Width of a tire

How to Read & Determine Tire Size for Your Vehicle

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How To Determine Tire Size

Once you have determined it’s time to buy tires, you’ll need to know what size tires are correct for your vehicle. Depending on what you drive, you may be interested in how to find the right tire for your…  

  • Sedans or CUV
  • Light Trucks or SUV
  • Motorcycle
  • RV

This information is usually inside your car’s doorjamb, in your owner’s manual. To ensure your current tire or a replacement tire you may be looking at matches your vehicle’s requirements, it will be good for you to understand how tire sizing works. You may have never paid attention to the string of numbers and letters on every tire, but it’s a gold mine of information.

If you’re unsure of how to read tire measurements from your tire walls, the information and graphics below will tell you how to read tire size, understand and interpret it. If you decide you want to substitute a new size or tire type, consult an authorized tire retailer who can expertly advise you, because many optional tire sizes may have different load capacities and could require wheels of a different rim width or diameter and different inflation pressure.

Not sure you need new tires? Our Tire Replacement Guidance article will help you determine whether it’s time to retire your tires.

Metric Sizing

Most passenger cars, SUVs and light pickups (1/2 ton and smaller) will come with tires that are either P-Metric or Euro-Metric. For P-Metric tires, you’ll see the letter “P” before the number sequence begins: P225/70R16 97H. P-metric is a designation standardized by the Tire and Rim Association for a “passenger car” tire type. For Euro-Metric there will be no preceding letter before the number sequence begins: 225/70R16 98H. Euro-Metric is a designation standardized by the European Tyre and Rim Technical Organization for a “passenger car” tire type.  Both P-Metric and Euro-Metric size tires are designed to primarily be used on passenger vehicles, which can include cars, minivans, SUVs, and other light duty pickup trucks.

If your vehicle is an SUV, Pickup truck or van, you might see a different type of size designation on your placard that is specific for heavy duty light trucks and vans, especially common on ¾ ton and larger pickup trucks and vans. There are two common size types in this category, LT-Metric and Euro-Metric Commercial (aka C-type). Both size types are metric and so use the same structure as P-Metric and Euro-Metric but have some different characters in the size that differentiate them from their passenger car cousins. LT-Metric tires will have the letters “LT” before the size number sequence: LT245/75R17 119/116R Load Range E. Notice that there are two load index numbers and a Load Range, see the section on Load Index for more info.  LT-Metric is a designation standardized by the Tire and Rim Association for a “light truck” type tire. Euro-Metric Commercial or C-Type tires will look very similar to a passenger Euro-Metric size except that there will be a “C” right after the rim size: 23/65R16C 121/119R. Notice that the C-type tires also have two load index numbers. Euro-Metric Commercial, or C-Type is a designation standardized by the European Tyre and Rim Technical Organization for a light truck type tire. Light truck tires are designed to be used on vehicles capable of carrying heavy cargo and are usually only specified by a vehicle manufacturer on vehicles exceeding a certain load capacity.

Other types of tires that fall into the Metric sizing type are Temporary Spares, they start with “T”. If you see a size that starts with “ST,” that means “special trailer” and is only for use on a trailer.

Regardless of whether you are looking at a P-Metric, Euro-Metric, LT-Metric, Euro-Metric Commercial, T or ST tire the numbers in the size mean the same thing.


The first number to appear in your tire size information is the width, in millimeters, of the correct tires for your vehicle: P225/70R16 91S.

Tire width always refers to the measurement from one sidewall to another. Thus, a tire with the measurement “P225” is for a passenger vehicle and has a nominal width of 225 millimeters.

Aspect Ratio

After the slash mark, the next number you see is for the tire’s aspect ratio, which essentially tells you how tall your tire’s profile is: P225/70R16 91S. Aspect ratios are delivered in percentages. Tire makers calculate the aspect ratio by dividing a tire’s height off the rim by its width. If a tire has an aspect ratio of 70, it means the tire’s height is 70% of its width.

Lower aspect ratio tires, such as a 60 series, generally offer vehicle handling performance advantages over higher aspect ratio tires, such as a 75 series, but a typical trade off can be ride harshness.


After the aspect ratio comes a letter that indicates the type of internal construction maintaining your tire’s stability: P225/70R16 91S.

There are two types of construction that you may see on the sidewall of a tire:

  • R – Radial
  • D or “B” or “-“ – Diagonal or Bias Ply

Radial tires are the most common tires on the road in the United States today; thus “R” will usually be shown in the tire size designation. Radial construction means the tire’s internal ply cords are oriented in a radial direction, from one bead over to the other, essentially perpendicular to the direction of rotation. You may also occasionally see RF indicating a run flat tire or ZR indicating a tire that is a speed rating higher than V.

Rim Diameter

The next number is the diameter code, in inches, of the rim onto which the tire can be mounted. For example, a tire with the P225/70R16 91S would fit a rim with a 16-inch diameter.

Load Index

Load index can be a confusing subject because there are so many different caveats, but we will try to explain everything here.

The next figure after the rim size in the sequence is your tire’s load index, which tells us how much weight, in pounds, the tire can support when fully inflated: P225/70R16 91S

We call it the load “index” because the number doesn’t tell us the precise number of pounds the tire can carry, at least not by itself. However, the number does correspond to a specific load capacity listed in an index. Beginning with 1 and ending with 150, numbers in the load index represent carrying capacities of 99 to 7385 lbs.

There are two types of load types for passenger tires though, Standard Load and Extra Load. If a tire is Standard Load there will be no markings indicating it but if it is Extra Load the letters XL will appear after the size and load index.

Standard Load Euro-Metric: 215/55R17 94V

Extra Load Euro-Metric: 215/55R17 98V XL

Passenger car tires like P-Metric and Euro-Metric will only have one load index number where LT-Metric and Euro-Metric Commercial (C-Type) will have two numbers separated by a slash. The first number is the load index if the tire is used in a single application, the second number is the load index if the tire is used in a dual application. Passenger type tires cannot be used in a dual application. Light truck tires will also have a Load Range that is indicated by a letter, such as Load Range E. Load Range is an older term that is still commonly used in the industry so you may hear your tire dealer reference it but the load index numbers are the best way to ensure you have the proper tire.

One important but often misunderstood facet about load index is that the load index numbers between standards organizations (P-Metric vs Euro-Metric) are not necessarily on the same scale. Meaning that two tires in the two different systems that have the same load index number could have different maximum load capacities. This is why it’s important to not only look at the load index number but also verify the actual load capacity.

Speed Rating

The final figure in a tire size sequence is the speed rating, which is indicated by a letter: P225/70R16 91S. Just as your load index number corresponds to a specific load, your speed rating letter corresponds to a particular speed capability based on a standardized laboratory test.

For example, a tire with speed rating “S” is rated for up to 112 mph, while a tire rated “R” is up to 106 mph. Remember that this isn’t a recommended cruising speed. Of course, you should always follow legal speed limits on roadways.

Replacement tires must have the same or higher speed rating as the vehicle’s Original Equipment to maintain vehicle speed capability. If a vehicle has tires with different speed ratings, it is the speed rating of the “slowest” tire that dictates the vehicle top speed.

Flotation Sizing

There is one last sizing type that you should know about, especially if you are in the market for off road tires for a light truck or SUV. It’s called a Flotation size and the numbers in this sizing format are very different from the Metric formats. Flotation sized tires are similar to LT-Metric tires in application except for a few important points. Number one, they cannot be used in dual applications and number two, an equivalent size tire may have different load capacity than its LT-Metric counterpart.

Overall Diameter

The first number in the Flotation tire size is the overall diameter in inches. Pretty straight forward.

Section Width

The second number is the section width (sidewall to sidewall) measurement in inches. Again, fairly simple.


After the section width comes a letter that indicates the type of internal construction: 33X12.50R17LT 120Q.

This is the same as is found in the metric sizing systems.

There are two types of construction that you may see on the sidewall of a tire:

  • R – Radial
  • D or “B” or “-“ – Diagonal or Bias Ply

Radial tires are the most common tires on the road in the United States today; thus “R” will usually be shown in the tire size designation. Radial construction means the tire’s internal ply cords are oriented in a radial direction, from one bead over to the other, essentially perpendicular to the direction of rotation.

Rim Diameter

The next number is the diameter code, in inches, of the rim onto which the tire can be mounted. For example, a tire with the 33X12.50R17LT 120Q would fit a rim with a 17-inch diameter.

LT type

The letters LT will be after the Rim Diameter indicating that this tire type is intended for Light Truck vehicles similar to the LT-Metric and Euro-Metric Commercial (C-Type) tires.

Load Index and Speed Rating

Load Index and Speed Rating have the same meaning and format as the tires using the metric sizing system. Note that since flotation tires cannot be used in a dual application there will be only one load index number instead of two.  

Uniform Tire Quality Grading

Another group of stamping on certain types of tires is the Uniform Tire Quality Grading or UTQG. This grading and stamping is required for passenger car tires (i.e. P-metric and Euro-metric) in the all season and summer categories. Dedicated winter tires, Light Truck (LT-Metric, Euro-Metric Commercial, Flotation) and Motorcycle tires are excluded from this requirement.

Quality grading is designed to make the tire purchase decision easier for you. Ideally, the system is intended to provide simple, comparative data so you can make an intelligent buying decision. However, the ratings are based upon test results achieved under special conditions. This means it’s possible to misinterpret the comparative data as it relates to your individual driving habits, conditions, etc. You should still rely on your service or tire professional for assistance. 

Quality grading designates the comparative performance levels of a tire based on government-specified tests but commissioned by the individual tire manufacturers. All tire manufacturers are required to grade regular and all-season passenger tires in three categories:


  1. Treadwear
  2. Traction 
  3. Temperature

The treadwear grade is a comparative rating based on the wear rate of the tire when tested under controlled conditions on a specified government test course for 6,000 miles (9,600 km). For example, a tire graded 150 would wear one and a half times as well on the government course as a tire graded 100. However actual tire performance depends on driving habits, road characteristics, service practices, and other factors that can influence the outcome. 

Traction Grades AA, A, B and C 
The traction grades from highest to lowest are AA (the highest), A, B and C. They represent how well tires stop on wet pavement as measured under controlled conditions on specified government test surfaces of asphalt and concrete. C-rated tires will have the lowest traction performance.  


Temperature Grades A, B and C 
The temperature grades A, B, and C represent the tire's resistance to the generation of heat and its ability to dissipate heat when tested under controlled conditions on a specified indoor laboratory test wheel. Sustained high temperature can cause the tire’s material to degenerate and reduce tire life, and excessive temperature can lead to sudden tire failure. The grade C corresponds to a performance level all passenger car tires must meet under the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 109. Grades A and B represent higher levels of performance on the laboratory test wheel than the minimum required by law. 


DOT Quality Grades 
All passenger car tires must conform to other federal requirements in addition to these grades.

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Tire Size Explained: What the Numbers Mean

Tire size can be confusing. Some numbers on the sidewall are listed in millimeters while others are inches. Plus, the right size for your car, truck, or trailer can differ depending on where and how you drive.

You can see your original equipment tire size in your owner’s manual or on the placard generally located on the driver’s side door jam. This is the sizing recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.

If you’re interested in switching out your tires for a different look or performance, a good place to start is the numbers and other indicators on your existing tires’ sidewall. Next, have a tire professional help you determine a tire size range that will fit your vehicle and driving needs.

Tire Size Meanings

Here’s what those numbers and indicators on the sidewall indicate and how to understand them:

A: TIRE TYPE The first letter in the code tells you what class of tire it is.

P stands for passenger vehicle tire. P-class tires include cars, SUVs, crossovers, minivans and smaller pickup trucks.

LT means light truck tire, designed for vehicles that are capable of carrying heavy loads, towing trailers, or for those looking for an extra heavy duty option. These are often equipped on three-quarter or 1 ton trucks and SUVs.

ST stands for Special Trailer. These tire sizes are meant for trailers, including fifth wheels and other travel trailers, as well as boat and utility trailers.

If there’s no letter before the first number, you have a metric tire most commonly referred to as European size. It’s also measured in millimeters but may have a different load capacity than a P or LT tire.

B: TIRE WIDTH The three-digit number following the letter is the tire’s width (from side to side, looking at the tire head on) in millimeters. This may also be referred to as the section width.

C: ASPECT RATIO The forward slash separates the tire width number from the two-digit aspect ratio. The bigger the aspect ratio, the higher/taller the tire’s sidewall, or “profile” as it’s sometimes called.

The aspect ratio is indicated on the tire sidewall as a percentage. It’s the height of the sidewall measured from wheel rim to top of the tread, expressed as a percentage of tire width.

In this example, the aspect ratio is 65, meaning the sidewall is 65 percent as high as the tire is wide. To get the sidewall height, take the tire width of 215 mm and convert it to inches (8.46). Then multiply this by 65% (.65). This gives you an answer of 5.5, the sidewall height in inches.

D: CONSTRUCTION TYPE This single letter tells you about the internal construction of the tire.

R is for radial tires, the industry standard for most tires today. They have better road grip, lower rolling resistance for better gas mileage, ride comfort and durability than previous generations of tires. In a radial tire, the plies — layers of strong cords made of a blend of polyester, steel and fabric and coated with rubber — are laid perpendicular to the direction of travel.

D is for tires built with diagonal (crisscrossed) plies, called bias-constructed tires. They are also called conventional, x-ply, or cross-ply tires. Some motorcycle and trailer tires still use this internal construction.

Some run-flat tires are identified with an F followed by the type of internal construction.

E: WHEEL DIAMETER This two-digit number specifies wheel diameter in inches. It’s the distance between the two bead seat areas (where a tire gets tightly sealed onto the wheel).

F: LOAD INDEX The two-digit or three-digit number that follows the gap specifies tire load index. The load index symbol indicates how much weight a tire can support, based on the following standard chart. In our example, the load index is 89, which indicates the tire has a load capacity of 1,279 pounds, when inflated to the tire’s maximum air pressure rating.

G: SPEED RATING The last letter is the tire speed rating. This indicates the top speed it’s safe to travel at for a sustained amount of time. A tire with a higher speed rating can handle heat better and provide more control at faster speeds. The maximum operating speed of a vehicle is no more than the lowest speed rating of all tires mounted on the vehicle. (Of course, you should always abide by speed limits for safer driving.) Speed rating is usually, but not always, a single letter (see the chart).

Tire Size Charts

Below you will find several charts that will help you understand tire sizing numbers, including a load index chart and speed rating chart.

Buying New Wheels or Changing Your Tire Size?

A tire size calculator is a quick way to see whether the tire size you’re considering will likely fit your car, SUV, sports car, light truck or crossover.

But remember that is only an estimate. It’s important to stay within the sizing tolerances of your vehicle. Tires that are the wrong size could cause some pull in the steering wheel, rub against the suspension or body of your vehicle, reduce clearance on hills, or result in a stiffer or noisier ride.

If you’re considering mounting a different tire size on your vehicle, check with a tire expert. Find out whether the tires and wheels you have your eye on are the right fit for your vehicle’s suspension, gearing, and bodywork. And ask how any differences in revolutions per mile, tire speed, load index, and speed rating will affect your ride quality and vehicle performance.

See how new tires and rims will look on your car or truck using our Virtual Wheels simulator, available at any Les Schwab.

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Wide or narrow tires - which tire profile is better to choose

5 December 2018

First of all, let's define terms. Tire width is the distance from one tread sidewall to the other. This indicator must be indicated when marking a particular model. This is the very first number indicating the tread width in centimeters. For example, Rosava BC-10 is 155mm wide (155/70 R13 75Q) and Hankook Winter i*Pike RS2 W429 is 175mm wide (175/70 R13 82T).

What does the tire width affect?

In the same series there are models with different tread widths. Therefore, it is important to know what this indicator affects.

1. Predictable vehicle behavior on the road.

Tire width influences how the car behaves on the road. Therefore, each automaker strongly recommends that only one, precisely set width be installed on a particular tread model.

Under this indicator, the automaker adjusts the electronics of the car, and not only electronic security systems or traffic stabilization, but also such trifles as, for example, a speedometer.

Installing tires with a different tread width can lead to incorrect operation of the car's electronic systems.

2. Vehicle stability on the road.

Wider treads provide greater vehicle stability when performing high-speed maneuvers on a flat track. By the way, this is why Formula 1 cars have such wide treads.

But on uneven roads, the advantage of wide treads is reversed. On a poor-quality asphalt surface, a car shod in wide tires will begin to “scour” and “twitch”. The reason for this nervous behavior of the car is that the wide tread will stick to the surface of the road bumps, which will change the straightness of the motion vector.

3. Increased fuel consumption.

Wide projectors end up with a larger footprint resulting in increased rolling resistance and therefore higher fuel consumption. Moreover, the greater the mass of the car, the more gasoline or diesel will be consumed.

Pros and cons of wide tires

Let's list the advantages and disadvantages of wide treads again.


  1. Better vehicle stability when performing high-speed manoeuvres.
  2. Improved traction. On a wide tire, the car will accelerate faster and better.
  3. Safe and predictable braking even in emergencies. Wide tires create maximum traction with the road surface, which allows the car to decelerate quickly, safely and predictably.


  1. "Nervous" movement of the car on uneven roads or poor quality road surfaces.
  2. Increased fuel consumption due to higher rolling resistance.
  3. The load on the running gear and in particular on the wheel bearing will increase due to the increased tread mass. As a result of this, the parts will begin to consume their reliability resource faster, which means they will break down sooner.

Pros and cons of narrow tires

Now consider the pros and cons of narrow tires.


  1. Less stress on the power steering because the narrow drive tires require less force to turn.
  2. Better hydroplaning protection, especially at high speeds, because water is evacuated from under the contact patch in a shorter distance than wide tires.
  3. Better vehicle handling on bumps, especially in ruts of varying depth.
  4. Reducing the weight of the wheel, and thus reducing the load on the running gear and on the step bearing.
  5. Reduced fuel consumption because a narrow tire has a smaller contact patch, which in turn creates less rolling resistance.


  1. Deterioration of vehicle handling at high speeds.
  2. Worse directional stability than wide treads.
  3. Weak acceleration dynamics compared to wide tires.
  4. Extended stopping distance.

Which winter tires are better - wide or narrow?

We have described all the advantages and disadvantages of wide and narrow tires described above in relation to the summer road. And what will be their behavior in winter? After all, the winter route in its features is fundamentally different from the summer.

Here, in our opinion, it is best to give the results of practical tests. Winter tires were tested on a Volkswagen Golf car, which was sequentially put on R18 and R17 tires (width 225 mm), R16 and R15 (width 205 mm).

The following results were obtained:

1. Snow tests.

Braking efficiency from 50 km/h to a standstill: R18 - 25.4 m, R17 - 25.6 m, R16 - 26.3 m, R15 - 26.4 m.

Drive wheel traction (N): R15 - 2927 R16 - 2890 R17 - 2890 R18 - 2822

2. Wet tests.

Loss of control accuracy (km / h): R18 - 90.1, R17 - 89.0, R16 - 88.6, R15 - 88.2.

Aquaplaning (the speed at which the wheels begin to spin is indicated, km / h): R18 - 68.1, R17 - 68.3, R16 - 76.5, R15 - 81.6.

Braking efficiency (from 100 km/h to a complete stop of the car): R18 - 42.7 m, R16 - 44.4 m, R17 - 44.2 m, R15 - 45.2 m.

3. Tests on a dry track.

Loss of control accuracy (km / h): R18 - 107.7, R17 - 106.4, R16 - 106.1, R15 - 105.2.

Braking efficiency (from 100 km/h to a complete stop): R18 - 41.7 m, R17 - 42. 5 m, R16 - 42.9 m, R15 - 43.5 m.

Rolling resistance, kg/t: R15 - 7.98, R16 - 8.26, R17 - 8.93, R18 - 9.82.


In winter, we recommend that owners of large and powerful machines equipped with wide tires reduce the radius of the latter by one inch. Like, for example, in the test case.

The R17 winter tires took first place in the overall test results due to their roughly equal performance on all types of winter road (snow, dry and wet).

Therefore, by replacing this, you will significantly increase driving safety without the need to readjust the vehicle's electronic systems due to a changed tread width.

Owners of small cars, in our opinion, should not change anything. Reducing the width of already narrow treads will not lead to anything good. You will only lose in the quality of the car's handling and its traction characteristics.

Increasing the width of summer tires will be justified only in the case of a tuning upgrade of the car, when you significantly increase its power-to-weight ratio.

What does the tire width affect?

Tire profile width is an important indicator for car owners. This is the distance between the sidewalls of the tread, it must be specified by the manufacturer. You can find markings on the type 195/65 R16, 165/65 R15 on the side of the product or in the product card of a specialized store. Here, together with a consultant or independently, you can choose summer or winter tires for a car of the desired width.

What will the width affect?

Manufacturers in one series produce several tire models with different projector widths. Such an indicator will directly affect several factors:

  • Predictability of traffic behavior on different roads. When choosing, you should focus on the manufacturer's recommendations.
  • Steady position on the track. Wide tires will provide a large contact patch, which is especially important when performing various high-speed maneuvers.

Narrow tires perform well on poor and uneven asphalt or concrete surfaces.

The main differences between wide and narrow tires

Often, the comfort indicator, handling and stability of the car, the level of driving safety depend on the width of the rubber. This indicator also affects the appearance of the car. Wide tires look presentable, they immediately change the perception of the car. However, they increase the rolling resistance index, which will lead to increased fuel consumption. It is important to understand that such a product is not suitable for every car.

Narrow products are often cheaper, therefore they are recognized as universal and in demand.

Wide and narrow tire contact patch Photo: ascania-shina.com

Fuel consumption index

Wide tires have a large contact patch with the road. This will lead to an increase in the level of resistance, because fuel consumption will increase. The higher the weight of the vehicle, the faster and more fuel is consumed. However, it is wide tires that become a real find for those who love high-speed driving.

Advantages of wide tires

The advantages of such products include a number of important factors:

  1. Positive effect on acceleration. There are no problems with a sharp start and acceleration.
  2. Handling and fast braking. The car performs well on any surface.
  3. Stability improvement. Guaranteed maneuverability on any surface.
  4. Easy driving on gravel, loose ground, off-road conditions.

With wide tires, you can easily cover the required number of kilometers. If necessary, the motorist will be able to accelerate, brake sharply, without the danger of entering a turn at speed.

Advantages of narrow tires

On the site https://ascania-shina.com/ you can find suitable tires, including universal narrow ones. They are ideal for winter, provide excellent grip and traction. The tire will easily pass along a narrow snowy track, cope with a large amount of melt water and snow "porridge". It is these products that are chosen more by those who prefer to drive a lot of time on a suburban highway.

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