Tire code

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Assorted new car tires with a variety of tread patterns and different sizes Assorted stacked automotive tires.jpg
Assorted new car tires with a variety of tread patterns and different sizes

Automotive tires are described by an alphanumeric tire code (in North American English) or tyre code (in Commonwealth English), which is generally molded into the sidewall of the tire. This code specifies the dimensions of the tire, and some of its key limitations, such as load-bearing ability, and maximum speed. Sometimes the inner sidewall contains information not included on the outer sidewall, and vice versa.


The code has grown in complexity over the years, as is evident from the mix of SI and USC units, and ad-hoc extensions to lettering and numbering schemes. New automotive tires frequently have ratings for traction, treadwear, and temperature resistance, all collectively known as the Uniform Tire Quality Grading.

Most tires sizes are given using the ISO metric sizing system. However, some pickup trucks and SUVs use the Light Truck Numeric or Light Truck High Flotation system.

National technical standards regulations

DOT code

The DOT code [1] is an alphanumeric character sequence molded into the sidewall of the tire and allows the identification of the tire and its age. The code is mandated by the U.S. Department of Transportation [2] but is used worldwide. [3] The DOT code is also useful in identifying tires subject to product recall [4] or at end of life due to age.

Since February 2021 UK vehicle Regulations do not permit the use of tyres over 10 years old on the front steered axle(s) of heavy goods vehicles, buses and coaches. [5] The ban also applies to all tyres in single configuration on minibuses. In addition, it is a requirement for all tyres on these vehicles to display a legible date code.


The European Tyre and Rim Technical Organisation (ETRTO) and the Tire and Rim Association (TRA) are two organizations that influence national tire standards. The objectives of the ETRTO include aligning national tire and rim standards in Europe. [6] The Tire and Rim Association, formerly known as The Tire and Rim Association of America, Inc., is an American trade organization which standardizes technical standards. [7] In the United States, the Office of Vehicle Safety Compliance, a component of the Department of Transportation, is one of the agencies tasked to enforce the Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS). [8] Canada has published tire regulations, such as the Motor Vehicle Tire Safety Regulations SOR 95-148. [9]


All tires sold for road use in Europe after July 1997 must carry an E-mark. The mark itself is either an upper case "E" or lower case "e" – followed by a number in a circle or rectangle, followed by a further number. An (upper case) "E" indicates that the tire is certified to comply with the dimensional, performance and marking requirements of ECE Regulation 30. A (lower case) "e" indicates that the tire is certified to comply with the dimensional, performance and marking requirements of Directive 92/23/EEC. The number in the circle or rectangle denotes the country code of the government that granted the type approval. The last number outside the circle or rectangle is the number of the type approval certificate issued for that particular tire size and type. [10]

ISO metric tire codes

Tire identification diagram
Tire diameter (inches) = (xxx*yy/1270)+zz, where tire size is commonly written "Pxxx/yyRzz" on the sidewall. Note, "xxx" is tread width in mm. "yy" is "aspect ratio" (sidewall height to tread width). "zz" is rim diameter (inches). Tire code - en.svg
Tire identification diagram
Tire diameter (inches) = (xxx*yy/1270)+zz, where tire size is commonly written "Pxxx/yyRzz" on the sidewall. Note, "xxx" is tread width in mm. "yy" is "aspect ratio" (sidewall height to tread width). "zz" is rim diameter (inches).

The ISO metric tire code consists of a string of letters and numbers, as follows: [11] [12]

P indicates that the tire is engineered to TRA standards, and absence of a letter indicates that the tire is engineered to ETRTO standards. In practice, the standards of the two organizations have evolved together and are fairly interchangeable, but not fully, since the load index will be different for the same size tire. [13]

Light truck (LT) tire codes

Tire identification diagram, light truck specific features Tirecode-lt.gif
Tire identification diagram, light truck specific features

Some light truck tires follow the Light Truck Numeric or Light Truck High Flotation systems, indicated by the letters LT at the end instead of the beginning of the sequence, as follows:

As an example, if a tire size has two sets of numbers (6-12, 5.00-15, 11.2-24), then the first number (5.00-15) is the approximate width in inches, and the second number (5.00-15) is the rim diameter in inches.

If a tire size has three sets of numbers (15x6.00-6, 26x12.00-12, 31x15.50-15), then the first number (26x12.00-12) is the approximate height in inches, the second number (26x12.00-12) is the approximate width in inches, and the third number (26x12.00-12) is the rim diameter in inches. [17]

Load range

The load range letter on light-truck tires indicates their ply rating. [18]

Load rangePly rating

Load index

The load index on a passenger-car tire is a numerical code stipulating the maximum load (mass, or weight) each tire can carry. For load range "B" tires, ETRTO (ISO-Metric) standards specify the load index rating at an inflation pressure of 36 psi (250 kPa) (table below), while P-Metric standards measure the load capacity at an inflation pressure of 35 psi (240 kPa). The two standards vary slightly with the capacity required for different inflation pressures. [19]

While all ETRTO tires of the same load index will have the same maximum load, P-metric tires with the same load index may have different load capacities depending on the tire size. The TRA Inflation Tables must always be consulted when comparing the load capacity of P-Metric tires; the load index alone is not sufficient. An example: a P205/50R15 standard load tire has a load index of 84 and a load rating of 505 kg (1,113 lb) at 35 psi (240 kPa). A P215/50R13 with the same load index of 84 only has a load rating of 495 kg (1,091 lb), also at 35 psi (240 kPa). [20]

ETRTO produces a Standards Manual (current edition 2010), which contains a number of specifications and tables. The load index table (2010 page G7) lists the load index from 0–45 kg (0–99 lb) to 279–136,000 kg (615–299,829 lb) (although it appears to relate to an inflation pressure of 42 psi (290 kPa) it doesn't specify, but see load inflation table). [12] The load inflation table references the load index to inflation pressures between 22 psi (150 kPa) and 42 psi (290 kPa) at 1 psi (6.9 kPa) intervals which is too large to be included here. [20]

Standard load table (extract from ETRTO standards manual – 2010 page G7
ref 42 psi (290 kPa)) [12]
60250 kg (550 lb)80450 kg (990 lb)100800 kg (1,800 lb)1201,400 kg (3,100 lb)
61257 kg (567 lb)81462 kg (1,019 lb)101825 kg (1,819 lb)1211,450 kg (3,200 lb)
62265 kg (584 lb)82475 kg (1,047 lb)102850 kg (1,870 lb)1221,500 kg (3,300 lb)
63272 kg (600 lb)83487 kg (1,074 lb)103875 kg (1,929 lb)1231,550 kg (3,420 lb)
64280 kg (620 lb)84500 kg (1,100 lb)104900 kg (2,000 lb)1241,600 kg (3,500 lb)
65290 kg (640 lb)85515 kg (1,135 lb)105925 kg (2,039 lb)1251,650 kg (3,640 lb)
66300 kg (660 lb)86530 kg (1,170 lb)106950 kg (2,090 lb)1261,700 kg (3,700 lb)
67307 kg (677 lb)87545 kg (1,202 lb)107975 kg (2,150 lb)1271,750 kg (3,860 lb)
68315 kg (694 lb)88560 kg (1,230 lb)1081,000 kg (2,200 lb)1281,800 kg (4,000 lb)
69325 kg (717 lb)89580 kg (1,280 lb)1091,030 kg (2,270 lb)1291,850 kg (4,080 lb)
70335 kg (739 lb)90600 kg (1,300 lb)1101,060 kg (2,340 lb)1301,900 kg (4,200 lb)
71345 kg (761 lb)91615 kg (1,356 lb)1111,090 kg (2,400 lb)1311,950 kg (4,300 lb)
72355 kg (783 lb)92630 kg (1,390 lb)1121,120 kg (2,470 lb)1322,000 kg (4,400 lb)
73365 kg (805 lb)93650 kg (1,430 lb)1131,150 kg (2,540 lb)1332,065 kg (4,553 lb)
74375 kg (827 lb)94670 kg (1,480 lb)1141,180 kg (2,600 lb)1342,125 kg (4,685 lb)
75387 kg (853 lb)95690 kg (1,520 lb)1151,215 kg (2,679 lb)1352,185 kg (4,817 lb)
76400 kg (880 lb)96710 kg (1,570 lb)1161,250 kg (2,760 lb)1362,245 kg (4,949 lb)
77412 kg (908 lb)97730 kg (1,610 lb)1171,285 kg (2,833 lb)1372,305 kg (5,082 lb)
78425 kg (937 lb)98750 kg (1,650 lb)1181,320 kg (2,910 lb)1382,365 kg (5,214 lb)
79437 kg (963 lb)99775 kg (1,709 lb)1191,360 kg (3,000 lb)1392,435 kg (5,368 lb)

Some of the older letter-code load-range ratings for Light Truck Tires can be found in a chart [21] published by the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company. For example:

Tire sizeWeight (lb) @lb/in2Weight (lb) @lb/in2
LT215/85R162335 @652680 @80
LT225/75R162335 @652680 @80
LT235/85R162623 @653042 @80
LT245/75R162623 @653042 @80

Speed rating

The speed symbol is made up of a single letter or an A with one numeral. It indicates the maximum speed at which the tire can carry a load corresponding to its load index. [12] The testing method consists of pressing the tire against a large diameter metal drum to reflect its appropriate load, and run at ever increasing speeds in 10 km/h (6.2 mph) steps in 10 minute increments until the tire's required speed has been met. [12]

Speed rating [12]
E7043Zover 240over 149
G9056(W)over 270over 168
K11068(Y)over 300over 186

Prior to 1991, tire speed ratings were shown inside the tire size, before the "R" construction type. The available codes were SR (180 km/h, 112 mph), HR (210 km/h, 130 mph), VR (in excess of 210 km/h, 130 mph).

Tires with a speed rating higher than 300 km/h (186 mph) are indicated by a Y in parentheses. The load rating is often included within the parentheses, e.g. (86Y).

In many countries, the law requires that tires must be specified, and fitted, to exceed the maximum speed of the vehicle they are mounted on, with regards to their speed rating code (except for "temporary-use" spare tires). In some parts of the European Union, tires that are not fit for a car's or motorcycle's particular maximum speed are illegal to mount. The sole exception are M+S tires, where a warning sticker stating the allowed maximum speed must be placed within clear sight of the driver inside the vehicle. Some manufacturers will install a speed governor if a vehicle is ordered with tires rated below the vehicle's maximum speed. In some parts of the European Union, e.g. Germany, it is allowed to mount tires with a lower speed rating code if the car manufacturer specifies tires with a very high speed rating in the registration documents and the vehicle will not reach this speed based on insufficient power. [22] In this case it is possible to calculate the appropriate speed rating with a formula. [23]

Tires with a higher speed rating generally have a better grip but a lower tread life, reduced performance in cold weather and reduced driving comfort. [24] [25] [26]

Wear rating

The treadwear is a 3 digit comparative rating. It is part of Uniform Tire Quality Grading standard.

Metric to USC tire conversion chart


215/75/15 27.7"x 8.5"

225/70/15 27.4"x 8.9"

225/75/15 28.3"x 8.9"

235/75/15 29.0"x 9.3"

245/75/15 29.5"x 9.6"

255/75/15 30.0"x 10.0"

265/75/15 30.6"x 10.4"


205/85/16 29.7"x 8.1"

215/75/16 28.7"x 8.5"

225/70/16 28.4"x 8.9"

225/75/16 29.2"x 8.9"

235/70/16 29.0"x 9.3"

235/85/16 31.7"x 9.3"

245/70/16 29.5"x 9.6"

245/75/16 30.5"x 9.6"

Wheel/rim widths

To determine the allowable range of rim widths for a specific tire size, the TRA Yearbook or the manufacturer's guide should always be consulted for that specific tire there is no rule of thumb. [27] Running a tire on a rim size or type not approved by its manufacturer can result in tire failure and a loss of vehicle control.

Additional marks

There are numerous other markings on a typical tire, these may include:

Tire geometry

When referring to the purely geometrical data, a shortened form of the full notation is used. To take a common example, 195/55R16 would mean that the nominal width of the tire is approximately 195 mm at the widest point, the height of the side-wall of the tire is 55% of the width (107 mm in this example) and that the tire fits 16-inch-diameter (410 mm) rims. The code gives a direct calculation of the theoretical diameter of the tire. For a size shown as "T/A_W" use (2×T×A/100) + (W×25.4) for a result in millimeters or (T*A/1270)+ W for a result in inches. Take the common example used above; (2×195×55/100)+(16×25.4) = 621 mm or (195×55/1270)+16 = 24.44 inches.

Less commonly used in the US and Europe (but often in Japan for example) is a notation that indicates the full tire diameter instead of the aspect ratio of the side-wall height. To take the same example, a 16-inch rim would have a diameter of 406 mm. Adding twice the tire height (2×107 mm) makes a total 620 mm tire diameter. Hence, a 195/55R16 tire might alternatively be labelled 195/620R16.

Whilst this is theoretically ambiguous, in practice these two notations may easily be distinguished because the height of the side-wall of an automotive tire is typically much less than the width. Hence when the height is expressed as a percentage of the width, it is almost always less than 100% (and certainly less than 200%). Conversely, vehicle tire diameters are always larger than 200 mm. Therefore, if the second number is more than 200, then it is almost certain the Japanese notation is being used if it is less than 200 then the U.S./European notation is being used.

The diameters referred to above are the theoretical diameter of the tire. The actual diameter of a specific tire size can only be found in the TRA Yearbook or the manufacturer's data books. [33] Note that the tire's cross-section and diameter are always specified when measured on a rim of a specified width; different widths will yield different tire dimensions.


The tires on a BMW Mini Cooper might be labeled: P195/55R16 85H

The tires on a Hummer H1 might be labeled: 37X12.5R17LT

Historical tire codes

North America

Prior to 1964, tires were all made to a 90% aspect ratio. Tire size was specified as the tire width in inches and the diameter in inches – for example, 6.50-15. [34]

From 1965 to the early 1970s, tires were made to an 80% aspect ratio. Tire size was again specified by width in inches and diameter in inches. To differentiate from the earlier 90-ratio tires, the decimal point is usually omitted from the width – for example, 685-15 for a tire 6.85 inches wide.

Starting in 1972 tires were specified by load rating, using a letter code. In practice, a higher load rating tire was also a wider tire. In this system a tire had a letter, optionally followed by "R" for radial tires, followed by the aspect ratio, a dash and the diameter C78-15 or CR78-15 for bias and radial, respectively. Each diameter of rim had a separate sequence of load ratings; thus, a C78-14 and a C78-15 are not the same width. An aspect ratio of 78% was typical for letter-sized tires, although 70% was also common and lower profiles down to 50% were occasionally seen. [35]

See also

Related Research Articles

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