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How to Choose the Right Tyres for your Car: Tyre Markings Explained

tyre markings explanation

When it comes to buying tyres for your car, finding the correct type to buy can be confusing to say the least. There are a number of factors that you need to consider when buying tyres to ensure that you get the best possible choice for your vehicle. By choosing the wrong tyres, you could be wasting a considerable amount of money, not to mention you can be putting yourself and other road users in danger. This article will look at the key points to consider when buying tyres for your car, to give you a better understanding and help you make the right choice.

Tyre Markings

You will find the tyre markings on the sidewall of your tyres and these are indicators of what replacements you need to look for. They consist of letters and numbers, detailing the measurements and specifications of the tyre.


Tyre Size

tyres northampton tyre markings tyre size

On the tyre sidewall, you’ll find the letters and digits which stand for specific measurements and ratings that your tyre is designed to meet. All tyres conform to this standard, and though most motorists won’t understand the markings at first, they are easy to comprehend with a little guidance. Here are the above markings decoded for you:

•    205 – Tyre width in millimetres
•    55 – Tyre sidewall profile. This means the height of the tyre side as a percentage of its width
•    R – Radial (standard for all tyres now, previously they were cross-ply)
•    16 – Wheel rim diameter (inches)


Speed Rating

The speed rating must be equal to or more than the top speed of your car.

In the example given below V equals 149mph.

tyres northampton tyre markings speed rating

As mentioned above, the final initial on the sidewall is used in accordance with the top speed of your car. The keys are:

•    S – 112mph
•    T – 118mph
•    U – 125mph
•    H – 130mph
•    V – 149mph
•    W (ZR) – 168mph
•    Y (ZR) – 186mph
•    ZR – Above 149mph


Load Index

tyres northampton tyre markings load index

The amount of weight that a tyre can withstand is expressed as the ‘load index’. This is a numerical code found after the tyre size marking and before the speed rating.

It is advised by all tyre specialists that you do not fit tyres with a lower speed rating or load index than the manufacturer’s original tyre specification, or to use different tyre construction types on one vehicle. Consult your handbook to confirm the tyre speed ratings and the load index, as well as any other unique requirements.

Have a look at our table below to learn more about your tyre load index:

Load index   Load in kg per tyre
65 290
66 300
67 307
68 315
69 325
70 335
71 345
72 355
73 365
74 375
75 387
76 400
77 412
78 425
79 437
80 450
81 462
82 475
83 487
84 500
85 515
86 530
87 545
88 560
89 580
90 600
61 615
92 630
93 650
94 670
95 690
96 710
97 730
98 750
99 775
100 800
101 825
102 850
103 875
104 900
105 925
106 950
107 975
108 1000
109 1030
110 1060
111 1090
112 1120
113 1150
114 1180
115 1215
116 1250
117 1285
118 1320
119 1360
120 1400
121 1450
122 1500
123 1550
124 1600

Use scrolling to see more


Winter Markings

tyres northampton tyre markings winter markings

This marking refers to the fact that this tyre is intended a ‘snow’ tyre but its performance in extreme winter conditions are untested.

Three Peaks Mountain Snow Flake: Sometimes referred to as ‘3PMSF’, ‘Mountain and Snow Flake’ and ‘Three Peaked Mountain and Snowflake’ designate tyres that are tested for extreme snowy conditions. They will be found on M&S (Mud and Snow) tyres and are optimised for difficult winter conditions.


Manufacturing Information

tyres northampton tyre markings manufacturing information

You can also discover where and when the tyre was manufactured. This information is represented by the series of letters and numbers which begin ‘DOT’, which itself means the tyre exceeds standards set out by the Department of Transport Safety Standards.

The following 8 characters after ‘DOT’ are a manufacturer-produced serial number used to identify the facility in which the tyre was made.

The final four numbers, typically found within a square window, will allow you to identify the age of the tyre. The first two numbers are the week of the year in which the tyre was produced, from 1 to 52. The last two numbers represent the year. A tyre marked ‘1408’ was produced in the 14th week of 2008.

Over time, tyres age and this degradation process speeds up with unuse. If you have tyres over 6 years old fitted to your vehicle or are offered old tyres for sale, make sure to have them professionally checked over to guarantee they are roadworthy.


Run Flat

tyres northampton tyre markings run flat

A run flat tyre has specially strengthened sidewalls which are capable of supporting the car’s weight should a sudden drop in pressure occur – such as when the tyre is punctured. Typically, a run flat tyre is perfectly safe running at 50mph for approximately 50 miles but should be checked by a tyre professional as soon as possible. The great news is, you’ll be able to drive straight to the tyre centre, rather than endure the hassle of switching to the spare wheel!

Uncertain whether your car has run-flat tyres? Check the sidewalls for any of the markings listed below:

Symbol   Meaning   Manufacturer  
ROF RunOnFlat Goodyear
EMT Extended Mobility Technology Goodyear
RFT Run Flat Technology/Tyre Pirelli, Firestone, Bridgestone
ZP Zero Pressure Michelin
SSR Self Supporting Run Flat Continental
DSST Dunlop Self Supporting Technology   Dunlop

It is important that you get your tyres replaced when they start to wear, as worn down tyres lose their grip, which can affect the braking and handling of your car.

Here at Tyres Northampton we stock a wide range of tyres, from branded tyres to cheaper budget tyres, catering for the needs of all motorists. Whether you have a performance car or a 4×4 vehicle, our range ensures that you can get the perfect tyres for your car at excellent prices. Our team are highly skilled and knowledgeable in the fitting of tyres and we endeavour to complete all our work in an efficient, friendly and professional manner. For more information about our tyre fitting services, get in touch with us today and we’ll be happy to help.


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