Tyre Sidewall Markings Explained

When buying new tyres for your car, it is important to replace tyre with the correct specification – usually like for like. Most reputable tyre fitting centres will take care of this for you, but it is always good to understand what you are buying – and it is essential if you want to save money by buying your tyres online and just have them fitted locally.

 

There is a lot of small print on car tyres, but most of it can be ignored. The important features of a tyre are its size, load rating and speed rating. It should also have a European type approval mark. Here is what the markings on the tyre in the picture mean:

205: The width of the tyre in millimetres.

55: The height or profile of the tyre sidewall, expressed as a percentage of its width. Also known as the aspect ratio. In this case the height of the tyre sidewall is 205×0.55 = 112.75mm

R16: This is the diameter of the wheel rim, measured in inches – the wheel rim is 16″ in this case.

91: This is the load rating of the tyre – a measure of the maximum weight it can support. 91 denotes a load rating of 615kg.

V: The speed rating of the tyre – the maximum speed at which the tyre can support maximum load. This should be higher than the maximum speed of the car. In this case, V means a speed rating of up to 149mph.

E4: This is a European type approval indicating it has met tyre safety standards set by the European Regulatory Authorities.

The required speed ratings and load ratings for your car’s tyres can be found in your car’s handbook. It is vital that you do not use tyres with a load or speed rating lower than that recommended by the manufacturer. This will result in an increased likelihood of tyre blowouts and could potentially invalidate your insurance.

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Other Tyre Markings – Tyre Manufacturing Date

Photo of a tyre manufacturing date stamp on tyre sidewall
Look for a four-digit number like this on the sidewall - this tyre was made in the 7th week of 2010

You can safely ignore most of the other markings on your car’s tyres, but one other marking that may be of interest is the manufacturing date.

These enables you to check that the tyres you are buying have been made recently and are not old stock that has been sitting around for years, and may already be suffering the effects of ageing.

To read the manufacturing date on a tyre, look for a four digit code somewhere on the inner edge of the tyre – something like this: 2610

The first two digits refer to the week in which the tyre was manufactured and the second two digits refer to the year in which the tyre was made.

For example, 2610 would refer to the 26th week of 2010.

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7 thoughts on “Tyre Sidewall Markings Explained

  • June 9, 2017 at 9:36 pm
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    Is there anyway of determining the wall stiffness of a tyre? I want to be able to know how stiff any tyre is from well known brands to budget manufacturers. Is the load rating the indicator as I would have thought that rating also takes into account other features of the tyre including size.
    Surely this is something that should be available?

    Reply
    • June 10, 2017 at 8:17 pm
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      Hi Andrew,

      The load rating is purely a measure of the weight a tyre can carry. Obviously this may influence the construction of the tyre sidewalls, but I’ve not heard of stiffness alone being an attribute that’s measured (although I may be wrong!).

      Cheers, Roland

      Reply
      • June 11, 2017 at 9:19 am
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        Hi Roland,

        Hmm, that’s what I thought I’m afraid. I drive a MGF which works well with 2 tyre brands because of the wall stiffness. I therefore wanted to be able to compare those to other makes. I have to say that it does seem to be a bit of an omission don’t you think?

        Andy

      • June 12, 2017 at 11:07 am
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        Hi Andy,

        I can see your point, although I’d be interested to know how you’ve isolated wall stiffness as the key factor, rather than — say — different tread or compounds. Or even tyre pressures, which have a big impact.

        Personally, I’m not sure it’s necessary for most motorists to consider this kind of subtle detail (which it would be on most mainstream cars). Of far more importance, in my view, is to ensure the tyres are correctly inflated, not excessively worn and are correctly rated for the vehicle.

        My experience of buying different tyre brands for cars and vans over the years is that while I do notice some differences, all of the premium brands work pretty well if they meet the criteria I’ve listed.

        Roland

  • June 13, 2017 at 12:56 pm
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    Hi Roland,

    Apparently the wall stiffness of the 2 tyres are significant to the handling…….tread patterns are visible so you are able to make a reasonable judgement. Yea, I accept that pressures also affect handling, I wanted to remove all possible variables…..once you buy tyres, you can’t exactly take them back!

    Andy

    Reply
  • June 16, 2017 at 10:57 am
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    I have just had all my tyres replaced and the manufacturing date is a year old. Is that ok?

    Reply
    • June 16, 2017 at 1:42 pm
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      In my opinion, one year is probably fine. I’d only be concerned if there were any visible signs of age, such as cracks in the sidewall. This might suggest the tyres had been stored outside and suffered UV damage, for example.

      Please note this is only my opinion. I’m not a tyre technician. If you’ve got any concerns, then get the tyres checked by a reputable garage.

      Roland

      P.S. If you have just had the tyres fitted, I would check if air pressures are correct. In 22 years of motoring, I have never once had a garage inflate new tyres to the correct pressure…

      Reply

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