When it comes to your car, it is definitely worth knowing about tyre speed ratings. The more you educate yourself on this topic, the less likely you are to fit the wrong tyres to your vehicle. You don’t want to experience tyre blowout on a busy motorway because you underestimated the importance of your car’s tyre speed rating!
So, what are tyre speed ratings? Let’s find out.
What Are Tyre Speed Ratings?
Your tyre speed rating is the maximum speed your tyres are legally allowed to be safely driven at. It is important that you choose tyres with the correct speed rating for your car, as a speed rating that is too high or too low poses certain safety concerns.
When your tyre speed rating is lower than it should be for your vehicle, there is an increased risk of tyre blowout as the car picks up speed and the heat increases. Tyres with a higher speed rating than your vehicle needs can wear out quicker and struggle in the colder months, despite technically having better grip.
You should know that a tyre speed rating that is lower than it should be for your vehicle could see your car insurance being invalidated. Whilst you can fit your car with tyres that have a higher speed rating than your vehicle actually needs, you should never fit tyres with a lower speed rating. This may not be illegal, but it can play havoc with your steering or even cause tyre failure.
What Do Those Tyre Sidewall Markings Mean?
Embossed along your tyre sidewall is important information about your tyre size, load capacity, inflation pressure, and speed rating. For the purposes of this article, the final letter in this sequence can tell you your tyre speed rating.
Remember, these speed ratings operate under the assumption that your vehicle is not carrying more weight than it is built to be able to transport. Be sure to meet the specifications for your vehicle - including by choosing tyres which are the right size - and you can help your tyres to last longer. When in doubt, check your vehicle handbook for information specific to your car.
What Is the Tyre Speed Rating for My Vehicle?
As previously stated, the final letter of the sequence on your tyre sidewall can tell you what the speed rating is on your current tyres – but what about when it is time to replace or upgrade? You should consult your vehicle handbook to find out the minimum tyre speed and load ratings for your vehicle. Once you have done so, you can fit your car with tyres which match – or go beyond – the top speed your vehicle is able to reach. Refer to your vehicle handbook to see the top speed for your car’s tyres, and use this handy list of speed ratings for context:
- K = 68 mph
- L = 75 mph
- M = 81 mph
- N = 87 mph
- P = 87 mph
- Q = 100 mph
- R = 106 mph
- S = 112 mph
- T = 118 mph
- U = 124 mph
- H = 130 mph
- V = 149 mph
- W = 168 mph
- Y = 186 mph
- (Y) = 186+ mph
Wider tyres generally require a higher speed rating, as they are designed to travel at high speed – if you drive a sports car, your tyre speed rating may be closer to a Y. A good rule of thumb is to fit the same size of tyres with the same speed rating to your vehicle, as any difference across tyres can lead to uneven tread wear. You should also bear in mind the load capacity for your vehicle, so that you don’t put unnecessary strain on your tyres by forcing them to support extra weight.
Make sure that you take into account the recommended tyre pressure for your vehicle, which you can find in your owner’s manual. It is important that you regularly check that your tyres are inflated to the correct level, to prevent any unexpected tyre blowouts. Your car may be fitted with a TPMS warning light which can alert you when your tyre pressure has changed, but you may need to check this manually every now and then if not.
If in doubt, it is always best to ask a professional mechanic for a second opinion. You don’t want to take chances when it comes to your vehicle’s tyre speed rating. Get this right, and you could avoid your car insurance being invalidated, and stay safe at the same time.
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