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What are the different types of tyres?

Do you struggle to find your way through the vast range of tyres sold by online retailers? Well, if you do you’re not alone! There are several different categories of tyres, designed to match different vehicles and driving conditions. In this guide we take you through some of the main types...
Different tyre types

Different tyre types are adapted to different seasons and vehicles © www.istockphoto.com

Tyre types for different seasons

First of all, tyres are adapted to the climate and driving conditions ...

Summer tyres

Pneu été en pictogramme

Summer tyres are designed to be driven at ambient temperatures above 7°C. They provide:

  • flexibility
  • optimum grip
  • precise handling, especially in dry conditions if the tyre tread is stiff, whereas a heavily siped tread design will be more efficient in wet conditions.

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Winter tyres

Pneu hiver en pictogramme

Winter tyres have a rubber compound designed to remain flexible at low temperatures (below 7°C). They have a more pronounced tread pattern and deeper grooves to quickly disperse water and snow. Winter tyres are not a legal requirement in the UK but are strongly recommended in difficult-to-access rural areas, or if you’re planning to drive to a ski resort.

  • traction
  • braking

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Nordic tyres

Pneu nordique en pictogramme

These tyres are suitable for use in temperatures below -10°C and provide maximum grip on roads which are snow-covered and icy for several months of the year. There are two main types:

  • Unstudded Nordic tyre: tyre for extremely cold conditions without metallic inserts (studs).                
  • Studded (or studdable) Nordic tyre: tyre fitted with metal studs. Please check local legislation before fitting this type of tyre since it is not approved for use in all regions of Europe.

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All season tyres

Pneu 4 saisons en pictogramme

As the name suggests, all-season or all-weather tyres can be used in both summer and winter conditions. However, they won’t perform as well as summer tyres in summer nor as winter tyres in winter.  The all season is a compromise tyre, suitable for areas with mild winters.

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Tyre types for different vehicles

Passenger car tyres

'Eco' tyres

For low to medium powered cars (city cars, saloons and MPVs) and for urban and/or motorway use, these tyres offer:  

  • long life
  • safety
  • reduced fuel consumption (“green tyres” have a low rolling resistance)

 'High performance' tyres

Designed for premium and sporty vehicles:

  • can withstand more acceleration forces
  • braking
  • comfort (especially with high sidewalls)
  • fast driving (especially with  narrow sidewalls)

“High performance” tyres are specifically designed to withstand V, W, Y and Z speed ratings (from 150 to 185 mph) and are suitable for powerful vehicles, high performance saloons and sports cars. These tyres, directly derived from motorsport technology, deliver exceptional performance at high speed:

  • precision
  • responsiveness
  • grip
  • cornering stability in dry and wet conditions

Semi-slicks tyres are approved for use on both the road and track, and therefore suitable for experienced sports drivers who don’t want to change tyres between their transport and leisure activity.

  • pure performance
  • high level of grip except in wet conditions
  • noisier and shorter tyre life

4x4 and SUV tyres

Mainly built for on-road use, 'on-road' and 'high performance' tyres with the H/T marking (Highway terrain) are designed for 4x4s and SUVs. They deliver performance similar to that of passenger car tyres and also have a high load index:

  • good road holding at high speed
  • adequate handling in wet conditions.
  • ride comfort
  • long-lasting
  • off-road capacity < 20%

'Mixed' tyres, usually marked A/T (All Terrain) are the most versatile: they have to be effective both on and off-road, whether for leisure or professional use:

  • adequate road handling
  • sufficient traction on soft ground and gravel
  • reinforced structure to support the weight of the vehicle
  • off-road capacity < 50 % (“on-road” and “off-road” performance varies depending on the model)

'Off-road' tyres marked M/T (Mud Terrain), concern all-terrain 4x4 vehicles designed to be driven through mud, on rocky ground and steep rugged terrain. Originally designed for professionals working in harsh environments, they are also used by trail and raid enthusiasts.

  • outstanding traction
  • durability
  • reinforced structure to support the weight of the vehicle and offer a high resistance to punctures and any tread tearing or chunking
  • limited on-road use
  • limited handling performance
  • noisy
  • off-road capacity < 80 %

Van, light truck or motorhome tyres

This category of tyres covers light commercial vehicles, small trucks and camping-cars. Some tyres in this range can be recognised by the letter C marked on the sidewall meaning that, thanks to a higher load index, the tyre can withstand more weight.

  • safety
  • ride comfort
  • long life
  • adequate handling in wet and dry conditions
  • durability

Tyre types with special features

The following tyres make use of specific technology.

Runflat tyres

Self-supporting tyres that can be driven when flat. The sidewalls are reinforced to support the tyres if they lose pressure. In the event of a puncture, this option reduces the risk of you losing control of your vehicle and allows you to continue driving for up to 50 miles at 50 mph.

Most leading brands offer runflat tyres in their product ranges, and the performance characteristics of these tyres can vary depending on the technology used by the manufacturer. The table below shows tyre manufacturer markings for runflat tyres, which are stamped on the sidewall:

Runflat marking

Brand

EMT, SST

Dunlop

EMT, ROF

Goodyear

SSR

Continental

Run on Flat

Pirelli

RFT

Bridgestone

ZP

Michelin

MOE

Mercedes

RSC

BMW

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Reinforced tyres

These tyres can withstand more weight thanks to a higher load index and are suitable for family cars, large saloons, SUVs or small vans. This type of tyre can be recognised thanks to a marking on the sidewall, which differs from one tyre to another (even if the tyre brand is the same): XL, RF, Extra Load or Reinforced.

Self-sealing tyres

Standard tyres with a product that seals the hole caused by the puncture and prevents air loss.

Temporary use tyres

Here we are referring to the spare tyre, also known as the “donut”, which you may have in your boot. In the event of a puncture, fitting the spare tyre will give you time to get to a garage, though this tyre's noisy tread reminds the driver that it can only be used for a short period of time, for no more than 50 miles at a maximum speed of 50 mph.

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