How to Choose the Right Tires

by Contributor

Wonder what all those letters and numbers on your tire's sidewall mean? If you like your current tires, buy more of the same. A tire with a different rating, but the same size and type may give you a smoother ride or better handling in bad weather.

Look at your tire label. It should look something like this: P185/60R 14 82H

Buy for a passenger car. In the tire label, "P" indicates passenger-car tire. Other variations are "LT" for light truck and "T" for temporary or spare tire.

Determine how wide your tires can be. Different cars can fit different sizes. The "185" in our example is the section width of the tire in millimeters. Shorter and narrower tires have lower numbers.

Understand the tire type. In this case it's a radial tire, as shown with the "R."

Figure out how to determine if the tire can fit your wheel rim. The wheel rim in this tire is 14 inches in diameter, indicated by the number after the tire-type symbol.

Here, 82 is this tire's load index, according to the industry standard Maximum Load-Carrying Capacity chart. This tire will safely bear 1,047 lbs. (475 kg). Four of these tires can carry a fully loaded car weighing a maximum of 4,188 lbs. (1,900 kg).

The last letter (H in this example) is the speed rating: Q (99 mph/159 km per hour), S (112 mph/180 kph), T (118 mph/190 kph), U (124 mph/200 kph), H (130 mph/209 kph), V (up to 149 mph/240 kph), Z (more than 149mph/240 kph), W (168 mph/270 kph), Y (186 mph/299 kph). Speed-rating letters indicate the maximum safe speed the tire is capable of carrying under ideal conditions, for an extended period of driving. You might not feel a difference between riding on T-rated tires and H-rated tires, but you'll save money on the former.

Warning

  • close Check your tire pressure once a month. Improperly inflated tires can cause low gas mileage, a hard ride or even dangerous blowouts.

About the Author

This article was written by the It Still Runs team, copy edited and fact checked through a multi-point auditing system, in efforts to ensure our readers only receive the best information. To submit your questions or ideas, or to simply learn more about It Still Runs, contact us.