Part of 49 CFR § 575.104, of the NHTSA regulations text, the UTQG set forth standards for consumers to be able to compare the relative performance of passenger car tires in the areas of treadwear, traction, and temperature resistance.
The UTQG standards apply only to passenger car tires (those most often used on passenger cars, minivans, SUVS and light duty pickup trucks). Winter tires are not required to display UTQG codes, nor are tires meant for medium-duty trucks.
How are the UTQG Grades Displayed?
The UTQG grades are molded into the sidewall of the tire. And for replacement tires, the grades are displayed on a sticker affixed to the tread of each tire when new.
The UTQG ratings for Goodyear tires are also listed on Goodyear.com with additional specifications such as speed rating, load index and sidewall. For an example, view the UTQG data for the Goodyear Assurance® WeatherReady® under the tire size dropdowns on the Goodyear Assurance® WeatherReady® Sizes & Specifications page. In addition, as an aid for consumers purchasing tires, NHTSA publishes the tire grades for over 2,400 tire lines at SaferCar.gov on their Tire Rating Lookup.
What are the Meanings of the Various Grades?
Treadwear Rating: Treadwear is exactly what it sounds like – a measure of how the rubber on the tread of the tire wears over time. The treadwear grade is a numerical figure assigned by the tire’s manufacturer and based on projections of how the tire wears versus a standard industry control tire after running 7200 miles on a designated public highway route in Texas, under controlled conditions. The control tire has a standard treadwear rating of 100. Theoretically, a tire with a treadwear rating of 200 should wear twice as well as the 100 treadwear control tires. Actual treadwear will vary, of course, based on driving habits, air pressure maintenance, differing climates, and even road surface differences.
Traction Rating: The traction rating on a tire is the measurement of how a tire can stop on wet surfaces. Tires being graded for the UTQG are tested under controlled situations on both wet asphalt and wet concrete. The traction grades are AA, A, B, and C. AA is the highest traction, while C is the lowest. These grades are based on braking traction on wet pavement and represent the amount of g-force of stopping power each tire can withstand without skidding, as compared to the control tire.
Temperature Rating: The temperature grade on a tire is listed in three steps – A, B, and C – with A being the highest grade, and C being the lowest. A higher-rated tire is better able to dissipate and withstand the stress of heat while being tested under controlled situations. Ultimately, a tire with a higher temperature rating is better suited to operating for an extended time at higher speeds, as it will be more likely (when properly inflated and loaded) to withstand the heat of driving at those higher speeds. That said, even a C graded tire is still able to pass the Department of Transportation high speed test for highway use.
How Do I Use UTQG When Buying Tires?
Because the manufacturer is the one assigning the UTQG grades, these grades aren’t an absolute number for comparing. These grades – especially the treadwear figure – are generally extrapolated from testing data and should be best used when comparing tires of the same tire brand, not across different brands of tires.
When buying tires, it’s best to start with determining what size tires your vehicle requires and compare the type of tire you need based on your car, your driving style, and the conditions in which you typically drive.
If you’re ready to choose your next set of tires, check out our Tire Finder.