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From radial to rim: tyre markings explained

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July 21st 2022 info

Understanding tyre markings is crucial to making sure you are choosing the best tyres for your car. However, getting to grips with all the tyre marking terminology can be hard. The tyre label at first glance can be overwhelming, but we can help with that.

Here, you’ll learn how to read tyre ratings, codes and sizes, as well as tyre speed rating, tyre age markings and load index of tyres. 

What are tyre markings?

Tyre markings are the writing on the rubber of your tyre. They are there for two main reasons.

  • To provide critical information such as the tyre's size and specifications.
  • To show that the tyre has met the required safety criteria.

This helpful information is shown through tyre signs and symbols. Read on to get a better understanding of what your tyre markings are telling you.

Tyre markings explained

Tyre numbers

We’ve all seen them, but what do tyre numbers mean? This string of numbers represents the size of the tyre. It’s important to understand these numbers as you will need them to ensure you are fitting the appropriate sized tyre to your vehicle.

Here, we will use show an example of the type of numbers you may see on your tyre. The numbers on the tyre should appear in the following order: 205/55R16 91V. Although this may look like gibberish, it makes sense when we break it down:

  • 205 = Tyre width in millimetres.
  • 55 = The ratio of the tyre sidewall height expressed as a percentage.
  • R = Radial structure of the tyre.
  • 16 = The diameter of the installation, which is also the diameter of the rim, is measured in inches.
  • 91 V = The load index is 91, and the speed index is Class V. (Read on to learn more about load and speed index).

The best way to get a perfect fit with new tyres is to ensure that the numbers on both sets match up. If you can’t quite figure out what size of tyre you need, this information will be in your vehicle’s handbook.

Tyre load index

It’s strictly prohibited to use tyres with a lower load index than suggested for a specific vehicle model. Therefore, understanding how to read the tyre load index is crucial.

Tyre load index indicates the maximum load the tyre can safely carry when it is driving at the maximum speed allowed.

A tyre with a load index of 91, for example, may be subjected to a maximum load of 615 kg. If you multiply this amount by the number of tyres on your car, you'll obtain a result that's somewhat higher than the maximum weight your vehicle can carry with a full load.

Tyre speed index

The tyre speed index tells you the maximum speed you can drive with that tyre. It's located on the side of the tyre, at the end of the size marking. A letter represents the speed rating.

Some of the most common tyre speed ratings are:

  • Q – up to 160km/h
  • R – up to 170 km/h
  • S – up to 180 km/h
  • T – up to 190 km/h
  • H – up to 210 km/h
  • V – up to 240 km/h
  • W – up to 270 km/h
  • Y – up to 300 km/h

Tread wear indicators

Tread wear indicators, often known as wear bars or flat tyre markings, are equally spaced throughout the tyre tread's main longitudinal grooves. They show how much of the tyre has rubbed away and whether the tyre is worn out. The tread wear indicator is also shown by a small arrow and the initials "TWI" on the sidewall of the tyre. The tyre should be replaced if the tread wear indicators are flush with the tread level.

Find out more about tyre tread depth and how to check it here.

European ECE type approval

The purpose of EC Whole Vehicle Type Approval (also known as Pan European Type Approval) is to prevent trade barriers while simultaneously ensuring a vehicle's level of safety and limited environmental impact.

The digit after the E is a code that indicates the country the tyre was authorised in. For example, ‘E11’ would indicate that the tyre was approved in the UK.

Manufacturing date code

The four-digit tyre age code is often found in a window on the sidewall of the tyre. The first two numbers of the code signify the production week (from 1 to 52) during the year, while the second two digits identify the year of manufacture.

If your tyres only have a three-digit number on them, they were made before 2000 and should be replaced right away. There is no set age at which you should replace your tyres, but once they reach the age of 7-10 years, you should keep an eye on their condition and think about replacing them.

Drive safely with findandfundmycar.com

Selecting the wrong tyres can be dangerous, so understanding tyre marks is essential for selecting the correct tyres for your vehicle.

With all this tyre knowledge, you’re ready to make sure any new car purchase is fitted with appropriate wheels. Browse thousands of used cars at findandfundmycar.com.

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