H Vs. V Rated Tires

by Tim Plaehn

Tires are a critical component of your car. They have a tremendous effect on the safety and handling of a vehicle. When it is time to buy new tires, several factors need to be considered before making a selection. Car make and model, tire size, driving style and the local weather conditions should all be considered when selecting tires. Tires have information and ratings that assist the consumer in selecting the best-suited tires.


The letters "H" and "V" represent speed ratings. Speed ratings originated in Germany in the early 1980s to give consumers information on how fast they could safely use the tires on the autobahn. Passenger speed ratings are designated L, M, N, P, Q, R, S, T, U and H, stepping in rated speed from 120 kilometers per hour up to 210 kph. V rating is the next step for speeds up to 240 kph. Z, W and Y are ratings for speeds over 240 kph. The rating is the speed the tire has been tested to for continuous safe driving. The English equivalent speed for H-rated tires is 130 mph and V-rated tires are good for up to 149 mph.


There are two ways the speed rating will be indicated on the tire sidewall. The older method puts the speed rating next to the "R" for radial in the size. For example, 225/50HR16 would be an H-rated tire and 225/50VR16 would be the same size tire except V-rated. The current standard for tire size and information looks like P215/60R15 89H, where the 89 is the tire load capacity and the H indicates the speed rating.


Car manufacturers optimize the suspension and handling characteristics of a car for the type and size of tires originally installed. Although there is a lot of crossover, the H-rated tires will be available in more taller profile sizes and, as the tire profile gets lower, more tires will be available in V-rated or higher speed ratings. Switching from H-rated tires to the higher speed V-rated ones may require the selection of a different size tire. There can also be a significant price difference between similar tires as the speed rating increases.


The step from H-rated tires to V-rated is going from quality passenger car tires to performance tires focused on handling. H-rated tires will have rubber compounds and tread designs optimized for all weather performance and long tread life. Performance tires, including many V-rated models, are optimized for dry road traction and handling. A driver who likes to drive aggressively and test the performance levels of his car would be happier with V-rated tires. H-rated tires are suited for a driver looking for long tire life and a comfortable, safe ride.


Tire and auto manufacturers recommend against fitting a car with tires of a lower speed rating than the original tires. In many European countries, it is illegal to install lower speed-rated tires.

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