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Tyre Labelling

June 16, 2013

For a while now I’ve been thinking about writing about tyre labelling, the new tyre labels took take effect from 1 November 2012 under European Regulation (EC) No. 1222/2009.  They are designed to help consumers make more informed choices about their tyre purchases.   When you see them they’re very similar in principal to electrical appliances.  Bryan likes to wind me up when he sees me analysing tyre reviews, labelling and the like but I do like to understand the detail behind the products we provide.

The new label provides a rating on;

  1. 1) Wet Grip – this is fairly self-explanatory, it’s a rating on the grip of the tyre in wet conditions.  What people need to understand is that the difference between and A and G rating is 30% difference in wet grip meaning its approx. 4.28% wet grip improvement per grade increase.
  2. 2) Rolling Resistance (which can impact on the fuel economy of your vehicle) and noise.  The difference between the A and the G is around 7.5%.
  3. 3) Road noise.  This measures the decibel level of the tyre when running on the road.  This is an area the EU is targeting for serious improvement over the next 5 years in order to lower road noise.

The system of awarding the rating is one of self-certification and incorporates the use of a control tyre in the testing process.  Like all self-governed processes this had led to questions around the integrity of the end results.

A number of key factors are also missing including;

  1. 1) Tyre Longevity – this is the main factor people often ask me about when they’re making a tyre purchase.  The answer is often simple, premium brand tyres last longer, especially Michelin.  Some Bridgestone and Goodyear product also wears especially well in our view.
  2. 2) Dry road braking – 80% of the time the roads in the UK are dry.  Most accidents therefore occur in the dry.  Once again premium product will be better on test and under dry braking conditions.
  3. 3) Handling – When a vehicle is under development the engineers from the suspension and braking departments of the vehicle manufacturers meet with the engineers from the tyre companies to discuss the tyre requirements in fine detail.  To get the best from your vehicle stick with OE product, its been selected for a reason that’s not necessarily just the cost.

The idea in principle is good but in practice it seems to have created a lot of confusion and uncertainty.   Some Chinese manufactured tyres are now appearing on the market with ‘surprisingly’ high ratings.   We’ve seen some Chinese products with B / C ratings but requiring 100grams of weight when balanced.  This is a real contradiction in quality terms.  Many premium brand tyres hardly require any weight at all.  Chinese tyre manufacturing is a minefield; there are some very good factories and some very suspect ones.  I once visited a factory in Taiwan and remember the hosts shepherding us through the car park into the office area so we couldn’t see inside.  One factory I visited in Italy was like something from the time of the industrial revolution!

My advice generally is to go for premium brand product if you can afford it.  It’ll last longer and perform better in all conditions.

I’d personally recommend Bridgestone. I’ve had them on various cars and they’ve always performed well and lasted.