Here at HiQ we have been preparing for the new EU Tyre legislation for over a year and a half. The HiQ marketing department AKA 'The Queens of Tyre Labelling' have been steeped in research, developing customer point of sale literature and leaflets, building Tyre Expert Training programmes and seminars, commissioning state-of-the-art tyre selector tools, developing 'The full story' for consumers and generally going digitally dizzy building the 'HiQ Tyre Labelling World' for motorists.

So, having lived and breathed Tyre Labelling for the last 18 months, here’s an inside view from the retail frontline on what it means from a motorists point of view.

Summary of the what's and why's

The new tyre labelling legislation that will come into force on 1st November, will be the biggest change to tyre retailing in over 50 years and here at HiQ, we welcome it with open arms. Tyre labelling will enable motorists to make a more informed tyre purchase by giving them information on tyres that is:

  • Comparable
  • Reliable and
  • Objective

The labelling has been introduced to:

  • Help make driving more cost effective
  • Increase road safety and
  • Reduce the environmental impact on tyres

But with the new EU tyre labelling system, motorists will enjoy a standardised view of 3 performance characteristics of a tyre to assist with these objectives by providing information on:

Why welcome it?

Let's be honest, the automotive industry in general doesn't exactly have the best reputation and is still plagued with perceptions of poor customer service and a lack of transparency. Some of that reputation is deserved but the tyre retailing industry has been making huge efforts and investments in training and driving customer service standards. So while it is fair to say that there is still some way to go, the industry has experienced a seismic shift in attitudes to professional standards and delivering a better customer experience within the last five years.

This has been driven in equal parts by pioneering tyre retailers committed to delivering a true retail experience and motorists who simply will no longer accept a bad shopping experience. And why should they. If a motorist is spending £1,000 upwards on a pair of high performance premium 'rubber boots' the shopping experience should be on a par with spending £1,000 in Selfridges on your Mulberry bag or your Gucci boots.

Tyres are a highly engineered technical products and are the only thing between the motorist and the road - the equivalent of four handprints or even more disconcertingly, four thumbprints when cornering. They are complicated products, made up of over 200 different materials and components and must deliver performance in conflicting design and development areas - such as a tyre that is good in the wet AND the dry and a tyre that delivers fuel efficiency but also lasts a long time.

So it's important that tyre retailers recommend and fit the right tyre, at the right price for the motorists driving needs and most importantly that they are competent to make that recommendation. That's when drivers need a tyre expert - someone who knows about all the performance characteristics of tyres and what tyre is suitable for what car and driving needs.

So, what's so great about tyre labelling?

The labels are there to help motorists make a more informed decision. So anything that contributes to building professionalism and transparency in our industry is welcomed by us.

We believe the introduction of tyre labels provides a great opportunity to build trust. Out goes the jargon, in comes easy to understand labels at a glance. A great shopping experience is like a conversation, and if you are spending hundreds of pounds on a set to tyres then you are entitled to demand the best tyre for your budget, and to get the best expert advice. We welcome the change as it will give the consumer the power to make a more informed decision and also because it clearly signals that not all tyres are the same.

Here at HiQ, we live in the land of rubber and tyres everyday but for some, the world of tyres is a complicated and confusing one. So here goes with a quick whistle stop tour of what it all means and even some try it yourself at home experiments if you're in that groove or it floats your boat , brought to you by one of the HiQ Academy trainers, the lovely Paul Berrington.

What is fuel efficiency / rolling resistance?

The rolling resistance of a tyre is directly linked to the fuel efficiency of a tyre; in fact around 20% of a car's fuel consumption is influenced by its tyres. As a tyre rolls along the road it creates friction, the higher the friction the more energy will be needed to keep the tyre rolling, making the engine work harder and using more fuel. Not something we want to be doing in this economic climate I'm sure you will agree.

Try this at home if you have the following items if not imagine a golf putting machine We are using this for the reason that it will exert the same amount of force each time, and 2 squash balls of different coloured spots. The squash balls are the same size and weight; however are different compounds very much like tyres. If we place the squash balls, one at a time into the putting machine one will travel further. Why? The squash ball that travels further has a lower internal friction, molecules in the compound have less friction and generate less heat, therefore a lower rolling resistance and travelling further with the same amount of energy. If we relate this to a car and its tyres, if we have a tyre with a lower rolling resistance versus a tyre with a high rolling resistance, the car with the lower rolling resistance tyres will use less energy to keep the tyres rolling and in turn use less fuel.

A win win situation! The difference in rolling resistance between a full set of 'A' rated tyres and a full set of 'G' rated tyres is a 7.5% fuel increase, if fitted the 'G' rated over the 'A' rated.

What is wet grip / braking performance?

Tyres with excellent wet grip have shorter braking distances on slippery roads, especially in the rain. This one is all about safety.

Another one to try at home! Imagine a pair of latex gloves, these will represent the lowest graded tyre (F), how much do you think they cost? As an average they are around 4 pence a pair. Now take a heavy duty gardening pair of gloves, these will represent the highest graded tyre (A), how much do you think they cost? The pair we use retail around £10 per pair. With a bowl of water, wearing the latex gloves, place your hands into the bowl so they are wet and then place your palms together and rub your hands. How much grip have you got between your palms? These represent having the lowest graded tyre in the wet grip criteria. Take the latex gloves off and put the heavy duty gloves on. Repeat the process and imagine how much more grip you have with the heavy duty gloves.

This representshaving the highest graded tyre in the wet grip criteria, and in fact a car with a full set of 'A' graded tyres will stop up to 18 metres sooner than a car with a full set of 'F' rated tyres - that's the equivalent of 8 Smart Cars.

What is noise emission / exterior noise?

As a tyre rolls along the road surface noise is emitted. The EU has decided to test tyres on the external noise emitted from the tyre as it rolls along the road. This is a very important environmental factor in helping reduce road traffic noise across Europe. The noise value is expressed in decibels (dB). In real terms a decibel is a noise measurement, however what we hear feels much louder, a 3dB increase in noise equates to double the noise as we hear it, a 6dB increase in noise equates to four times the noise as we hear it.

Last one to try at home! Now I'm sure around the house there will be a hair dryer, we use a 2 speed hair dryer for this demonstration. On the first setting as we tested it this represents the lower limit of the external noise test, you can still hear people talking over this relatively easy. Now turn the hair dryer to the faster second setting, this represents a maximum graded tyre in the external noise test. It is a lot harder to talk over and a tad annoying if you were trying to hold a conversation!

By choosing a tyre with a lower external noise value, you will now be able to pick a tyre that is more environmentally friendly in the pursuit to lower road traffic noise. And as an aside, did you know that a tyre with the mid range rating on the tyre label makes the equivalent noise of a toilet flushing!

So all good stuff so far. What else do you need to know? Or other questions you might need to ask?

Tyre labelling is a good starting point for the conversation with your local fitter or technician but remember that the label won't tell you everything you need to know. The label tests and grades 3 criteria, most magazines test around 15 performance characteristics but the tyre manufacturers themselves test over 50 parameters! That's because they are a highly engineered product.

Tyre labelling won't help you choose the best tyre to?

  • Get up a hill - that's all about traction
  • Last longer - that's all about durability and mileage
  • Accelerate in snow - that's all about the compound and tread design
  • Maximise driving performance - that's all about dry handling , steering precision and high speed stability
  • Go off road - that's all about stability in varied conditions
  • Get through muddy terrain - that's all about mud plugging capability
  • Winter or cold weather driving - that's all about safety

That's when you need the full story - our HiQ experts are happy to help to ensure you get the right tyre for your budget and real driving needs.

Explore our HiQ Tyre Labelling World for everything you need to know ...