When people refer to tire specs, they’re referring to the basic characteristics of your tire—its size, construction, load index, etc. If you’re looking for your vehicle’s tire size, you can find it on the sticker located on the inside of the driver door or in the owner’s manual.
AN INTRODUCTION TO TIRE SAFETY
A lot of tire problems are preventable. Follow these safety tips to improve tire life:
- Inspect your tires regularly.
Checking your tires for signs of damage or wear can help you identify any problems that might lead to an unexpected problem later. It’s also recommended to have your tires inspected by a professional annually.
- Check the air pressure.
Improper air pressure is not only unsafe—compromising handling and braking—but it can also lead to premature tire failure. Checking your tire pressure each month and before every long trip will reduce your chances of experiencing problems like heat buildup due to underinflation.
- Respect the load capacity.
Be careful to note your tires’ load index. Overloading a tire could cause a sudden loss of air pressure.
- Drive at a safe speed.
Driving too fast increases your risk of hitting road hazards with more impact, heat building up in your tires, losing air rapidly or even exploding suddenly. Any of these scenarios could cause you to lose control of the vehicle.
- Use your spare.
If you notice your tire or wheel is damaged, replace it with your spare. (That’s what it’s there for.) Then have a professional inspect your damaged tire.
TIRE TERMS AND DEFINITIONS
Load index is the maximum weight a tire can safely carry.
The DOT Safety Code appears on your tire and indicates that your tire meets the safety standards set by the DOT. To the right of the DOT mark is your tire’s identification number. This number begins with the tire manufacturer and a two-digit plant code. You can discover the week the tire was manufactured by looking at the ninth and tenth characters, and the final digits represent the year of manufacture.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) established the Uniform Tire Quality Grading (UTQG) code to methodically test tires and grade tires based on treadwear, traction and temperature.
Tread is one of the most important parts of a tire because it is designed to hold your vehicle’s grip to the road. Treadwear is measured by the rate at which tread wears down and is compared to other tires made by the same manufacturer. The baseline grade for treadwear is 100, meaning a tire graded at 200 should last twice as long on the same track.
A tire’s tread is rated according to the amount of traction it provides when stopping in a straight line on a wet road. The industry grades for defining levels of traction are AA, A, B and C, with AA offering the most traction. Tires below a C rating are not permitted for road travel.
There is also a grading system for tire temperature. The letters A, B and C represent how effectively a tire dissipates heat. A represents the best rating, and C is considered unsuitable for driving.
In the automotive industry, certain icons represent unique tire benefits. If you see M+S, M/S or M&S, this means that tire meets the Rubber Manufacturers Association’s standards for mud and snow and is considered an all-season tire.