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Tyre Testing and Reviews: More than EU labelling

Kwik Fit | Friday 17th November 2017 8:55am

Car on tyre testing machine

Ah, the internet. It’s hard to imagine what life was like before it changed the way we live. Today we use search engines like Google and Bing to help us with everything, like finding holidays, news, locations, answers, instructions, inspiration, and… independent tyre advice and tyre reviews. 

And there’s a lot of choice out there! When it comes to buying tyres, no one would blame you for feeling bewildered by the options available, the confusing jargon, EU tyre labelling, price comparison websites, and so much more. In this blog, we’ll point you in the right direction and explain just what goes into independent tyre testing, and how to decide which tyre reviews you can trust.

Short and sweet? Understanding the EU tyre label

Tyre with EU tyre label

Let’s start with EU tyre labels. The chances are you might have seen them at your local tyre retailer. They’re not too complicated, and are designed to tell you a small selection of information that is useful to know before you purchase new tyres. Think of them in the same way as the labels you see on food packaging and white goods. They’re intended to help you make an informed choice through simple comparison. 

There are the three factors that the EU tyre label covers:

1. Fuel efficiency

The way tyres are constructed influences how much “rolling resistance” (friction) they produce. Put simply, the lower the rolling resistance, the better your fuel economy will be. However, what the label doesn’t explain is that if you have low rolling resistance it will impact the tyre’s wet braking score.

EU Tyre Label - Fuel Efficiency

2. Wet grip

As we all know, in the UK it rains quite a bit. When it’s wet, the stopping distance you need to bring your vehicle to a safe stop increases. Grooves – or treads – in the tyres are there to suck water from the road surface, so that the tyre can grip the road surface. The score awarded determines how well tyres perform when braking in the wet.  But if the tyre has excellent wet braking characteristics, it will also be noisier and less fuel efficient… again, something the EU tyre label does not make clear.

EU Tyre Label - Wet Grip

3. External rolling noise

That’s right, this is a measure of how noisy the tyres are, measured in decibels. The more black “waves” that appear on the label, the noisier the tyre is. There are more trade-offs here too, because really quiet tyres often aren’t the best at braking.

EU Tyre Label - External Noise

Confused? We’re not surprised. 

While the EU tyre label is undoubtedly helpful, it’s also very limited. They don’t explain the balancing act tyre manufacturers, such as Continental, need to perform to create an optimum, all-round, well-performing tyre. And – crucially – the EU tyre label only gives you a partial picture. Independent tyre tests include many more attributes that should also be taken into consideration when buying tyres for your car, SUV or 4x4.

What is independent tyre testing?

So, who exactly performs this testing?

For starters, journalists from trusted automotive authorities, like Auto Express, evo, What Car?, and Which? all conduct their own independent tyre tests. Their impartial opinions are the ones to trust most. They employ specialist equipment, professional drivers, and dedicated test tracks to carry out these tests.

There’s also a growing number of online bloggers and automotive enthusiasts who do their own testing and offer their – mostly – impartial opinions and advice. It’s not easy, but it’s always best to verify these opinions and make sure they’re not financially motivated, which can sometimes be the case.

Independent tyre tests reveal much, much more

So how exactly are these independent tyre tests conducted? The cars and tyres are pushed to their limit at specially constructed test tracks. Typically these are driving situations no driver seriously wants to have to experience. But it’s precisely these extreme situations that mimic real world accident scenarios, and where good tyre performance can often mean the difference between life and death. It’s why it’s so important to look beyond the basic attributes used on EU tyre labelling.

Typically, independent testing takes between 15-20 attributes into consideration, such as wet handling and cornering, straight and curved aquaplaning, wet and dry braking and handling, cabin noise, and price. Points are awarded for each category and then the results are compiled together. The tyres from the different manufacturers are compared, and the tyre with the highest overall score is deemed the winner. It’s this aggregated score that’s so important because – remember – it’s a balancing act to create a strong, all-round tyre that scores well across the whole testing spectrum.

TS860 Tyre Auto Express Award

It’s this overall balance of tyre characteristics that led to Auto Express rating Continental’s WinterContact TS 860 as its Winter Tyre Test winner for the second year running this year. The tyre achieved the best balance of scores for attributes including wet braking, braking on snow, and wet and dry handling.

Committed to R&D

In fact, Continental can claim to achieve top ratings in four out of every five independent European tyre tests over the last ten years. This performance is no accident. It’s testimony to both the brand’s commitment to reducing road traffic accidents through improved tyre safety – part of its Vision Zero initiative – and to the huge amounts of money it invests every year in research and development. Before any independent tester gets their hands on a Continental tyre, it’s been exhaustively tested already.

SportContact6 Evo Tyre Test Winner

The Continental SportContact 6 scored a chart topping 95.2% as the evo Tyre Test Winner 2016

Take Continental’s AIBA (Automated Indoor Braking Analyser) for example. It’s here in this purpose-built facility that unmanned vehicles are accelerated to speeds of up to 75 mph on a variety of interchangeable surfaces to replicate real-world driving conditions. Out on the road, this investment in your driver safety translates into the best possible braking and handling performance, whatever weather comes your way.

AIBA Test Centre

We’re tyre experts for a reason

Just like independent tyre testing and tyre reviews, it’s all about knowing who to trust. If you’re unsure about tyre testing reviews, or the EU tyre label, get in touch with your local Kwik Fit tyre professional. They’ll be happy to provide you with impartial, expert advice about tyre safety, what tyres are best for your vehicle, expert fitting services, and so much more. You can find your nearest Kwik Fit centre here.

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