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How to Understand the Numbers on your Tire

Responsible vehicle maintenance requires a certain amount of knowledge – knowledge that starts at the tires…

Why is understanding your tire’s sidewall information so important? Because your vehicle is only as safe as its tires and no one knows that better than Kal Tire and the manufacturers of the brands we’re proud to carry.

Here’s the problem: although this information is easily accessible, at a glance it can look like something from the Da Vinci Code! If you’re like most people, deciphering the technical stuff can be annoying at best and at worst, downright intimidating. Don’t worry! We’re here to crack the code…

The following breakdown references the image below in order to illustrate what information you can typically expect on your sidewall:


Sidewall Information (in this case, P215/65R15)

Unless you’re angling for high performance tires, this is the essential information you’ll need. Embedded in the code you will find the following info:

Vehicle Class (in this case, P)

‘P’ stands for passenger car. Other vehicle classes include light truck (LT), special trailer (SP) and temporary (T) in the case of spares.

Tire Width (in this case, 215)

The width measures the widest point of the tire, expressed in millimetres.

Aspect Ratio (in this case, 65)

The tire height to total width ratio, expressed as a percentage. For example, this tire’s sidewall height is 65% of 215mm.

Fabric Construction (in this case, R)

Apart from classic or racing varieties, most vehicles ride on radials, as indicated by the ‘R’.

Wheel Diameter (in this case, 15)

The diameter measurement of the wheel your tire will fit, in inches.

In this particular example, additional sidewall information includes:

Load Index (in this case, 89)

The maximum amount on a rating scale of weight the tire is designed to support when properly inflated.

Speed Rating (in this case, H)

The speed rating shows the maximum allowed speed the tire can withstand for ten minutes without being at risk.

DOT Code (in this case, DOT MAL9 ABC036)

The date and location of the tire’s manufacturing, among other things, too. It’s birth certificate, essentially.

Often, other important symbols can be found on your tire’s sidewall. Symbols that don’t appear in our example but that you may see on your tire include:


This stands for ‘mud and snow’, meaning it meets the Rubber Manufacturers Association(RMA) guidelines for mud and snow tires. It does not indicate the tire is designed for all winter conditions.

Severe Service Emblem

If you see an icon of a snowflake inside a mountain, it means you’re riding on some pretty safe tires, equipped for winter conditions consistently below 7° Celsius.

Still have questions? Come on down to your local Kal Tire and let our experts help you! Or visit our website for more info: How to Read a Tire Sidewall.


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