You may only think about them when you get a puncture or when your tread is getting low. In reality though, tyres play a part in everything from how your car rides and handles, to how quickly it stops when a kid runs out in front of you or how many miles you get to every gallon of fuel.
More information for consumers
This week marks the beginning of something big for tyres in the UK, as a new labelling system hits the market.
You’ll be familiar with the format already. First seen on fridges and cookers and subsequently on cars, the new labels use an A-G rating system for explaining the performance of a tyre next to its competitors. Just as with white goods and cars, “A” means a tyre is at the top of the class in that category, and “G” means it’s pretty poor.
Both fuel efficiency (in terms of rolling resistance) and safety (measured by wet-weather grip) are represented by A-G ratings, and the UK’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) suggests there could be as much as 30 percent difference between the best and worst tyres in terms of safety, and 7.5 percent for fuel consumption.
That equates to three or four car lengths shorter stopping distance from 50mph, and a fuel cost saving of around £100 per year for the average motorist.
Also represented on the label is a tyre’s noise level. If you’ve ever driven different cars you’ll be aware of how some surfaces are noisier than others, particularly on motorways.
While sound-deadening material in cars can cut out some of this noise, your tyres are also responsible as your only contact point with the road. Quieter tyres make for more relaxed - and less tiring - cruising, which improves safety.
The tyre label’s sound measurement actually applies to external noise, so quieter tyres also make for quieter roads.
What this means for YOU
Essentially, as with any other consumer product, a standard of comparison makes for a better-informed purchase.
Presented with two otherwise identical refrigerators, you’re unlikely to buy one with a “G” energy rating if the other is an “A” or “B”.
The same applies to tyres, and it may encourage consumers to pay a little more attention to what their local garage or tyre-fitter is putting on the car. Paying an extra ten quid per corner doesn’t sound so bad if those tyres are saving you £50 in fuel each year, and even less so if they allow you to stop quicker when a kid runs into the road after his football.
So which tyre is best?
At the moment, there’s only one AA-rated tyre on sale in the UK, made by Pirelli. The Cinturato P7 Blue, available for 16, 17, and 18-inch wheels, receives high ratings in the three areas represented on the label.
Tyre manufacturer Continental suggests that there is another way of determining the performance of tyres - reading independent car magazines’ tyre reviews.
Often, these reviews are scored on up to 14 different criteria, adding dry performance, cornering ratings and aquaplaning resistance, among others.
Look out for the labels
The new tyre labels become a legal requirement on November 1st this year.
They may not be as comprehensive as magazine reviews, but for the vast majority of consumers, adding safety and efficiency criteria to items as important as tyres is a massive step in the right direction.