Did you know that passenger tires are graded on their ability to resist tread wear, generate heat and provide suitable traction for stopping? The federal government requires passenger tire manufacturers to provide tire performance information to consumers to assist them in selecting appropriate tires for their vehicles. Most people are aware that they can find maximum tire pressure information on the tire as well as load ratings that state the maximum load carrying capability of the tire. However, tread wear, traction and temperature information can also be found on the sidewall of a tire. This information can help you determine which tire may be best suited for your purposes.
A tire’s traction grade can be found on the sidewall and indicates a tire’s stopping capability as measured in straight-ahead braking traction tests. However, these braking tests do not include cornering or turning traction. The grades on a tire will consist of grades of “AA,” “A,” “B,” and “C.” A tire rated with an “AA” has the highest traction grade and indicates good ability of the tire to stop on wet pavement. A tire that has a “C” grade will provide the poorest traction, comparatively speaking, under the same or similar test conditions.
Tires also contain information regarding tread wear. The tread wear grade is a ratings system based on the wear rate of the tread under a specified government test procedure. While the actual tread wear can vary depending on the use of the tire including service conditions, the tread wear grade is at least an indicator of the potential tread wear performance of a tire. Under test conditions, a control tire is assigned a grade of 100. Other tires are then compared to the control tire to determine tread wear. For example, a tire grade of 300 should wear three times longer than the control tire.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports the following on tread wear grades for current tire designs:
• 15 percent are rated below 200
• 25 percent are rated 201 to 300
• 32 percent are rated 301 to 400
• 20 percent are rated 401 to 500
• 6 percent are rated 501 to 600
• 2 percent are rated above 600
When selecting a tire for your vehicle, a tire with a higher tread wear grade should take longer to wear out than a tire with a lower tread wear grade.
Tires used on vehicles generate heat during use. Heat is an element that can damage tires and increase the likelihood of premature failure and wear. For this reason, the federal government requires tire manufacturers to grade tires ability to resist the generation of heat and the ability of a tire to dissipate heat under controlled test conditions. Temperature grades range from “A” being the highest to “B” and “C.”
Tires used in driving long distances, under load, or in hot weather can generate significantly high temperatures on the tire. The heat will deteriorate the components of the tire which can lead to blowouts and tread separations. Tires that can resist heat or dissipate heat with the best grade represent tires that are more likely to perform at safe levels throughout the life of the tire. According to NHTSA, only 27 percent of the current tires available on the market are rated at an “A” grade.
Tire grades regarding traction, tread wear and temperature can be found on the sidewall of the tire. Additionally, this same information can be located in publications available from NHTSA. Information can be found at the government’s website, www.safercar.gov. Knowing how your tires graded out can help you understand how the tires may perform throughout their useful life. If you need more information on tires contact Ben Baker, a lawyer in our Personal Injury & Products Liability Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at Ben.Baker@beasleyallen.com.
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