Speed ratings were established to match the speed capability of tires with the top speed capability of the vehicles to which they are applied. Speed ratings are established in kilometers per hour and subsequently converted to miles per hour (which explains why speed ratings appear established at “unusual” mile per hour increments). Despite the tire manufacturer’s ability to manufacture tires capable of high speeds, none of them recommend the use of their products in excess of legal speed limits. The maximum operating speed of a vehicle must be limited to the lowest speed rated tire on the vehicle.
Speed ratings are based on laboratory tests where the tire is pressed against a large diameter metal drum to reflect its appropriate load, and run at ever increasing speeds (in 6.2 mph steps in 10 minute increments) until the tire’s required speed has been met.
It is important to note that speed ratings only apply to tires that have not been damaged, altered, under-inflated or overloaded. Additionally, most tire manufacturers maintain that a tire that has been cut or punctured no longer retains the tire manufacturer’s original speed rating, even after being repaired because the tire manufacturer can’t control the quality of the repair.
Beginning in 1991, the speed symbol denoting a fixed maximum speed capability of new tires must be shown only in the speed rating portion of the tire’s service description, such as Michelin 10.00R20 XZM 166 A5, there A5 – is speed index. The most common tire speed rating symbols, maximum speeds and typical applications are shown below:
|Symbol Speed||Speed (km/h)||Speed (mph)|