Tire Speed Ratings

When it’s time to replace your vehicle’s tires, do not neglect the information listed on the sidewall. One important designation on the tire is the speed rating. Speed ratings are located following the load capacity. For example – 94T. The 94 is the load rating and the S is the speed rating. Some of the most common speed ratings include, S, T, U, H, V, W and Y. It is necessary to purchase replacement tires with the same or a higher speed rating than your original equipment tires in order to maintain your vehicle’s performance.

Automobile manufacturers are currently outfitting their new vehicles with higher speed rated tires than ever before. For example, the 2009 Honda Accord EX-L V6 sedan comes equipped with V-rated tires. You would think with the Honda Accord being a fairly basic passenger car, it wouldn’t need ultra high performance tires capable of performing at 149 mph.

This trend is expanding throughout the tire industry. In 2008, Honda, Toyota, Nissan and Cadillac used V-rated or higher original equipment tires on 60% of their new vehicles.

This is certainly becoming a problem when shopping for replacement tires. People looking for new tires often opt for lower speed rated tires because they are cheaper or they are looking for better tire wear. A common argument against replacing V-rated tires with V-rated tires is that you will never need to drive 149 mph.

Opting to go with lower speed rated tires for any reason is not recommended. You shouldn’t go lower because speed ratings actually indicate performance ratings. The speed rating system is misleading because the letters are classified by mph. You’re probably never going to travel at the maximum speed your tires or vehicle are capable of handling and vehicle manufactures are aware of this. But, if you choose a lower speed rated tire than your vehicle’s original tires, you will make significant changes to your vehicle’s capabilities. Your handling will be altered. The traction you’re used to won’t be there. Your vehicle’s overall performance will be hindered.

There’s a reason the manufacturer chose that specific speed rating for your automobile. Vehicles are designed around the capabilities of the tires. If you’re used to driving a car with H-rated tires, then outfitting it with T-rated tires would create a noticeable difference. Instead of limiting your car’s performance and your driving style because you found a deal on cheaper tires, the next time you go vehicle shopping be aware of the tires and the potential replacement costs associated with maintaining the manufacturer’s specifications.