Editor’s Choice: What the markings on your tire sidewall mean (255/55R18)

What do the numbers mean on the sidewall of your tire? At first glance, you look at your tire sidewall and think, “’Do I need a super secret decoder ring to read this?” In addition to the model name of the tire there is a series of numbers that at first, you don’t deem important. However, these numbers are extremely helpful, especially when it’s time to replace your tires. Here’s a quick breakdown to help you decipher one of the best kept secrets in the automotive world: How do you read tire sizes?

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Example: P225/50/R17 98H

P identifies your tire as a Passenger Tire. The P stands for PMetric. If your tire size starts with LT rather than a P than it identifies the tire as a Light Truck tire.

225 identifies the tire section width, which is the measurement of the tire from sidewall to sidewall in millimeters. This measurement varies depending on the rim to which it is fitted.

(There are 25.4 millimeters per 1 inch.)

50 is the two-figure aspect ratio. This percentage compares the tire’s section height with the tire’s section width. For example, this aspect ratio of 50 means that the tire’s section height is 50% of the tire’s section width.

R indicates the construction used within the tires casing. R stands for radial construction. B means belted bias and D stands for diagonal bias construction.

17 The last dimension listed in the size is the diameter of the wheel rim, which is most often measured in inches.


Example: P225/50/R17 98H

The load index and speed rating, or service description, are the numbers that follow the tire size.

The load index tells you how much weight the tire can support when properly inflated. Load indices range from 75 – 105 for passenger tires, with each numeric value corresponding to a certain carrying capacity. The carrying capacity for each value can be found on a load index chart. On each U.S. passenger car tire, the load limit is listed in pounds. European tires have the load limit listed in kilograms and sometimes pounds.

H Speed ratings are represented by letters ranging from A to Z. Each letter coincides to the maximum speed a tire can sustain under its recommended load capacity. For instance, S is equivalent to a maximum speed of 112 mph. Even though a tire can perform at this speed, Continental Tire does not advocate exceeding legal speed limits.Maximum-speed.jpg?resize=695%2C1224&ssl=1

DOT Serial Number

The “DOT” symbol certifies the tire manufacturer’s compliance with the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) tire safety standards. Tires made in the United States have the DOT serial number located on the inside sidewall near the rim.

Below is a description of the serial number. Starting with the year 2000, four numbers are used for the Date of Manufacture, the first two numbers identify the week and the last two numbers identify the year of manufacture. This identifies how old a tire is.

Prior to year 2000 three numbers are used for the date of manufacture, first two numbers identify the week and the last number identifies the year of manufacture. To identify tires manufactured in the 90s, a decade symbol (a triangle on its side) is located at the end of the DOT serial number/continentaltire.

The Independent Observer

John Sakala is a Journalist yearning for independent journalism

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