Tyre Information

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At FDS we understand how confusing it must be sometimes to understand the Law requirements for tyres, how to choose the right ones for a vehicle and also how to get your tyres changed. So we thought it would be a good idea to give you some basic information about Tyres. 

To find information about the UK Tyre Law, please click here .

On this page you will find:

- History of the Tyre - Tyre Labelling - How to read a side wall - Winter Tyres

History of the Tyre

How the tyre got its name

I am sure we’ve all at some point wondered how tyres got their name, well, in actual fact the original proper spelling was ‘Tire’ – This is of French origin and comes from the word ‘tirer’; to pull.Originally ‘tire’ was referred to as iron hoops or wires which were bound to carriage wheels.

The earliest of tyres were made by a skilled craftsman knows as a wheelwright. The wheelwright would place bands of iron on wooden wheels then heat in a forge fire which would cause the bands to contract and sit tightly on the wheel. The outer band "tied" the wheel segments together. From this, the word "tire" was used to refer to the metal bands used to tie wheels. The spelling 'Tyre' has evolved from 'Tire' within the UK over the years. 

Development of the Rubber tyre

In the 1800’s, Charles Mcintosh had been experimenting with a latex which was sap from a tree in the Amazon. Explorers had watched Indians using sheets of rubber for waterproofing using the sap. The latex was carried over to the UK. Mcintosh experiment unfortunately faced problems; the cold weather would cause the sheets to become brittle and in hot weather they became sticky. However, in 1839, it was discovered by Charles Goodyear that by melting the latex and adding sulphur it gave elasticity and strength. This vulcanised rubber was used as ’cushioning tyres’ used on carriages and cycles.

The Pneumatic tyre

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In 1888, John Dunlop, a veterinary surgeon, had been searching for a way to make his sons bicycle a lot more comfortable to ride. After much experimentation the pneumatic tyre was invented. Unknown to Dunlop, the idea of the pneumatic tyre had already been patented back in 1845 by Robert Thomson. In order to give claim to his invention, John Dunlop established Dunlop Rubber Company, fought Thomson and won a legal battle. It was his design of the tyre that gave Dunlop greater claim to the invention of the pneumatic tyre. 

In late 1891, two brothers, Edouard and André Michelin, who were agricultural engineers introduced the removable pneumatic tyre, which allowed the rider rather than a mechanic to fix a puncture quickly and efficiently. The tyre consisted of a tube bolted to the rim. They used pneumatic tyres on a car for the first time in the 1895 Paris-Bordeaux Race.

Radial Tyres

It wasn’t until 1947 when the first radial tyre was invented, a tyre that has revolutionised the transport industry, and one that we are still using today. This was the first major innovation in tyre technology since John Dunlop’s invention of the pneumatic tyre.

Tyre Labeling

As of 1 November 2012, under new European regulations, all tyres must be sold with an accompanying label clearly stating tyre_labeling_eu.jpgthe tyres performance on wet roads, fuel efficiency and rolling distance and exterior noise.

The new law will affect all passenger and light truck tyres. The idea for this coming into place is to provide you with objective, reliable and comparable information about the tyres you choose to purchase. The new tyre labels are very easy to understand and are instantly recognisable. You will notice that they have a similar rating system as white goods i.e. washing machines and fridges, by colour coding letters for performance.

Tyres are rated on a scale of A-G (A being more economic) therefore it is instantly understandable which tyres have the best performance and are more efficient making it easier for you to compare tyres when shopping around. This is very practical for you as a customer as you will be able to see which tyre will provide the best value for money instead of searching through reviews. 

The label itself is broken down into the three aspects of performance:

Fuel Economy

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This part of the label shows the car's fuel efficiency when using this tyre. 

Tyres with an "A" rating are always the better option, they will provide you with a better fuel economy than tyres rated "G". A rolling tyre deforms and dissipates energy, is known as rolling resistance and has a direct impact on fuel consumption of the vehicle.

A car fitted with four A-rated tyres could save you up to 80 litres of fuel over the life of the tyres. This equivalates to over a whole tank of fuel saved and roughly £110 with the current fuel prices. Driving at 50mph, A-rated tyres will use around 7.5 percent less fuel than if your tyres were G-rated.

Wet Performance

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It's very important to consider how well tyres will perform in the wet weather. Tyres with excellent wet grip have shorter braking distances on slippery roads.


Like the fuel economy, wet performance is rated  between A and G -  A being the best option with the highest performance. A-rated tyres have a much shorter braking distance therefore being much safer, than G-rated tyres.

If your car is fitted with four A-rated tyres, you will stop up to four car lengths shorter than G-rated tyres - This can prevent crashes and potentially save lives. At 50mph you will have a decreased stopping distance of up to 18m, which is up to 30 percent better than lower rated tyres.

Road Noise

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This part of the label relates to the road noise. It is different to the A-G rated parts of the label for the fuel economy and wet performance.

Exterior noise levels are measured in decibels (dB) and shown as one, two or three sound waves on the label. One wave being the highest performance and three waves being the least. So the less waves showing, the quieter the tyre. 

Reading the Side Wall of a Tyre

Here at FDS we can understand how confusing it must be trying to figure out what all the markings mean on the side of a tyre. Every tyre shows information relating to its manufacturer, size, model etc. Below is an explanation of the most important information and what it all means.tyre_size.gif

Typical Example : 205 40 R17 84W

  • 205 - means the tyre has a nominal section width of 205 millimetres.
  • 40 - is the aspect ratio and is the height of the tyre sidewall as a percentage of the nominal section width.
  • R - means the tyre has a radial construction.
  • 17 - means it fits a 17" diameter wheel.
  • 84 – Load index.  This is the maximum load capacity of a tyre when driven at maximum speed.
  • W – This is the speed rating. This means it is suitable for speeds up to 168 mph.

Other common speed ratings are:

  • Q – max speeds up to 100mph
  • R – max speeds up to 105mph
  • S – max speeds up to 113mph
  • T – max speeds up to 118mph
  • H – max speeds up to 130mph
  • V – max speeds up to 149mph
  • Z – max speeds up to Over 150mph
  • W – max speeds up to 168mph
  • Y – max speeds up to 186mph

You should always replace a tyre with the same or a higher speed rating. If you are ever unsure, always check against the vehicle manufacturers recommendations.

Load Index

Overloading a tyre by carrying more weight than it is designed to can cause heat build up and blow outs. Load indexes for passenger cars usually range from 70 – 110. Some vehicles require tyres that are rated to carry a higher load and therefore have a higher inflation pressure. You can find this information in the manufacturer’s handbook. The tyres will also carry the marking RF (Reinforced) or XL (Extra Load)

Winter Tyres

What are winter tyres and why should we use them?

Not many of us are aware of Winter tyres and the benefits they have during the winter period. Some motorist have never been aware of the existence of winter tyres whereas others believe they can only be used in snow or ice.

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Winter tyres are not compulsary within the UK, this is because:

  • Many parts of the country never or only rarely experience weather conditions that would justify use of winter tyres
  • Many drivers choose not to use the car when snow or ice are around

Winter tyres are definatley recommended if you live in a remote area where winter conditions are likely to be worse for longer. Elsewhere it may be more difficult to justify the cost but this has to be a personal decision depending on the risk of bad weather, your confidence when driving and how much you have to drive when snow and ice are around.

In the bad weather drivers will benefit greatly when using winter tyres wether they are driving on ice, frost, slush, snow or even on just the wet road. You are better off using winter tyres when the temperature drops below 7 degrees and should really use winter tyres in the UK between October and April, but if you are not keen on swapping your tyres then you can use your winter tyres all year round, this would be a better option than to use summer tyres all year round. 

However there is some discussion with regards to stopping distances as a winter tyre does not stop as quickly in the dry as a summer tyre but on balance if it is not possible to switch tyres in the winter the experts recommend that you are better off with winter tyres all year round because the difference in stopping distances of summer tyres in winter is far greater than for winter tyres in the summer.

What is the difference between Summer and Winter tyres? 

In lower temeperatures summer tyres do not harden like winter tyres do. This means winter tyres give you a much better grip on the road and the ability to stop in a shorter distance - This increases your safety on the road.

The rubber compound of a winter tyre is very different to a summer tyre. It is specifically designed to work in temperatures below 7 degrees. When the temperature drops, the rubber compound of summer tyres loses it's flexibility which makes it less grippable in low temperatures.

Winter tyres are made from a specially developed compound that has more natural rubber so they don’t harden and keep their flexibility when it’s cold therefore resulting in increased grip on the road providing greater safety.

On ice and snow winter tyres provide grip that no summer tyre can match.  When driving at 30mph, a vehicle fitted with winter tyres will come to standstill on a snow covered road after 35 metres, a vehicle fitted with summer / standard tyres will have an increased braking distance of an additional 8 metres which is a 43 metre total stopping distance - approximatley  an extra two car lengths than winter tyres.