Understanding Tire Ratings

2014.5 Toyota Camry LE
4-cyl with 6 speed auto trans
14,000 miles

About three months ago I picked up punctures in both right side tires from road debris. Both tires were properly repaired, being removed from the rims, plugged and patched from the inside. The rear tire had a patch of tread about the size of a half dollar slightly shaved due to the debris having caused superficial damage to the tread akin to having several torn hangnails. After the repair there was no apparent further problems.

Three weeks ago the tires were rotated on schedule at which time a third tire was found to have picked up a nail, likely that morning or the evening before. (Massive house repairs were being done that had a horde of loose nails when the old roof decking was removed. Despite scrupulous swamping, some nails escaped to create problems. Besides, the darn things breed illicitly and multiply with evil intent – but I digress.) Again, proper interior plug and patch repair on the affected tire was made.

Now that the tire which had damaged tread shaved has been rotated to the front, traction is sometimes slipping even on dry pavement and significantly on wet pavement when starting from a stop such as at stop lights or stop signs and also when accelerating and maneuvering in traffic. I suspect it is when the shaved spot is in contact with the road.

These original tires minimal wear on them at only 14k miles but have always had only moderate traction on wet pavement. I am considering replacing them with tires that have top rated traction.

I need a little help understanding tire ratings, please.

I don’t understand what the speed rating means. ???

Basically, my criteria ranking is first to have excellent traction and handling followed by quiet road noise. I am not overly concerned about long tread life because as a low annual mileage driver I typically age out a set of tires rather than run tread thin.

I don’t know that I actually need new tires. These are not leaking nor handling like there is any belt separation issues, etc. But I would appreciate help understanding tire ratings, such as I see on Tire Rack so I can make a wise choice if and when I do buy new tires. I want to be well informed before paying a mechanic to put on a new tires whether now or when these tires wear out.

Thanks for any help.

Speed rating is the result of a test. The tire is designed to pass a certain speed, then tested for that speed - not the other way around (It is NOT tested, then assigned!)

I am going to stop there and suggest you read Tire Rack’s website. Look for their Tire Tech area. They have a very good explanation of pretty much any question you can think of - certainly much better written than we can do in the limited space here. Get back with us once you have done that if there is something you don’t understand.

"I am considering replacing them with tires that have top rated traction."

Top Rated Traction tires are going to reflect a compromise. Tires that are tops in dry traction are probably not going to be tops in wet traction. Tires tops in snow/ice traction are not going to be tops in dry traction, and so on. That’s what leads people to purchasing tires that offer fairly good dry and wet traction and purchasing winter tires for the time of year that roads are often covered in snow/ice.

Also, one has to decide on a compromise in price, sometimes. I am not willing to pay double for a 10% increase in traction, for inatance.

Mileage is another factor. Top rated traction could, but not necessarily, compromise how many miles the tires will last.

Do you have winter tires, now? Does your climate call for them?

Take a look at Michelin Defenders. They seem a great compromise all the way around.

If the OP lives in a part of the US with winter snow and ice conditions I’d suggest running Michelin X-ice winter tires year-round.

How much do you want to spend? You can get highly ranked Grand touring tires like Michelin Premier A/S for around $135 each. Other, less expensive tires in the same category or the less expensive standard touring category can provide good traction in all conditions. Decide how much you want to pay for the tires and then start looking at consumer ratings and tire tests at Tire Rack. I bought grand touring Continental PureContact with EcoPlus technology tires recently, and I am pleased with them. They were around $100 before installation, and were a close second to the Michelin Premier A/S tires in a Tire Rack comparison test. Don’t drop down in speed ratings. You probably have a speed rating of H. Don’t get the next lower rating. You will pay more for H vs. T rated tires, but you are a safety conscious buyer and I expect you would prefer buying the rating assigned by Toyota to your car and not save $30 per tire. You would probably be OK with a T speed rating, but you posts show a conservative buyer more interested in reliability and safety than money.

“Take a look at Michelin Defenders. They seem a great compromise all the way around.”

The Defenders are the absolute best tires that I have ever owned–in all respects.

Also, Tires Are A Component In The Car’s Suspension System.
Notice the ride comfort and noise producing qualities of tires when comparing them. Often times winter tires or tires with a more aggressive tread design create more noise.


Thank you everyone. I always know I will get helpful, informative feedback from you regulars. It is a privilege to hang out here reading the forum when I can.

I shall use the advice to explore the tech explanation section on Tire Rack and likely post back with follow up questions. In particular I don’t understand speed ratings so will, no doubt, still have some questions after reading up on that.

Thanks for the advice about understanding the compromise qualities regarding traction. I had forgotten about that but should have remembered given all the times I have read here on the forum that bit of advice offered other posters over the years. :slight_smile:

As to winter tires, I have managed well on various all season tires for the 35 years I have been in St. Louis. Mostly I am able to stay off the roads until they are cleared of any deep snow and we get minimal ice here.

I have driven a friend’s car with Michelin Defender tires and was very impressed with how those handled on both dry paving and on sloppy roads in a minor sleet storm.

Give me a day or so to do thorough reading and I shall respond with my next wave of questions.

Happy, blessed Thanksgiving to you each.

…still reading, still learning…

While we’re at it, I don’t really understand the new tire type words–which actually are different from say Consumer Reports and Tire Rack. All season, performance all season, high performance all season, touring, grand touring, blah blah blah…

Start here with the markings on the side of the tire;

Then go here for a more detailed explanation of traction ratings

Then go here;

And finally, put in your car’s data and look through their available tires, pick one and scroll down to the “Ratings and Reviews” section listed under the tire. You will find real owners comments and the Tire Rack’s rating system.

You don’t have to buy from them but the data is very useful.

The web sites at Sams, Costco, Discount Tires, Walmart and just about any place that sells tires all you have to do is enter the vehicle information and it will show what is recommended for the vehicle including the speed rating. Most dealers will not let you put a lower speed rating than the manufacture recommends. Why make it complicated?

Ah, thank you Mustangman. :slight_smile:

I don’t understand why you have a traction problem. Unless you are applying full power on every startup, there is no reason for the tires to slip, despite “patch of tread about the size of a half dollar slightly shaved”. Specially on dry pavement.

There may be some other issue…

Perhaps, but the slippage only began when that particular tire with a bit of tread damage was rotated to the front. In a vague sort of way it reminds me of torque steer I used to get on my '87 Olds with the 3.8L engine.

Come to think of it, this started when the torque converter on this car FINALLY got the software update the day the tires were rotated and the third tire was found to have nail needing patching – see the update posted on the separate “Toyota Torque Converter” thread. Now that is something to consider.

I agree that Tirerack is an excellent source of info; I have also purchased tires from them - winter tires on steel rims - when I was unhappy with the winter performance of the original all-seasons on my 1999 Honda.

For years now the November issue of Consumer Reports has had tire test results and a very helpful article addressing many basic questions about tires.

The torque converter update is much more likely than tire patching or tire rotation to cause the traction change you are feeling. Also is it possible that colder temps are making the road surface a little wetter than you are used to?

@Marnet, what tires are on the car now?

JT. I will look up the exact tires later but they are Michelins that are the originals from buying the car new in April 2014. Nicest tires I have ever had on any car in 40 years driving! That is why I am puzzled by the sudden slippage. Maybe I do have a lead foot for startup. I have somewhat needed it since the torque converter began misbehaving many months ago. So maybe this is a case of operator error. (But gee folks, who me make a mistake? :slight_smile: )

And the slippage is only minor and occasional. Otherwise these tires still perform the best of any I have ever had.

It’s probably wear on the tires. They don’t have to be bald to slip. I’ve noticed my tires slipping more when thy pass half tread remaining.

I have Dunlop Signature II tires on the Rav4. They are the ones with useless looking tread but they stop and go really well. I bought the same name tires for the Yaris from Sam’s Club with a much better tread pattern for snow and rain and I will look for those to put on the Rav4. I think the new ones all have the better looking tread.

I don’t drive the Yaris unless the roads are clear of snow but the Rav4 is easy to handle on my low speeds uphill in snow, and it should be that way. All season tires are OK on front wheel drive cars and I’ll bet that just about all of them are the same.

Sorry about the update delay. I am dealing with massive house repairs and just haven’t had time for much else. Anyway…

OEM tires are Michelin Energy Savers.

According to Tire Rack ratings and user reviews apparently these tend to develop traction problems, especially in slick and wet conditions, at about the mileage I have on my tires. So as many of you suggested it is apparently mileage and not recent puncture repairs causing some traction problems.