tire sidewall

How to Read a Tire Sidewall

The letters and numbers on a tire sidewall are important. And although not everyone understands their purpose, they are there for a reason. A tire sidewall is used to communicate to you the different traits that the tire has. Understanding how to read a tire sidewall will keep you from purchasing the wrong product for your vehicle. Let’s go over some of the basics so you will know what to look for next time you are tire shopping. Here’s how to read a tire sidewall!

What does the first letter on a tire sidewall mean?

Starting on the far left of the sidewall you should find a letter before any numbers enter the equation. The first letter on the tire sidewall tells you what the tire type is. This is an important distinction as there are different vehicles that require different tire types.

For example, you may see the letter P before the numbers. In this instance, the P stands for passenger. This means that the tire is designated for a passenger-type vehicle.

Another letter on a tire sidewall is LT. This stands for light truck and it means the tire is designed for SUVs and pickup trucks. If you are not sure what the first letter stands for then do not hesitate to ask a dealer. It is better to ask before you end up with the wrong tires for your car.

How do you decode tire numbers?

The set of numbers that come directly after the first letter indicates the width of the tire. This width is the measurement from tire sidewall to sidewall in millimeters.

After the width, you should find the numbers that represent the aspect ratio. This is the percentage ratio between the sidewall height and the width of the tire. There is generally a slash that comes right before this. Do not let it confuse you, it is simply there to separate the numbers.

Next, you will find another letter on the tire that represents its construction type. R is the most common letter and it stands for radical construction. After R, there is B which means belted bias, and D which means diagonal bias construction.

Finally, the last numbers that come after the tire’s construction type letter is equal to the size of the rim or wheel that the tire needs.

Why Reading a Tire Sidewall Matters

Being able to read a tire sidewall means knowing exactly what you are purchasing. So often vehicle owners will buy the wrong tires out of ignorance. This can come back to bite them as it is not only a waste of time, it can also cause damage to the vehicle. Tread carefully when purchasing tires and do not be afraid to ask questions if there is anything about the sidewall that you do not understand!


Gen-Y Hitch exists to better the lives of our customers, dealers, vendors, employees, and the automotive industry. We will always put our customers’ needs ahead of our own. Contact us today, and let us help you!

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