Tyre labels are quite a controversial topic, so we decided to prepare a comprehensive article that would explain how to read the data presented on labels and exactly explain their meaning.
We have gathered questions frequently asked by users of our website and we asked tyre industry experts to answer them:
Tomasz Młodawski, Product Expert at Michelin Poland,
Justyna Banaszek, Brand Manager at Goodyear Group Poland,
Przemysław Trzaskowski, Press Officer of Continental Tyres Poland.
From 1st November 2012, tyres sold in the EU must be appropriately labelled. The labels should contain clear information about fuel consumption, braking performance, wet grip and noise level.
Reading tyre label data is not difficult, but we have prepared a video that should give you detailed information on the labelling of tyres.
Tyre labels - presented data
Energy efficiency and rolling resistance
A tyre with low rolling resistance consumes less energy, which translates into lower fuel consumption and reduced emissions. Rolling resistance is reduced by minimising the forces acting on the wheel. A lower value of the rolling parameters means a worse grip on wet and icy roads, but better fuel efficiency.
A scale from A to G defines the braking behaviour on wet roads. "A" indicates the shortest braking distance, while "F" indicates the longest. Categories "D" and "G" are empty, i.e., no tyre may have performance parameters in these ranges. The difference between the shortest and the longest braking distance (class "A" and "F") is 18 metres.
The noise emitted by the tyre is stated in decibels. A higher sound level is indicated by more black bars (on a 3-point scale) on the label. Even the loudest model, according to this measure, does not exceed the applicable standard. Tyres emitting the lowest noise are the most environmentally friendly.
The labelling obligation does not apply to all types of tyres. The following list will help you gather more information.
Types of tyres that are excluded from the labelling obligation:
Tyres with spikes,
Tyres as spare wheels,
Tyres for off-road driving,
Tyres for classic cars (old auto-mobiles),
Tyres with a speed index lower than 80km/h,
Tyres for cars registered for the first time before 1990,
Tyres with a mounting diameter less than 10 inches or greater than 25 inches.
Other parameters are added to encourage manufacturers to care about all performance features in equal measure. Why? Each model is a compromise in performance. Lower rolling resistance may worsen the wet grip, while increased safety during rain will cause more noise generated by the tyre.
The idea of introducing a label was good, but there were many doubts about the practical side of these provisions. The parameters shown on the labels are not all important features of a tyre and we do not know whether they will be comprehensively improved.
We decided to take a critical look at the labels to analyse the individual solutions. Labels encourage consumers to make more informed choices and they force manufacturers to create good quality products.
Frequently asked questions and expert answers:
1. Why do labels present these types of parameters and no others?
Tomasz Młodawski, Michelin Poland: The main objective of this regulation was the environmental aspect, namely reducing CO2 emissions and road noise through the conscious customer choice of tyre parameters. Wet grip has been added to the tyre label, as it is clearly correlated with rolling resistance. The second main objective was the economic aspect, i.e., stopping the import of low-quality non-European products, which has a measurable impact on the production of tyres in Europe and employment related to this.
Justyna Banaszek, Goodyear Poland: The guidelines, which guided policy makers, are primarily for the safety of the user and the protection of the environment. The parameters shown on the label are averaged and partial information that enables you to make a preliminary assessment of the tyre. This motivates manufacturers to make intensive efforts to further improve their products. Goodyear tests each tyre across a minimum of 50 parameters before it enters the market. So you can see that we offer tyres with a high performance in all areas important for safety, whereas only 3 of them are presented on the label, as required by the EU.
Przemysław Trzaskowski, Continental Tyres Poland: The label simplifies tyre characteristics to 3 selected parameters, so it may be used only for a preliminary assessment of the product.
2. Is the rating shown on the label the same for all sizes of the tyre model?
It is impossible to produce a universal model which is good at every size and for every vehicle. Some models show their best properties at 14, 15 or 16 inch sizes, while others at 13, 14 and 15 inch. It is very difficult to produce tyres with the same performance at every size. At least for now. Therefore, labels may show different ratings for the same tyre models. It depends on size, speed index, load index and intended use (OEM tyre, replacement tyres). Retailers use product codes and this influences the tyre labels.
See Michelin Energy Saver markings for 195/65 R15 tyres:
|Tyre size, index, approval
|195/65 R15 91 T, S1
|195/65 R15 91 T, MO
|195/65 R15 91 T, G1
|195/65 R15 91 H, S1
|195/65 R15 91 H, MO
|195/65 R15 91 H, AO
|195/65 R15 91 V, MO
The symbols S1, MO, G1, AO etc. are approval data of car manufacturers. Of course, there are examples of tyres, where all the products in a range have the same marking (e.g., Michelin Primacy 3). This is a series that considered label marking from the beginning.
Ratings on the labels are matched to a particular size, index and approval. It is a logical solution, as it takes into account the design differences between tyres. It enables you to better match the tyre to your car and make a more informed choice.
3. How can different tyres be compared with the same classes on the labels?
Tomasz Młodawski, Michelin Poland: The situation may be difficult for winter tyres because budget tyres may look even better than the premium brands! In the case of summer tyres with identical parameters on the label, the difference may be:
expected mileage (may be even twice as big)
grip on dry surfaces
grip when cornering on wet and dry roads (according to European regulation, brake tests are carried out on a straight road section)
tread wear, irregular forms accelerate wear and thereby increase noise
the ageing rate of rubber compounds
In order to fully evaluate and compare the tyres, check tests of other parameters carried out by professional automotive organisations like ADAC, TUV SUD Automotive, DEKRA and IDIADA.
Justyna Banaszek, Goodyear Poland: The labels show only three parameters, but you need to know that approximately 15 parameters are usually tested as a part of tests organised by media companies, consumer organisations or research institutes (e.g., TUV SUD). Goodyear tests each tyre across a minimum of 50 parameters before it enters the market.
Products which are similar at first glance may vary quite considerably. When selecting a tyre model for your vehicle, remember that every driver has a different driving style, a different car, different needs, different annual mileage and on different types of roads. If you want to be happy with our tyres, then take into account more than three parameters and consult professionals at an authorised service centre.
4. Can the place of a tyre’s manufacture affect the grades shown on the label?
As far as we know, two tyres of the same size and indices, made for the same market, but produced in different locations should have the same level of performance.
Leading manufacturers, with factories all over the world, which may be affected by this problem, make every effort to ensure that the tyres manufactured in different plants are identical. Different ratings should not be expected based on where it is produced.
Current production methods ensure that tyres of the same model, size, indices etc. do not differ in their performance due to where they are produced.
If you buy 4 Michelin tyres and two of them were produced, e.g., in Russia, while the other two were produced in France, you don't have to worry about the differences. These tyres are identical.
Labels for the same tyre model may have different classes depending on the tyre size, index and approval.
5. How important are the performance parameters shown on the labels for the driver?
They actually affect fuel consumption. However, the lower the rolling resistance, the worse the wet grip. Every driver may independently choose which parameters are the most important for his/her vehicle, but remember that rolling resistance is only one of the factors that determines fuel consumption.
This parameter is also influenced by driving style, tyre pressure, proper selection of tyres in terms of outdoor conditions etc. On the other hand, wet grip is a key feature for safety on the road.
This is a parameter that gives you an overview of the tyre’s grip. A research conducted at the Technical University in Dresden shows that 70% of accidents occur on wet roads.
Therefore, a good tyre must be safe in such conditions and the labels need to motivate manufacturers to continuously improve their products in this area. Although, there is also a weakness in this approach. The scale of the labels includes class "D", but no tyre for passenger cars could achieve this class, as the grip table does not specify the numerical range for it.
In practice, class "C" may perform similarly to class "E". The absence of class "D" for passenger car tyres may be considered as an element helping to distinguish tyres with a higher performance level from those with a lower level.
Generally, it is perceived that class "A", "B" and "C" tyres (promoted) are better than those marked with "E" or "F". For wet grip, there is no "G" class (such tyres would be hazardous). Remember, the difference in braking distance between the best and the worst class of grip may be up to 18 meters, but 4-5 meters means that you will not stop your car before a pedestrian crossing. Remember this when buying new tyres.
The rating of the first two categories is expressed with 7 quality classes from "A" to "G". In the category of external noise, data is stated in decibels and graphically in the form of sound waves (up to 3 sound waves may be marked). For example, the difference between 75 dB and 72 dB may seem unimportant. In fact, a difference of 3 dB means halving the noise intensity. The problem is that for drivers, internal noise is more important as they are exposed to it inside the vehicle. On longer journeys it may cause fatigue and impact safety. External noise information shown on tyre labels is therefore a part of EU policy concerning environmental protection.
The labels contain valuable information, but they are only one of many sources of information that you must consider before buying tyres. Still, the easiest way to choose tyres is by consulting a specialist. You can also read articles and opinions of users or check test results. Then, you will get a full picture of selected models to make the best choice. Wet grip is just one of the many parameters critical for safety.
6. What about the parameters not shown on the labels? Do they also affect safety?
The parameters shown on the labels are very important, but they are not all the features that need to be considered when choosing tyres. The labels do not include parameters such as:
braking on dry roads,
control on wet roads,
travel comfort (noise inside the vehicle),
rubber mixture (the presence/absence of harmful aromatic oils),
winter properties of the tyre
Tyre safety is influenced by several different parameters, which are all taken into account when designing tyres. The German Association of Tyre Manufacturers and Services (BRV) has distinguished a total of 11 parameters. Automotive organisations (e.g., ADAC) or magazines examine several parameters in their tests. Focusing only on one parameter crucial for safety when purchasing tyres (in case of labels it is wet braking) is not enough. Remember that all tyre parameters are important and affect safety or operational costs. What's more, each tyre is a compromise of many performance parameters.
7. What about labels for winter tyres? Are they different from the labels on summer tyres?
Tomasz Młodawski, Michelin Poland: Tyre industry stakeholders agree that the European Parliament made a big mistake by applying the same assessment criteria for winter tyre labels. It should be emphasised that the parameters shown on the label of a winter tyre do not reflect its performance in winter conditions or requirements for winter operation.
ROLLING RESISTANCE: This parameter is based on measurements made in accordance with the ISO 2850 standard at a temperature of 25°C, both for summer and winter tyres; therefore the class does not reflect the rolling resistance in winter, as the winter has no such weather conditions and temperatures. Winter tyres are designed to be softer and with dense, deep grooves to form an aggressive tread pattern, which results in higher rolling resistance.
WET GRIP: This rating is based on measurements made at temperatures above 0°C. Very soft winter tread compounds with many incisions will not achieve high results in the frost.
EXTERNAL NOISE: The rating of summer and winter tyres is made according to identical criteria, at temperatures close to + 20°C, which is also not representative of winter roads, which differ significantly from summer surfaces. The results of noise measurements achieved for winter tyres are not representative for noise emissions in the winter, as the rubber compound changes its characteristics depending on the temperature.
Parameters shown on the label of a winter tyre such as rolling resistance, wet grip in temperatures above zero and external noise are not the main criteria for selecting a winter tyre. Requirements for winter tyres differ from those for summer models: they should have good adhesion on cold asphalt in wet and dry conditions, good grip on snow and ice, reliable traction and stable handling.
The label on a winter tyre presents its performance in summer conditions. You can draw the following conclusions: it is not worth using quite new winter tyres in the summer as they would increase fuel consumption and noise emissions, simultaneously with weaker grip in wet conditions. Michelin Group has already started work on changing the testing conditions for winter tyres and introducing a new classification for winter performance: snow/ice.
Justyna Banaszek, Goodyear Poland: The labels were introduced to facilitate an initial assessment of the tyre by customers. However, during the purchase of tyres, including winter models, you should take into account a broader spectrum of information than just the three parameters indicated by the EU. In 2016, the European Union started to revise the regulations on the labelling of tyres, which means that the next few years will be a period for collecting experience and evaluating the effectiveness of new regulations.
8. Are the ratings shown on the labels achieved at the expense of other tyre parameters?
Tomasz Młodawski, Michelin Poland: The motto of the Michelin Group is "balanced performance". In practice, this means that in new product ranges we improve selected parameters, while maintaining others at the same level. In terms of label data, our new products have been improved in the area of rolling resistance, whereas their wet grip, dry grip and expected mileage have been maintained at their already impressive level.
Justyna Banaszek, Goodyear Poland: Goodyear designs each tyre focusing primarily on the safety of drivers and vehicle users. It is not easy to improve performance without affecting individual parameters. This is tedious and time-consuming, but our engineers from the innovation centres in Europe and the US are working intensively on the best solutions to ensure user safety.
Przemysław Trzaskowski, Continental Tyres Poland: Tyres are crucial vehicle components, directly influencing safety of drivers and passengers. Therefore, our main task is to produce the safest and best-balanced tyres, whereas the results shown on the labels reflect only a fraction of our efforts. Tests of one model do not have to be repeated, when its design does not significantly change.
9. How do manufacturers test their tyres to achieve the parameters shown on the labels?
Tyres are tested according to strictly defined test methods.
For rolling resistance, rating is carried out in two stages.
The test is performed pursuant to Regulation No. 117.02 of UNECE - "Uniform provisions concerning the approval of tyres with regard to rolling sound emissions and to adhesion on wet surfaces and/or to rolling resistance"). This Regulation is based on the ISO 28580 standard.
In order to classify the tyres, the previously obtained result is corrected according to the EU document 1235/2011, which is an annex to 1222/2009 (REGULATION (EC) No 1222/2009 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 25th November 2009 on the labelling of tyres with respect to fuel efficiency and other essential parameters).
As for wet grip:
tyres for passenger cars (category C1) are tested according to the EU Commission Regulation 228/2011,
tyres for commercial vehicles (C2) and trucks (C3) are tested according to the aforementioned document 1235/2011 based on the ISO 15222 standard.
External noise is determined according to the method contained in UNECE Regulation No. 117.02.
10. Will the results on the label of a given model change every year?
If a particular model of tyre is not changed during production (changes that may affect its performance resulting in the changed rating of one of the parameters shown on the label), there is no need for repeating tests and re-classifying it. The manufacturers are not required to periodically confirm originally achieved classification. They must however, ensure Conformity of Production (COP) and prove during any regulatory audit that a produced tyre maintains its rating, as originally granted during the certification.
11. Which tyres have no labels?
All tyres manufactured after 30th June 2012 must be provided with labels for sale (with the exception of studded, retreaded, professional, off-road, for spare wheels, with speed index below 80 km/h, with a diameter of less than 10 inches or more than 25 inches).
Tyres produced before July 2012 can be sold without labels. Unfortunately, many tyres imported from China, even after the above production date, have no labels and checking them is very difficult. We warn you against buying this kind of tyre.
The quality of products from China has a very wide range. By choosing a tyre with a Chinese label, you may be sure that it meets the European requirements for safety and environmental protection. A product without the required markings, obtained from an unknown source can be dangerous (faulty design, toxic rubber compound, etc.). Therefore, we recommend buying tyres only from reliable sellers, who do not ignore the current regulations.
Labels from South Korea
12. Why is there no class D label for passenger car tyres?
Tomasz Młodawski, Michelin Poland: The number of classes and the use of the empty class “D” were imposed by the European Parliament. This solution was inspired by regulations already proven in the EU, which regulate for example the market of household appliances. The empty class “D” increases the number of classes ranging from the best to the worst quality products. This procedure aims to increase customer awareness and encourage drivers to choose products with better performance.
Justyna Banaszek, Goodyear Poland: In case of tyres for passenger cars, both in terms of rolling resistance and wet grip, class "D" is "empty". According to EU Regulation No 1222/2009 no values are assigned to this category.
Przemysław Trzaskowski, Continental Tyres Poland: The EU Regulation for tyres does not assign any values to class "D" in the table of fuel efficiency (rolling resistance) and wet grip. Therefore, tyres with better performance in these categories are more clearly distinguished from tyres with poorer parameters.
13. How do test results translate into label content?
The introduction of tyre labels has not weakened the position of independent tyre tests such as ADAC tests or those carried out by automotive magazines. Their importance has even grown, as they provide missing information about other parameters not shown on the labels. They are also used as a tool to verify the data contained on labels.
You will be able to make a better choice after obtaining information from several sources like labels, tyre tests, reviews of other users and consulting your dealer.
14. Have the labels caused the price increase of tyres?
Tomasz Młodawski, Michelin Poland: For major tyre manufacturers, attaching the performance label will not increase the costs of tyres, as these parameters have been measured anyway. They just were not presented to customers. However, for minor brands and budget products, testing the performance may result in a price increase. We may be sure that tyre labels will become another field of competition for manufacturers, which in turn may result in increased investments in R&D centres.
Justyna Banaszek, Goodyear Poland: The price of a tyre is affected by a number of factors, including the cost of raw materials on global markets, availability and price of petroleum components, currency fluctuations, etc. The expenditures related to tyre labelling obligation in the EU are one of the price components, similarly to investments in new technologies and innovative solutions.
Przemysław Trzaskowski, Continental Tyres Poland: Our company continuously invests in the research and development of new technologies. We operate one of Europe's most modern R&D centres. In June 2012, we launched a modern CT scanner, worth EUR 1.4 million, to be able to precisely scan our tyres. Before a new product is released, it is always thoroughly checked and tested for its rolling resistance, noise emissions, braking on different road surfaces and for many other parameters. The introduction of tyre labels will not affect the prices of our products.
The obligation to provide tyre labels is an additional cost for producers and distributors, but it has no significant impact on the final price. The price is still an important factor in attracting customers, especially in the segment of economy-class tyres. Labels generate costs, but they are not so high to increase the price of tyres.
15. Labels on the truck tyres
Truck tyres are divided into several types, due to their different use:
long-distance transport - Transport of goods by a trailing unit and semi-trailers on long distances, mostly highways, at a constant speed and with a small number of turns. Drivers working with this type of transport highly appreciate the low rolling resistance and braking on wet roads. The performance parameters shown on EU labels are very useful when choosing tyres for long distance transport.
regional transport and distribution – This involves transport over medium and long distances with frequent stops. Driving on urban road exposes tyres to lateral forces and damaged road surfaces. Regional transport and distribution is performed by vehicles in various configurations. Tyres for this type of service must be suitable for high mileage, long operational lifetime and provide high resistance to damage. Only after fulfilling these requirements, wet grip and rolling resistance are taken into account. A very important issue is the operational life of the tyre and the option for its retreading. From this perspective, tyre labels provide little useful information.
mixed transport and construction industry - Here, vehicles have different configurations and usually drive along medium and long distances, with approximately 10% of operation performed off-road, including difficult conditions. The key parameters for this type of transport include: ability to drive on soft ground, long operational life (tyres for dump trucks, cement mixers etc.). Another very important feature is off-road grip and the option for retreading as well as high mileage. Label information on wet grip is useful, but other parameters, i.e., fuel efficiency (rolling resistance) and noise levels, are of less significance.
urban and municipal transport - This is related to frequent stops and driving at low and medium speeds. It is also a cause of sidewall abrasions and lateral forces. There is often a high torque, especially in hybrid vehicles and tyres for municipal vehicles are used with changing load. The most important parameters of tyres used for this type of transport include high mileage and damage resistance, whereas wet grip and the option for retreading are less important features. When choosing this type of tyre, the labels provide only two important parameters, i.e., wet grip and external noise (as they are used in urban environment).
winter transport - May be performed with low-grip conditions. Winter roads are often change between wet, dry or covered with ice and snow, and this type of transport uses all types of vehicles. Tyres used for winter transport must ensure good traction and reliable grip on snow and ice. In this case, the option for retreading is also very important, as well as wet grip, high mileage and fuel consumption. However, the main priority for manufacturers is traction parameters. So two out of the three pieces of information provided on the label are useful when choosing this type of tyre.
The situation described above shows once again that labels should be only one of many sources of information available to the customer and certainly not the only one. Poorly informed customers may choose a product which seems to be good (basing on label info), but in practice it may fail in an area crucial for the driver (depending on the mode of transport). Remember that tyre labels do not provide information about winter performance, so you need to consider them carefully if you want to select a model suitable for more demanding winter conditions.
When you buy a refrigerator, you should pay attention not only to its label. To be fully satisfied with the purchased device you must know its other parameters.
The same applies to tyres.
Labels were introduced to encourage manufacturers to focus on all performance parameters. Despite the fact that tyres are getting better every year, the ideal is still a long way off. Approach the information shown in tyre labels with caution.
Professor Egon-Christian von Glasner, the President of the European Association for Accident Research and Analysis says "The first feature noticed by the tyre users is the green letter "A", known from refrigerators and suggesting a good product. However, the number of cheap tyres that may be considered as environmentally friendly is very limited and not every user knows that. In the worst case, we may buy a tyre that will fail to stop our car on a wet surface with the shortest braking distance. For clarity, the tyre contributes to lower fuel consumption when the rolling resistance is low. When the rolling resistance is low, the tyre braking performance in the wet is poor."
Dimensions of labels are presented only for illustrative purpose. Your decision will be more better after reading the results of tyre tests, reviews by other drivers and consulting with your dealer.