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NHTSA Announces Tire Safety Ratings

Passenger vehicle tire quality has improved since last year, according to ratings released today by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

NHTSA’s 2005 ratings cover more than 2,400 lines of the most popular passenger vehicle tires sold in the U.S. The agency rates tires based on traction, treadwear and their ability to resist heat.

This year, nearly 90 tire lines received the highest possible rating for traction. Also, four tire brands (Big-O, Michelin, Bridgestone and Cordovan) produce tire lines that received exceptional ratings for tread durability. This year, nearly 700 tire lines were given the highest grade ("A") for heat resistance.

“Higher quality tires, along with good maintenance, provide consumers a greater margin of safety. The tire grading system is a big help in the often-confusing process of selecting tires,” said NHTSA Administrator Jeffrey W. Runge, M.D.

Because heat can increase the risk of blowout, temperature ratings are important. Tires with the highest heat resistance are graded "A" followed by "B," or "C" (lowest). A "C" grade represents the minimum performance required in a high-speed test set by federal regulation.

For some consumers, stopping distances on a wet road can be important. Traction ratings are expressed in letter grades from “AA” – the highest - to “C” – the lowest. Tires with a higher grade allow a vehicle to stop in a shorter distance on a wet road.

Tires with a higher treadwear rating should last longer. In grading for treadwear, tires are ranked numerically according to durability. The higher the number, the more durable the tire.

Tire ratings can be found on NHTSA's web site at Here consumers can view ratings for tires 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.