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Tyre Terminology Explained
Finding replacement tires or buying tires online can be confusing in terminology and technical terms. It can all be a bit overwhelming, and you may feel too embarrassed to ask for an explanation in person at a garage. Do not be afraid ! Here are the most common technical terms, explained in language everyone can understand:
aspect ratio – This means the difference between the width of the tire and the height of the sidewall (which is, as you would expect, the side of the tire). The higher the ratio, the “higher” the tire. A higher aspect ratio allows for a smoother ride and provides better grip on snow. A lower aspect ratio is usually associated with “low profile” tires which can be used on high performance cars – they have excellent handling and grip, but can also leave you with a harsher ride.
Contact patch – The contact patch is the small part of your tire tread that actually contacts the road at all times. Sport tires are much wider, so have a larger contact patch, which gives them extra cornering grip and quicker acceleration.
Wear indicators – Also called “wear bars”, these are the little bands or “bridges” that run between the tread of your tire. As your tread wears down, it begins to become visible, giving you a visual cue that your tires need replacing.
Rated speed – If you look at the side of your tire, you’ll see a whole bunch of symbols and numbers. The speed rating is the letter that usually comes near the end of this data and refers to the maximum speed that your tire is capable of. Most current family car models have an S or T speed rating (allowing top speeds between 180 and 200 km/h). High-performance cars may have higher ratings, such as V or ZR (allowing speeds of up to 149 mph).
Maximum Cold Inflation Load Limit – Bit of a mouthful, but all that means is the maximum load the tires are capable of handling and the maximum air pressure required to support it. This information (your recommended cold inflation load limit) should be in your vehicle manual. Overloading your vehicle and/or under/over inflating the tires can be dangerous and affect your car’s handling. The “cold” aspect of the terminology refers to the fact that you should always check your tire pressure when your tires are cold. Checking them too soon after riding, when they are hot, means you will get a false reading because the heat will increase the pressure inside the tire.
Load index – The load index is the weight capacity of the tire. You should try to use tires that have a load capacity similar to the tires supplied with the vehicle or the rating recommended in your vehicle manual. The higher the number, the greater the load it can withstand.
Radial and bias-ply tires The difference between these two types of tires is in the way the cords, or “plies” inside the tire, are laid. Radial tires are found on most modern cars as they are more fuel efficient and provide good handling and heat dissipation. However, you can find bias-ply tires on vintage or older vehicles, or on some motorhomes. You should never mix radial and bias-ply tires on the same vehicle as this will dangerously affect your handling.
Temporary use tires – Often known as ‘space saver’ tires, these are smaller than usual spare tires meant to slip easily under your chassis or trunk in the event of a flat tire. They are also easier to handle than full size tires. However, most space savers are not intended for use above 55 mph and are only meant to be used to get you from the side of the road to a garage so you can install a suitable replacement tire.
Wear, Tensile and Temperature Ratings – These are ratings that provide information on the average lifespan of your tyre, its ability to stop on wet roads and to dissipate heat. The treadwear index – a three-digit number – gives you an idea of how long your tire will last, although it also depends on the type of driving style you have and the mileage you’ve covered. Tensile ratings range from AA to C, with C being a “marginal” quality. Always make sure your tires have the minimum recommended traction rating for your vehicle. And finally, temperature ratings (from A to C) refer to the tire’s ability to dissipate heat when under load. A lower rating indicates lower heat capacity and means the tire is more susceptible to heat-induced failure.
If you are unsure about the features and specifications of your tires, always consult a professional for advice. Buying cheap tires online can be a great way to save money, but always buy from reputable companies and check your vehicle’s manual to make sure you’re buying the right type of tire for your vehicle. car.
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