On November 1 this year, labelling becomes mandatory for most passenger car, van and truck tires produced after June 30 2012 and sold in the European Union.
These labels have been introduced to improve the safety and environmental performance of tires and to help consumers make an informed choice.
Tires will have labels showing ratings for rolling resistance, wet grip and external noise.
Tire makers will be obliged to provide this label information on their websites and product literature.
Tire dealers will also need to show the grading information from the label before customers choose a tire and with their invoice.
The labels use the familiar colour coded gradings seen on white goods and cars. As in the example on the left.
An explanation of the three categories which make up the label is provided below.
The grading on the left of the label indicates Rolling Resistance.
The grading goes from "A" which is the highest to "G" which is the lowest. The EU has decided that the grading "D" will be an empty category. This means that if a tire does not qualify for a "C" grading in rolling resistance, it will be graded with an "E"
Rolling Resistance is a measure of the environmental performance of a tire. The higher the grade, the lower the rolling resistance. Rolling resistance is the force required to be overcome by the engine of a vehicle in order to move the tire. Put simply, a lower rolling resistance means the tire will use less energy to travel a certain distance.
A low rolling resistance may also translate into improved fuel economy.
The grading on the right of the label shows Wet Grip.
Wet Grip is measured using a standard test. As with Rolling Resistance, the higher the grading, the better the tire performed in the test.
The wet frip test is designed to provide comparable results between tires. This is very difficult to acheive since the friction of the testing surface and ambient temperature will greatly influence the measurements.
The test process takes into account these factors so that observed results need to be entered into a calulation which uses coefficients for surface friction and temperature. In addition the test conditions for winter and summer tires are also different.
As with the rolling resitance grading, there is no "D" grade. A tire which is just below "C" grade will be graded as an "E" for wet grip. However, in addition, for wet grip, there is no "G" grade. The lowest rating for wet grip is "F"
The grading on the bottom of the label indicates the external noise of the tire.
External noise is shown in two different ways on the label. Firstly by the specific noise level measured in decibels
However, because consumers cannot be expected to readily know what is a reasonable noise level for a particular size of tire, there is a simple graphical device showing either 1, 2 or 3 "sound waves". These sound waves atre illustrated as curved black lines increasing in size as the noise level increases.
A tire showing 1 "sound wave" has the lowest grade for noise for its size. Two "sound waves" means a medium grade while three "sound waves" means the tire is in the noisiest grading for its size.
You should note that the wider the tire, the more noise it will make. Therefore the sound wave gradings vary according to the section width of the tire. For example a very wide tire which has a noise level of 70 decibels may have a low "sound wave" grade. However a narrow tire with the same 70 decibel noise level would be in the highest "sound wave" grade.