How To 'Read' Your Tires

Photo: Dynamic Transit Co., Unsplash

The brand name of your vehicle’s tires is splashed loud and proud across the side so everyone can see that you only trust Bridgestone or Michelin or Hankook. (OK, to be fair, it’s also helpful if you’re buying a used car because you can see pretty quickly whether the tires match.) But if you look a little closer, you’ll also see a series of numbers and letters that seem to tell you something. If only you knew what that something was.

Reddit user u/SirBluw posted a guide to help us out, and we learned a few things from it. These numbers give us the wheel’s width (in millimetres) and its inner diameter (in inches). It also gives us the manufacturing date — a four digit number that means the XX week of YY year. (So, 0317 doesn’t mean March of 2017; it means the third week of 2017. This is also helpful to check when buying a used car.)

It also tells us that “V” is the speed rating, but what does “V” stand for? “Very fast,” according to some giggly Reddit commenters. And really, they’re not wrong. The “V” doesn’t really stand for anything, but you can drive up to 149 miles per hour on a V tire, according to Bridgestone — not that we would recommend such a thing.

If you want to dive in even further, U.S. News & World Report has a slideshow that gives you more juicy tidbits about your tires, including how much weight they can carry and why the aspect ratio matters (a low number means it’s a low-profile tire, such as those found on higher-performance cars).

One thing to keep in mind: If you’re getting ready to replace your tires, don’t rely solely on the numbers on your existing tires to guide your purchase; those could be replacement tires that don’t fully align with the vehicle’s needs. Check your vehicle owner’s manual for true specifications.


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