If you have ever attempted shopping for tires online or in a store, it doesn’t take long to realize it’s much more complex than just picking out the tire with the best warranty or the thickest tread.  Finding the right tire for vehicle and your lifestyle may be accomplished with the help of a trained and knowledgeable technician, but being an informed consumer can ensure that you are getting the best deal for your car and your money.

There are many different types of tires available—mud/snow, off-road, and all weather just to name a few.  Choosing the right type is relatively straightforward.  Finding the right size and model for your vehicle is where it gets more complex.

tire numberA quick peek at the sidewall of your tires will reveal a long series of letters and numbers that looks something like this 215/65R16 98H.  If your tire starts with a P that stands for passenger tire, if there is no letter than your tire is metric sized tire; which are often used on European made cars. The first set of numbers, in this case 215, indicates the width of the tire in millimeters.  The second number, here 65, is the ratio of the height of the sidewall to the width of the tire expressed as a percentage, also known as aspect ratio.   The next letter stands for the tire construction.  R, as in the example, stands for radial, B is for belted and D is for diagonal, bias ply construction.  The next number represents the wheel diameter in inches, 16.

The last number letter pair represent the load index, 98, and the speed rating, H.  The higher your load index the greater your load capacity.   With a load index of 98 the load capacity would be in the range of 1650 pounds. The information for your specific vehicle can be obtained through your vehicles owner’s manual or by consulting a certified tire technician or mechanic.  The speed rating is designated by a number and indicates the maximum speed capability of the tire.  The max for an H rated tire is 130 mph.  Most traditional cars have a rating from R-H, offering max speeds of 106-130.  Sports cars and other high performance vehicles use tires rated V,W, or Y that offer speeds up to 186 mph.

While you may still utilize the services of trained tire technician, being informed about what you need can help you make a more informed decision on the right set of new tires.

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