UTQG stands for ‘Uniform Tire Quality Grading’. You may have noticed markings on the sidewall of your tyres for Treadwear, Traction and Temperature; these are UTQG ratings.

The UTQG ratings originated in America to allow consumers to easily compare the treadwear, traction and temperature capabilities of their tyres.

All SUV light duty construction and passenger tyres sold in America must, by law, have these ratings marked on the sidewall. Some tyres sold in South Africa do not carry the UTQG ratings so you may not have the information to compare a Cooper tyre to your current tyre’s quality.


Treadwear grades are an indication of a tyre’s wear rate. The higher the treadwear number, the longer it takes for the tread to wear down.

Treadwear grades are tested under controlled conditions using four vehicles fitted with test tyres that run in convoy. The vehicles repeatedly run a specified 640km road course for a total of 11,520km. Tread depths are measured every 1,280km and the measurements are averaged to give a projected wear-out life.

A ‘standard’ control tyre is assigned a grade of 100 and the treadwear rates of all test tyres are compared to it. For example, a tyre grade of 200 should take twice as long as the control tyre to wear out.


Traction grades are an indication of a tyre’s ability to stop in the wet. A higher grade should allow your vehicle to stop on wet roads in a shorter distance than a tyre with a lower grade.

Traction is graded from highest to lowest as AA, A, B and C.


Temperature grades are an indication of a tyre’s resistance to heat. Sustained high temperatures (for example, driving long distances in hot weather), can cause a tyre to deteriorate, leading to blowouts and tread separation.

EU tyre ratings

The EU tyre ratings are intended to give consumers more information on important safety and environmental information when choosing new tyres. It helps to compare tyres for wet grip, fuel efficiency and noise.


The energy lost when a tyre is moving is described as ‘rolling resistance’ and has a direct impact on fuel consumption and the environment. The tyres on a car can affect its fuel economy by 20%. The lower the rolling resistance, the tyre less energy is lost - reducing fuel consumption and CO2 emissions.

In the EU Tyre Regulation labelling, rolling resistance is expressed in grades, ranging from A to G. A is the highest performance tyre in its category, whereas G is currently the least performing. D is not used as a grade, helping to draw a clear line between the top and bottom three grades - the good and the bad.

Putting the scores into perspective, if fitting the worst scoring tyres in this category, you could end up using 6 litres more fuel every 625 miles than if you fitted ‘A’ rated tyres - so, potentially, ‘A’ rated tyres could save you enough in fuel bills to buy a new set of tyres!



The wet grip label provides you with information on an important safety aspect of a tyre: its grip on wet roads. Tyres with excellent grip in the wet have shorter braking distances on wet roads, an important safety benefit when driving in rainy weather.

In the EU Tyre Regulation labelling, a tyre’s wet grip capacity is also expressed in grades from A to G, with A the highest wet grip performance. Like the fuel efficiency score, D is not going to be used as a grade. The difference in braking distances between each grade is roughly 3m - the average length of 1 car. Making the difference between A and G 18m, 4 car lengths! This distance could be the difference between being involved in a road accident or not.



A tyre’s exterior noise grading is expressed in decibels, accompanied by one, two or three sound waves. One black wave indicates the best / quietest noise level performance, whereas three black waves indicate the weakest / loudest performance in terms of tyre noise output.


Load Index and Speed Ratings

The Load Index is a numerical code associated with the maximum load a tyre can carry at the speed indicated by its Speed Category symbol under specified conditions up to 210km/h.

Using a 265/75R16 123Q tyre size as an example, the 123Q at the end of the size represents the tyre’s service description. A service description identifies the tyre’s load index and speed rating. The first three digits - 123 - represent the tyre’s load index and are followed by a single letter - Q - identifying the tyre’s speed rating.

Load Index

265/75R16 123Q - The Load Index - 123 - is the tyre’s assigned numerical value used to compare relative load-carrying capabilities. In the case of this example, the 123 identifies the tyre’s ability to carry a maximum of 1550 kg (3417 lbs). The higher the tyre’s Load Index number, the greater its load-carrying capacity. The Load Index rating also represents the load-carrying capacity of the tyres when they are inflated to maximum PSI so the load-carrying capacity reduces as tyre pressures are reduced.

Load Index kg Load Index kg Load Index kg Load Index kg
60 250 90 600 120 1400 150 3350
61 257 91 615 121 1450 151 3450
62 265 92 630 122 1500 152 3550
63 272 93 650 123 1550 153 3650
64 280 94 670 124 1600 154 3750
65 290 95 690 125 1650 155 3875
66 300 96 710 126 1700 156 4000
67 307 97 730 127 1750 157 4125
68 315 98 750 128 1800 158 4250
69 325 99 775 129 1850 159 4375
70 335 100 800 130 1900 160 4500
71 345 101 825 131 1950 161 4625
72 355 102 850 132 2000 162 4750
73 365 103 875 133 2060 163 4875
74 375 104 900 134 2120 164 5000
75 387 105 925 135 2180 165 5150
76 400 106 950 136 2240 166 5300
77 412 107 975 137 2300 167 5450
78 425 108 1000 138 2360 168 5600
79 437 109 1030 139 2430 169 5800
80 450 110 1060 140 2500 170 6000
81 462 111 1090 141 2575 171 6150
82 475 112 1120 142 2650 172 6300
83 487 113 1150 143 2725 173 6500
84 500 114 1180 144 2800 174 6700
85 515 115 1215 145 2900 175 6900
86 530 116 1250 146 3000 176 7100
87 545 117 1285 147 3075 177 7300
88 560 118 1320 148 3150 178 7500
89 580 119 1360 149 3250 179 7750

Speed Ratings

Speed ratings are based on laboratory tests where the tyre is pressed against a large diameter metal drum to reflect its appropriate load, and run at (ever-increasing) speeds until the tyre’s required speed has been consistently exceeded.

It is important to note that speed ratings only apply to tyres that have not been damaged, altered, under-inflated or overloaded. A tyre that has been cut or punctured no longer retains the original speed rating, even after being repaired.

Speed Category Symbol Speed km/h Speed Category Symbol Speed km/h
L 120 T 190
M 130 U 200
N 140 H 210
P 150 V 240
Q 160 W 270
R 170 Y 300
S 180 Z Over 240


Load capacity

It is not the tyre that carries the load, but the air inside it. The tyre contains the air. To carry more load you require more air. The best way to increase load capacity is to use a bigger tyre or a tyre that can run at a higher inflation pressure. The tyre needs to be strong enough to handle the higher capacity. The traditional ways to define this are Ply rating and Load Range.

The load range/ply rating is branded on a tyre’s sidewall and identifies how much load the tyre is designed to carry at its industry specified pressure.

What is “Ply Rating?”

In the days of bias tyres, casing strength was built up by adding layer upon layer of cotton fabric. The layers were placed with the thread in each layer at an angle to each other. That added strength, because the tensions would be distributed throughout the layers of fabric. The Ply Rating used to refer to the number of layers of cotton.

Cotton was discontinued in tyres a long time ago. One of the major improvements was making plies out of nylon. Nylon is so much stronger that tyres were stamped with the words, “2 Ply/4 Ply Rating.” That meant there were only two nylon plies, but they were so strong the tyre was equivalent to one made of four cotton plies.

Ply materials continued to improve, especially with the introduction of steel ply materials and radial construction, making the old Ply Number less and less meaningful. And that resulted in the newer designation we use today, called “Load Range.”

What is “Load Range?”

It’s no longer the number of plies. What is different today is the strength of the steel cables in those plies or the number of cables per inch. Tyre manufacturers are now at the point where instead of adding more plies the strength of the casing is adjusted to achieve the desired load capacity.

The Load Range is depicted on the tyre by an alphabetical symbol which equates tyre thickness to a comparable ply rating.

Load Range Ply Rating
C 6
D 8
E 10