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There is a lot of useful information on the side of your tires if you know how to interpret the markings you find there ...
It's not rocket science, just about anyone who is interested can interpret these marks, all you need it a guide such as the one shown on this page.
The tires on your car will have marks similar to the ones shown below. They'll likely be molded into the rubber and not white as is shown in the example below, but they are not difficult to see and read in normal light if the tire has not been damaged.
Virtually all you need to know is explained by the illustration which follows and the explanation of each item.
Use the illustrations above and below to find information which is similar on your vehicle's tires and you'll quickly become an expert at reading tires.
A. The largest markings on the tire will tell you either the Brand name and/or the Manufacturer of the tire and the Model or Design name or number. Some companies number their different designs, others use names for their designs, and others will combine the two.
B. A series of numbers and letters similar to 185/65R13 96H as shown in our example or 195/70R14 gives you the most used information about your tire. The sequence is broken down into the following parts:
numbers before the slash mark tell you the width of the tire at its
widest part when mounted on a wheel and inflated to the recommended
pressure but without any weight on the wheel, measured in
millimeters. This sequence will almost certainly be three digits
and will likely range from about 155 to over 300. Unless vehicle
designs change drastically we're not likely to see anything out of this
Following the slash will be a 2 digit number which is a percentage,
most likely between about 50 to about 80 percent. (It could be as
high as 200 but that is highly unlikely.) This percentage is called the
Aspect Ratio. If you multiply the
width (the first number) by the aspect ratio number, the result will
tell you the height of the tire section between the bead and the
tread. In our example number we multiply 185 x .65 and can
calculate that this tire has a height of 120.25 mm.
In some countries the number may be more than 200, in which case it is the actual height measurement in millimeters, instead of a percentage.
Next there will likely be the letter "R" which informs you that the
tire is of Radial construction. In very rare instances
the letter might be a "B" or not be present at all, indicating that the
tire is a Bias-Ply type of tire.
Following the "R" or space will be a two digit number which is the
diameter of the wheel in inches which this tire is designed to
use. This example is for a 13 inch wheel. Wheel ranges
today range from 10 to about 20 inches for cars and even larger for
trucks and busses.
These numbers following the wheel diameter do not appear on all tires,
but if they do they are a code called the load
rating of the maximum weight which that tire
is designed to support.
H The final letter is a code for the speed rating of the tire. This code tells you what is the maximum sustained speed which this tire is designed for. In some cases this letter might precede the "R" which designates that the tire is a Radial tire (noted above).
The word RADIAL (in addition to the preceding code, informs you
that the tire is of Radial construction. You may also find the
word TUBELESS nearby which means that the tire is designed to
be used without an inner tube.
means this tire is designed for Mud and Snow driving. This will
only appear on tires designed for such use. REINFORCED
also only will appear if the tire has extra reinforcement not normally
found in a tire of its type.
E. MAXIMUM PRESSURE 40 psi is the maximum tire pressure (in pounds per square inch) which this tire is designed to support. This pressure should be measured when the tire is cold, and never exceeded. However, this is not the ideal pressure for best driving performance. Recommended pressure is set by the car manufacturer, and should always be less than the maximum printed on the tire. If the car manufacturer recommends more, then a different tire should be used.
F. European tire registration Number. All tires which are for sale in Europe since 1997 must carry this number which begins with an upper or lower case "E". The next two digits are a code which designate the country which issued the approval certificate and the last sequence of numbers is the actual registration number for that specific tire model.
US Department of Transport code.
code is required on all tires which may be sold in the USA.
Some tires do not have the COMPLETE DOT code on BOTH sides of the tire. If you do not see 11 or 12 characters following DOT, you may have to look on the other side of the tire.
Other information may also be printed on tire sidewalls. The country of manufacture may be printed. The temperature rating of the tire may be included which gives you some idea of how the tire resists heating which occurs when driving at high speeds for extended periods. The best rating is the letter "A", while "C" is the lowest.
A traction rating which measures the car's handling on wet roads runs from "A" to "C" which, like the temperature has "A" as the best level.
A tread wear rating may appear. This indicator is not standardized and may vary from one manufacturer to another because each may establish different measurements to reach the rating. What this can tell you is that a tire made by company "A" which has a rating of 200 will probably last about twice as long as a tire from that same company with a rating of 100. You cannot use the same ratio for comparing tires of Company "B" to Company "A". Our guide to using tread wear may be of some use to you.
These explanations are valid for tires in general use and manufactured since the year 2000. Older tires and models which may be used on classic, antique or vintage cars may use different measurements that are no longer relevant.
So now you can interpret what your car tire has written on it. It may seem odd to you at first, but after a couple of trials it comes fairly easy. I should know: I couldn't tell you the difference between a bias-ply tire and an inner tube until I was well over 50. Then I became involved in a tire shop and within a short time I almost started sounding like an expert.
Actually, getting to know tires will be easier for you because you have slick new tools available like our Tire Size Calculator, which helps compare different sized tires with just a mouse click.
Some additional Sidewall markings you may find are included in
|BCS||Black Circumferential Serration|
|BSL||Black Serrated Letters|
|BSB||Broken Serrated Band|
|ENWL||Extra Narrow White Letters|
|ROBL||Raised Outlined Black Letters|
|OWL||Outlined White Letters|
|OBL||Outlined Black Letters|
|OGL||Outlined Gold Letters|
|ORBL||Outlined Raised Black Letters|
|ORWL||Outlined Raised White Letters|
|OWL||Outlined White Letters|
|RBL||Raised Black Letters|
|RWL||Raised White Letters|
|RRBL||Recessed Raised Black Letters|
|SBL||Serrated Black Letters|
|SRBL||Serrated Raised Black Letters|
|SOWL||Slanted Outlined White Letters|
|SVSB||Slanted Vertical Serrated Band|
|VSB||Vertical Serrated Band|
Do you have a question, a problem, a pet peeve about widespread practices, an issue over governmental controls, or some other concern.
This is the space to express it and see how we can collectively deal with it.
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