Speed Ratings

by Lauren Henderson

April is National Car Care Month and a great time to remind customers of general car maintenance and safety guidelines like the importance of having tires with the proper speed rating on their vehicle.

The need for higher fuel economy, lower emissions and increased performance have spurred engine technology forward in just a short amount of time. Today, the tires on basic family vehicles often share speed ratings with those developed for ultra-high performance sports cars.

“High speed ratings — which indicate how fast a tire can roll at specified sustained speeds safely carrying a load — no longer are limited to the performance category,” explains Rick Brennan, executive director of marketing at Falken Tire Corporation. “When replacing tires, consumers need to ensure that they’re not compromising safety by opting for a lower-speed rated tire.”

If you offer tire services, pay close attention as you change out winter tires for all-season or summer tires on your customers’ vehicles. Winter tires usually have a lower speed rating than the original manufacturers’ speed rating. Remind your staff to consult the owners manual or the tire placard in the glove box or doorjamb for the correct tire size and speed rating.

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Falken Tire recommends reminding customers of these three things before changing their tires:

1. Never downgrade: A tire’s speed rating indicates how fast a tire can roll while carrying a maximum load. Always select a replacement tire that at least matches the rating of the tires that were on the vehicle when it was purchased. You can always go up with the speed rating but never go down.

2. Don’t rely on a tire’s speed rating to tell you how much grip or cornering ability the tire provides: The speed rating tells you how fast a tire can roll safely, not how much cornering capability it has. If you’re looking for a tire that provides better handling or grip, you must research what the individual tire was designed to do. Consult the tire manufacturer’s website or ask the sales person at the tire dealer.

3. Never mix and match tires with different speed ratings: Doing so limits the speed you can drive your vehicle to the lowest rated tire on your car, which could be lower than the speed your car can reach. It can also expose you to potentially serious vehicle handling problems, including unpredictable steering.