How to Read a Tire Sidewall
When shopping for tires, you need to know what the numbers and letters on your tire’s sidewall mean. The sidewall of your tires is filled with important information that tells you everything you need to know about your tire and how to select the appropriate replacement tire. The numbers can be a bit overwhelming to the untrained eye, so the best way to understand tire markings is to take an example and break it down, bit by bit.
Tires usually follow a pattern, and in the example below, we will dissect the tire’s sidewall to show you what the words and numbers mean. For this situation, we will use this tire as an example: “Bridgestone Potenza RE040 205/50VR15 85V”.
- Bridgestone is the “Brand” – This is the company that manufactured the tire.
- Potenza is the “Series” – Tire manufacturers often create a series of tires with somewhat similar handling and performance characteristics (e.g. tires for performance or less aggressive driving needs).
- RE040 is the “Model” – This is a very specific identification of the general performance characteristics of this tire, regardless of its size.
- 205 is the “Width” – The numbers preceding the slash indicate the width of the tire in millimeters. This is the most important number to describe a tire’s contact patch.
- 50 is the “Aspect ratio” – The number following the dash is the height of the sidewall from the rim to the tread, expressed as a percentage of the tread width.
- VR (V-rated radial) is the “Speed Rating” – The “V” identifies a speed rating is above 149 MPH (which is the maximum allowable for testing purposes).
- 85V is the “Load Rating” – In this case, 85 means the tire is rated for 1,135 pounds (according to a Load Carrying Capacity table from tire manufacturers and tire specialists). Multiply this by the number of tires on the car, and you get a maximum safe loaded vehicle weight of 4,540 pounds (including people, luggage, a full tank of gas, etc.)
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