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Winter Tyre Labelling - What You Need to Know
2015-02-13 17:16:06
If you’re shopping for tyres, you need to know that there’s a new labelling system in force which rates all tyres for their fuel efficiency, wet braking performance and noise levels. The information on these labels can prove to be a bit confusing when applied to winter tyres, so Tyremen have put together a guide to help you understand what it means.
Wet Braking
The wet braking part of the label rates the performance of the tyre on a scale from A to G, where A is the shortest stopping distance. All tyres have to go through the same series of tests in order to ensure that the score is consistent across brands.
However, this means that different types of tyres are tested in the same way too, whether they’re summer, winter or all-weather specification. This can lead to some rather odd results because the standard test has to be carried out at 25 degrees Celsius. As a consequence winter tyres are being tested at a temperature outside the range at which they’re designed to offer the best performance.
The rubber compounds used in winter tyres are designed to offer their best braking performance at temperatures under seven degrees. The labelling doesn’t tell you a lot about their ability in cold conditions, as the EU test means that all tyres are checked at summer temperatures. This means the labels can actually be more confusing for the buyer rather than making things clearer as was intended.
Fuel Efficiency
As with wet breaking the label rates fuel efficiency on an A to G scale, with A-rated tyres being the most efficient. But, in a similar way to the braking test, the testing method doesn’t favour winter tyres.
Winter tyres have small slits known as ‘sipes’ running across the tread blocks. The idea of these is that they provide extra bite so that the tyre is able to grip on ice, snow or slush. The design of winter tyres often uses different positioning of the tread blocks in order to improve grip too. For this reason the tyres may also be directional, meaning that they have to be fitted to rotate in a particular way.
All of this is great for safety in winter driving conditions, but it does mean that winter tyres are likely to perform less well than summer types in the fuel efficiency test. Having said that, the difference between the best and worst tyres in the test probably amounts to less than one tank of fuel over the life of the tyre, so it’s not worth worrying about too much.
Noise Level
The final rating on the label relates to the amount of road noise that the tyre generates. Once again the factors which mean winter tyres don’t perform quite so well in the fuel efficiency test also mean that they’ll be noisier. Chunky tread block design and sipes all contribute to the fact that winter tyres make more noise than summer designs.
It’s a little frustrating that the standard tests don’t highlight the things that winter tyres are designed to do well, like better grip and shorter stopping distances in cold conditions.
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