Tire Speed Ratings

I had 2 tires go flat. When I went in to the local chain tire store the told me that the manufacturer recommended tires with a speed rating of H. I’ve always used S or R tires because I don’t plan on going over 100mph. Do I need to go along with the manufacturers recommendation or am I safe with the cheaper R’s or S’s? (note: the car is a 4Dr 2000 VW Golf GL if that makes a difference)

We don’t all agree on this.

I personally would not recommend putting tires on a car that don’t meet the speeds that the car is designed for. Others feel that how fast you regularly drive dhouls determine the speed rating.

If the car were a 350Z I’d be adamant, but a Golf is a basic mode of transportation rather than a performance car, so for this application it wouldn’t really be a big deal. An S is rated for a sustained speed rating of 112mph. I doubt that you’d be doing that in a Golf.

The rating is based on the suspension set-up of the vehicle. You will get a degredation in handling if you use a lower rated tire. Will you notice the reduction in handling, hard to say. My 95 Accord uses H-rated and choose not to alter what Honda engineered. They are more expensive, but I would rather be safe than take a chance. I have no idea how the car would change in handling if you go with a lower tire. But, why would they recommend, and use as original equipment, the H-rated tire if it didn’t matter. I would not under any circumstances have different speed rate tires, H on the back and S on the front or similar. At least have them all the same. I got the Goodyear Eagle H-rate for about 85 a piece, don’t know if they are still available or the price, but good for the money. Good luck.

The important thing to keep in mind is that the load rating of the cheaper tires meets requirements.

The rating is maximum sustained speed of the tire itself without it self-destructing, but I’d agree that on performance cars there would be a noticable difference in handling and safety going to a lower speed rating, as the suspensions are tuned to make the most of the higher speed tire characteristics.

On a Golf I don’t know that you’d notice.

www.carbibles.com has a good primer on tires.

I don’t think that the car manufacturer’s recommendation is very important, but you WILL notice a difference, even though you are driving well below the tire’s maximum speed rating.

When you turn the steering wheel, you will notice a delay before the car starts to respond. Although several factors contribute to this delay, the most important seems to be the tire’s side wall, and the second most important seems to be the tire’s tread. The faster you are going, faster things are happening, and the more critical minimizing this delay becomes. In addition to being sure the tire can withstand its rated speed, tire manufactures do things (like making the sidewalls stiffer) to make higher speed-rated tires respond to your steering input faster. If you would like a cheap and easy demonstration of this effect, make your tire’s sidewall stiffer by inflating it to 40 psi, and notice how much crisper the steering becomes even at extremely modest speeds. Of course, there are disadvantages to higher inflation pressures, so just do this as a demo.

In the same way, you will READILY notice this difference between an “S” and an “H”, even in a Golf or other modest car. The main disadvantage of a higher speed-rated tire is shorter tread life. The second disadvantage is a mild decrease in ride quality. Tires, however, keep improving The original H rated tires that came with my wife’s 2007 Camry LE are just getting ready for replacement at about 45,000 miles, and the ride quality is excellent.

My bottom line (for 2008) is that for a Golf or Camry an H rated tire is the proper tire regardless of what the manufacturer recommends. I just bought a Brunton Stalker (BruntonAuto.Com) and it will have V rated tires. That said, at track events, I have seen experienced drivers doing 130 mph on the main straight on H rated tires without problems.

You are best off using what the car’s owner’s manual says. As noted here, there are a lot of reasons and issues with down grading your tyres. Many tyre sources will not sell you a tyre that does not meet or exceed the car’s requirements.

That said, I would suggest that you will likely be safe with tyres that meet the speed rating that you will never exceed and that you will never overload your car. Don’t expect the best handling with underrated tyres.

Personally I would never want to be the one driving a car with underrated tyres if there was an accident, as everyone (like your insurance company and the other guy, will point to those cheap tyres you bought.

I agree with the others, use the recommended tire ratings as a minimum even if you don’t drive at the rated speed.

i really question the place you went to for tires (their professional integrity and experience)

there are NO places I know of who would install a lower rated speed tire if it was lower than manufacturers recommendation.

all the other topics about handling are valid. but it sounds like maybe you went to moes tire barn and got larry, after curly went on lunch break. go to another shop, and see what they say.

there are NO places I know of who would install a lower rated speed tire if it was lower than manufacturers recommendation.

And if I found one, I would not want them working on my car.

Was looking for tires for my wifes Accord…Went to Town Fair tire…They tried to sell us a S rated tire instead of a H (OEM). When I said I wasn’t interested in that tire…but wanted a H rated tire…they told me they’d have to order the tire because they didn’t stock that one for my size…I gurantee the if I had a S rated tire and all they had in stock were H rated…they’d be pushing that tire on me. Typical commission sales tactics.

Going from a H to a S isn’t that big a deal. You will notice a difference in how the car handles. Going from a V to S may be too much of a handling difference though.

I wonder if anyone here has ever done comparison driving between tires that are exactly the same except the speed rating (not that there are many such tires available). I’ll bet not. And I further bet that in doing such a comparison that anyone with driving skills short of those of Jackie Stewart wouldn’t notice any difference in regular driving.

That being said, I find it hard to believe that a shop would would install tires of a lesser speed rating than original equipment, given the litigious nature of our society.

I just happened to come across this post and have to comment…I just checked on the Tire Rack website and the 2000 Golf GL does show the 195/65/15H as the recommended size and speed rating…the original poster said they have S rated tires on the car (which don’t belong on this car because it isn’t designed for the S rating resulting in poor handling and/or potential safety issues for the driver and others on the road as well)…I have a message for the poster…it doesnt matter that just because you arent going to be driving 112 mph that S rated tires will do…they aren’t designed for this vehicle PERIOD…now I hope this place where you went didnt mix H’s with S’s already on the car (you said you needed only two tires) because then you would have a REAL serious safety issue that would threaten your safety as well as the safety of others on the road…

I would personally look at my owners manual. What does it say?

While there is little difference in handling between otherwise-identical tires that differ only in speed rating, typically R/S rated tires are a different design than H/V rated tires. I would go with the manufacturers’ recommendation of an H rating - you’ll get a better-designed tire.

Would you buy cheaper brakes because you never really need the maximum stopping power? Would you buy cheap spark plugs because you never really need the engine to run as perfectly as it was designed? Would you buy a smaller oil filter because you just don’t need any extra protection for your engine?

The manufacturer recommends H rated tires not because they expect you to go 124 miles per hour but because the tire has a sidewall stiffness and tread design that is compatible with your car’s suspension and brakes. While putting S or R rated tires on your car may not be dangerous in day to day highway driving you may find yourself unexpectedly dealing with situations where the lack of an H rated tire will put your safety at risk. Try avoiding a deer or any other sudden obstacle with lower speed rated tires and you may regret your decision to save a few dollars.

I say buy the tires the give good wet and ice traction, good braking, and wear. Higher speed rated tires cost more and wear out quicker. If you are driving at a sustained speed of over 100 mph on a public road, something else is going to kill you before a tire failure.

I used to get 90-100k miles out of the Michelin X tires that I put on my old 200 Series Volvos. When I started replacing the Volvos with BMWs, I quickly learned that the higher speed rated tires cost more and did not make it 70k miles.

Solution: Remove BMW wheels and take them down to Sam’s Club and instruct them to put Michelin X tires on those wheels. They work great and they last.

I always remove the wheels from my cars to get new tires anyway because I won’t let ANY tire shop put wheels on my cars. They say that they use a torque wrench on your lug nuts but that is bunk. They tighten your lug nuts with an impact wrench and then check to see that all the nuts are tight enough with a torque wrench. If you watch them use the torque wrench, they never turn the nuts with the torque wrench because all the nuts are already unevenly overtightened before they put the torque wrench on them.

The ‘handling’ argument is not very strong. Handling is a subjective parameter, but I my brother in-law returned a set of (appropriate speed rated) name brand tires from his Lexus GS because the car felt like a boat. Speed rating has little to due with the stiffness of the tire or ride quality.

The engineers who designed the suspension of your car have probably forgotton more about the car that you’ll ever know. BMW’s are high performance machines and require more expensive parts, tires included. Why someone would purposely negate that engineering by using lower-than recommended spec tires amazes me. Do you also run regular gas in it too? The handling aspect of it is very real. The dealership that I bought my car from, proudly proclaimed that it had new tires. These tires were H rated (the car was supposed to have Z rated tires.) I lived with them for a few months until I could take it no more. So I decided to have some fun and performed a prolonged burnout and took the rear tires down to almost the cords. Then I went over to a local tire shop, ordered a set of Z-rated BF Goodrich g-Force T/A KDW-2’s. The difference between the no-name brand H rated tires and the BF Goodrich’s is night at day the car handles so much better and hooks up very well (for street tires). Sure they only last 20k miles at best, but they only cost $150 each. For me the added performance and saftey is worth it.

[b] I won't let ANY tire shop put wheels on my cars. They say that they use a torque wrench on your lug nuts but that is bunk.  [/b] 

That is not always the way it is. The last two times I had a car at one of the discount tyre shops (two different shops, same brand name), they actually looked it up in the book (one time they could not find it and had to ask me) and then proceeded us the air wrench to attach the wheel and then torque it by hand. I was both pleased and surprised. BTW I will continue to use those two shops.

The obvious difference between tires with different speed ratings is how fast you can go before they self destruct due to overheating. Tires with higher speed ratings handle better because they are intended for high performance cars that emphasize good handling. If you are just going to putt around, the tires you have been using are entirely adequate.

My old RX-7 was delivered with V-rated Pirelli tires. When they wore out, I replaced them with H-rated tires. Handling was not quite as crisp, but they still worked fine.