Guide to Traction Rating on Passenger Tires

By Tire Agent Staff

October 27, 2021

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Passenger tires in the United States are rated in ways that are intended to help tire buyers choose the best and safest tires for their vehicles. The tire industry is regulated by the US Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

The NHTSA developed the Uniform Tire Quality Grading system (UTQG), which is a government-defined standard for identifying three important tire qualities: treadwear, temperature and traction.

Treadwear refers to the durability of a tire and how well its tread held up during a 7,200-mile test against a government tire. We explain treadwear in this guide to tire treadwear ratings

Temperature refers to a tire’s ability to resist heat. We explain tire temperature ratings in a separate post

What Does Tire Traction Rating Mean

Tire traction scores refer to a tire’s ability to stop on wet pavement. The higher the rating, the shorter the stopping distance. Tires are rated AA, A, B and C where AA is the highest grade or shorter stopping distance and C is the lowest grade and longest stopping distance. 

Some people look at the UTQG traction rating as a tire quality grade rating, and to some extent that is a fair way to look at traction ratings. Ultra-high performance tires, which are engineered for high performance sports cars, tend to have the highest AA traction rating. Why? Because these vehicles tend to be driven at higher speeds, and drivers tend to stop shorter. So, a high performance sports car driver might prefer a AA traction rating that has a better grip on wet roads.

Is tire traction the same as tire grip rating? Yes, that’s what tire traction rating means. Traction and grip both refer to the ability of a tire to stop, especially on wet surfaces. Traction ratings are based on how tires perform during extreme testing conditions on wet surfaces. 

Tire Traction Rating Chart

Tire traction ratings charts can get pretty complicated, especially when the experts include things like asphalt G-force and concrete G-force. G force refers to gravitational force or, in terms of driving, it refers to acceleration. Honestly, there’s no need for the average vehicle owner and tire shopper to understand the math and science behind G force, other than to know that the higher the rating, the “safer” the tire is and the shorter its stopping distance is expected to be.

Traction Grade

What Does It Mean?

% of Tires Sold in US

Asphalt G-Force

Concrete G-Force

AA

Best

15%

Above .54

.38

A

Better

77%

Above .47

.35

B

Good

7%

Above .38

.26

C

Poor

<1%*

Less Than .38

.26

*The NHTSA says only 4 brand/makes of tires are rated C.

A tire traction rating of “A” is the most common tire grip score. The NHTSA estimates that more than three-fourths of all tires sold here are traction rated A. 

How to Use Tire Traction to Buy Tires

A tire’s wet grip rating is based on the tire’s condition when it is new. This is important to understand: 

  • As tires age, their tread wears down, and so does their traction.
  • Tires that aren’t properly inflated, rotated and aligned will wear down faster.
  • The more wear a tire has, the longer its expected stopping distance will be.

The best traction tires are usually ultra high performance tires; however, most vehicles and drivers do not need AA rated tires. For day-to-day driving on North American roads, tires rated A for traction suffice.

How to Find Tire Traction Ratings

On your tire’s outer side wall, look for the TREADWEAR, TRACTION AND TEMPERATURE markings. If you do not see them on the outer side wall, use Tire Agent’s tire brand search tool to find the make, model and size of your tire.

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You can also visit the NHTSA’s tire ratings lookup tool to find details about the various makes and models of passenger vehicle tires.

Any time you have a question about the best tire for your car, speak to a Tire Agent customer service representative. Email, call or use our live chat feature to ask questions. 

Tire Agent is your online tire shop, where shipping is always free, financing is always just a few clicks away, and all in-stock tires are shipped within a few business days.

Sources:

  1. NHTSA UTQG Guide 2016
  2. NHTSA Guide to Tires
  3. Consumer Reports Guide to Understanding Tire Ratings
  4. Wikipedia's page on UTQG tire ratings