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Familiar with homologated tyres? Know what all those sidewall markings mean?


To most drivers, trying to understand the markings on a tyre sidewall can be confusing. It’s hardly surprising, since a casual glance at a tyre suggests there’s a lot to take in. Apart from the tyre manufacturer brand name – for instance, Continental – and the product name (for example, “ContiEcoContact 5”), all the other information looks like a jumble of characters at best, or, at worst, a mysterious, indecipherable code.

It’s enough to make most UK drivers look away and not bother trying to understand the meaning. But that would be a mistake, since the information on your tyre sidewall is important.

Many motorists understand how to recognise the tyre size – for example “215 55 R 17” – but as for the rest… we tend to simply ignore it. And that’s a mistake, especially if you drive a high end car, like an Audi, BMW, Jaguar, Mercedes-Benz, Mini, Land Rover, Tesla, Maserati or Porsche. Why? Because the information on the tyre sidewall is there to help you get the best driving experience from your vehicle.

If you want to get the maximum performance from your vehicle, and fully benefit from the unrivalled characteristics of an approved, dedicated premium tyre – such as a Continental SportContact 6 – you should definitely take an interest in the sidewall markings.

‘Homologated’ tyres are approved by your vehicle manufacturer

But first, a quick bit of industry jargon. The technical term for a tyre that’s been specifically developed with – and approved by – a vehicle manufacturer, is “homologated”.

The vehicle maker can be identified on the tyre sidewall, since each one has their own specific code. Some of these codes are easier to understand than others. For instance, Mercedes is MO, and Audi is AO, but others aren’t so easy to guess. N1? Nissan, right? No. Believe it or not, N1 is actually Porsche.

Example of a homologated tyre for Audi – manufacturer code “AO”
Here’s a list of homologation codes for some of the world’s leading automotive marques.

ManufacturerOE Key
AudiA0, A01
Audi quattroRO1, RO2, R03
BMW / Mercedes*MO
BMW / Mercedes Runflat*MOE
Land Rover LR
Mercedes-BenzMO, MO1
Mercedes-Benz RunflatMOE
PorscheNO, N1, N2

Quick guide to tyre sidewall markings

Homologation. It’s all about fitting the right tyres for your car

Homologation works like this: a tyre manufacturer – like Continental – designs, extensively tests, and produces a new generic tyre model for sale. Continental’s award winning ContiPremiumContact 5 is a superb example – a very high quality premium tyre that can be used on a wide variety of car makes and models.

It’s at this point that the world’s leading car manufacturers begin to test this generic tyre, so as to determine how it will perform when fitted to their vehicles. This process takes in a wide range of criteria, such as weight, grip, performance, and handling. What the car manufacturers are looking for is whether the generic tyre brings out the best characteristics and attributes – handling for example – that the vehicle itself has been engineered for.

After an exhaustive testing process, the feedback from the car maker is taken on board by the tyre manufacturer, any necessary modifications are made, and – at the completion of the process – the homologated version of the tyre is approved by the vehicle manufacturer. It’s then produced by the tyre maker, bearing the car manufacturer’s homologation code on the tyre sidewall.

This thorough and painstaking process can take up to two years to complete, which is why the selection of homologated tyres is limited mainly to premium tyre manufacturers, like Continental Tyres. And the result of all this hard work? A superb set of bespoke premium tyres, created to work in perfect harmony with your specific vehicle.

What will you notice with homologated tyres?

Consider this. You’ve bought a four year old Audi. You purchased it because you love the car, its stiff suspension, tight handling, and great acceleration. And then – after a year – you need to change the (generic) tyres. Your local tyre fitter recommends homologated ContiSportContact 5P – approved by Audi for your car. You purchase a brand new set of these tyres.

So, what can you expect to notice? More than anything else, it’s that the things you love about your car already are now so much more noticeable, such as how the ride feels even better, and the handling feels that much tighter. And when you put your foot down, you really get to experience that feeling of oomph from your car! And don’t forget, there’s also the superior feeling of grip that homologated tyres give you, providing sharper, quicker braking – especially in wet weather conditions, significantly reducing your stopping distances.

Homologated tyres – safer than generic premium tyres?

Yes. Generic, non-homologated premium tyres – such as Continental’s – are all engineered to a superb level, and provide drivers with optimum handling, grip and braking performance, no question. They’re ideal to provide the best performance across all vehicles, offering great safety characteristics.

However, when compared to bespoke, homologated versions that have been created specifically for you car – it’s no competition. There’s simply no comparison. Homologated tyres are a much better choice, since they’ve been built to specifically enhance the characteristcs unique to your vehicle, exactly as the vehicle manufacturer intended. As a result, safety characteristics are enhanced.

How can generic premium tyres vary from bespoke, homologated tyres? Sometimes the addition of different material technologies are needed for the tyre to fulfil the vehicle manufacturer’s needs. Or in some cases, the tyre tread pattern is modified. It’s often the case that the tyre’s rubber compound ingredients are subtlely changed, ensuring it performs exactly how it needs to, so as to bring out the best characteristics of your vehicle.

And once the homologated tyre is approved, the vehicle will be set up to its specification. This ensures that the suspension works in perfect harmony with the tyre to enhance the ride experience, handling characteristics, and acceleration. The simple trust is, if you truly want to get the most from your vehicle, and experience the original performance characteristics it is capable of, the best way to do so is by investing in the correct bespoke homolagated tyres.

If you’re unsure about homologated tyres, talk to Protyre

Get in touch with your local Protyre garage today, for impartial, expert advice on homologated tyres. Our experienced team of tyre professionals can help you find the right tyres for your car.

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About the author

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By Adam White
Adam looks to create engaging and informative content across the website that provides consumers with expert advice on MOTs, servicing, vehicle maintenance and tyre care. As a motorsport enthusiast, Adam enjoys documenting the Protyre Motorsport team’s involvement in major motorsport events across the UK.
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