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U.S. Department of Transportation
Office of Public Affairs
Washington, D.C.


NHTSA 07-04
Thursday, February 12, 2004
Contact: Contact: Rae Tyson
Telephone: (202) 366-9550

USDOT Announces Comparative Ratings for Passenger Vehicle Tires

The U.S. Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) today announced the release of ratings for tires used on most of the nation's passenger vehicles.

"Consumers deserve the best possible information for selecting tires, and these ratings will provide information to help make the right decisions," U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta said. "Well-maintained tires, properly fitted to each vehicle and type of driving, play an important part in keeping families safe."

Tire ratings can be found on NHTSA's web site at  Here consumers can view ratings for more than 2,200 lines of tires, including most tires now used on passenger cars, minivans, sport utility vehicles and light pickup trucks. Under federal regulation, ratings also must be molded into the outer sidewall of all passenger tires.

"This tire grading system will be a huge help in the often-confusing process of selecting tires for a passenger vehicle," said NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D. "Careful selection of tires, along with good maintenance, will provide a greater margin of safety."

To assist consumers purchasing new vehicles or replacement tires, NHTSA rates the quality of tires with letter or number grades in three categories: temperature, traction and treadwear.

Temperature (heat resistance) is graded "A" (highest); "B," or "C" (lowest).  A "C" grade represents the minimum performance standard required by federal regulation.  Currently, 27 percent of tires are rated "A," 59 percent are rated "B" and 14 percent are rated "C."  A tire's ability to resist heat is an important safety factor. 

Traction also is rated with letter grades.  A tire that carries a higher grade should allow a car to stop on a wet road in a shorter distance than a tire with a lower grade.  Traction is graded "AA" (highest), "A," "B" or "C" (lowest).  Currently, 3 percent of tires are rated "AA;" 75 percent are "A;" and 22 percent are "B."  There is only one line of tires rated "C."

In grading for treadwear, a control tire is assigned a grade of 100.  A tire with a grade of 200 can be expected to last twice as long as the control tire, while a tire with a grade of 80 is normally less durable.  Currently, the highest reported treadwear rating is 700; 98 percent of tires rank 600 or below; 92 percent rank 500 or below; 72 percent rank 400 or below; 40 percent rank 300 or below; and 15 percent rank 200 or below.

A regulation to help consumers to maintain their tires better and to more easily identify tires that are recalled was announced by NHTSA in November 2002.  The rule requires that manufacturers provide expanded consumer information and more clear and concise information about tires.

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U.S. Department of Transportation National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590
1-800-424-9153 (TTY)