Ari Strauss maneuvers his Ford GT on a "skid pad" where drivers learn how to control a vehicle at Monticello Motor Club in Monticello, N.Y.

AP Photo/Mike Groll

Tire Traction Ratings

How do you know how much traction your car or truck's tires provide?

If you live in the United States, determining that is pretty straightforward. The Uniform Tire Quality Grading (UTQG) scale indicates a tire's stopping ability on wet surfaces. The better the grade, the shorter the stopping distance on wet pavement when a set of that particular tire is fitted to a vehicle.

The traction grades, from highest to lowest, are "AA," "A," "B," and "C." If a tire is designed for extra traction in mud and snow, you'll also see the designation "M+S."

You should buy the best tire your budget allows and one that fits your driving needs, too. Interestingly enough, if you wanted to buy the worst-graded tire for traction (a tire with a "C" rating) you wouldn't have much to choose from. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation, of all the tires currently available on the market:

  • 3 percent are rated "AA"
  • 75 percent are rated "A"
  • 22 percent are rated "B"
  • Only 1 line of tires is rated "C"

[Source: Safercar.gov]

Up next, is there a way to make your regular old tires perform like dedicated winter wheels?