Tyre Markings Explained

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Tyre sizes can be very confusing if you don't know how to read them.  Here's the simple explanation!


Tyre sizes for passenger cars are usually expressed as something like 205/65R16  91V.  This is how you read the numbers:

  •  205 refers to the width of the tyre (sidewall to sidewall) in mm

  • 65 refers to the ratio of the sidewall, to the tread. For example in this case the sidewall is 65% of 215.  Check some tyres that have an aspect ratio of 35, and you'll see the difference.

  • R means that the tyre is a radial ply construction. Most passenger tyres these day are "R", which means that the casing cords run radially from bead to bead and belt cords run directly under the tread.

  • 16 refers to the rim diameter in inches

  • The 91 refers to the load index. Here's what the load index number means:
      81 = 462 kg
      82 = 475 kg
      85 = 515 kg
      86 = 530 kg
      87 = 545 kg
      90 = 900 kg
      91 = 630 kg
      95 = 690 kg
      96= 710 kg

      The load index is per tyre. In this case, a load of 91 means 615kg.

  •     The letter appearing after the load index is the speed rating. Here's what the speed rating symbol means:
      N = 140 km/h
      P = 150 km/h
      Q = 160 km/h
      R = 170 km/h
      S = 180 km/h
      T = 190 km/h
      U = 200 km/h
      H = 210 km/h
      V = 240 km/h
      Z = 240 km/h
      W = 270 km/h
      Y = 300 km/h

      Note 1: Yes - some of them seem to be out of order, and some are the same!
      Note 2: These are maximum tested speeds - not recommended speeds!

Mixing imperial and metric on a tyre size? Yes - that's the way it is!

Tyre makers recommend that you do not mix and match tyres with different speed ratings on your vehicle.  Speed rated tyres should be replaced in sets of 4, and there's not problem in using a higher speed rating tyre on your vehicle than recommended. Just don't go lower than the values listed on your tyre placard.

Four wheel drives, light trucks, trucks, buses and other vehicles use a different tyre marking system.

Drive safe!

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