87
P
93
Q
99
R
106
S
112
T
118
U
124
H
130
V
149
Z
150+
W
168
Y
186

 

What is 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 itself.

For example, the basic trim Ford Fiesta weighs 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 your safety and result in an accident. It also affects handling and fuel economy. Here are all load ratings: 

 
Load index Load in kg
62
265
63
272
64
280
65
290
66
300
67
307
68
315
69
325
70
335
71
345
72
355
73
365
74
375
75
387
76
400
77
412
78
425
79
437
80
450
81
462
82
475
83
487
Load index Load in kg
84
500
85
515
86
530
87
545
88
560
89
580
90
600
91
615
92
630
93
650
94
670
95
690
96
710
97
730
98
750
99
775
100
800
101
825
102
850
103
875
104
900
105
925
Load index Load in kg
106
950
107
975
108
1000
109
1030
110
1060
111
1090
112
1120
113
1150
114
1180
115
1215
116
1250
117
1285
118
1320
119
1360
120
1400
121
1450
122
1500
123
1550
124
1600
125
1650
126
1700

 

Are car tyre labels changing?

Although the UK has left the European Union, we’re expected to adopt the new tyre labelling system that was introduced by the EU in May 2021.

This new form of labelling has to be to be shown on tyres sold in Northern Ireland, in accordance with the NI Protocol. UK tyre distributors have agreed to make the new label system available to all customers digitally.

 

The new tyre label

Here’s how the new tyre label works:

The new label features the same three elements as the one introduced in 2012 – fuel efficiency, wet grip performance and noise.

However, it has been simplified, with the old A to G ratings being replaced with ratings up to E.

The decibel image has also been altered. Rather than the audio bars showing the rating out of three, this is now shown with one of the letters A, B or C highlighted.

 

Snow and ice grip added to tyre ratings

The new label also has two icons of mountains. One is included to show whether the tyre is suitable for use on snow, the other to show whether it can be used on ice.

READ MORE: Tips for driving in snow and ice

 

Tyre label QR code

The new Energy Efficiency car tyre sticker, which also features the EU logo, will have a QR code. This allows drivers to get extra information about the tyre from the European Product Registry for Energy Labelling database.