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What Do The Numbers On A Tyre or Tire Sidewall Mean?

How To Read Tyre/Tire Sidewall Numbers

For passenger car tires (tyres) there are two primary sizing standards in use:

Passenger-Metric and European Metric.

Your tire size reads 205/55R16 with a Service Index of 91H which means it is Euro-Metric.

In a P-Metric tire (more common in the U.S. and Japan) there is a P at the beginning of the size description and the service index is frequently different. A P-Metric tire would read P205/55R16 89H instead of 205/55R16 91H. Note the P and the different service description.

So what does it all mean?

Continental Tyre - a typical passenger car tyre/tire

205 = "Section Width" of the tire in milimeters at its widest point (about midway down the sidewall). This IS NOT the width of the tread.

55 = "Section Height" of the tire or how tall the tire is measured from the bead to the top of the tread expressed as a percentage of the Section Width. In other words 55% of 205mm.

R = Radial Construction

16 = Mounting rim diameter in inches. Yes I know, they mix inches and metric measurements. Nobody said this was supposed to be easy.

91H = The "Service Description" which gives two pieces of information. The "91" is the "Load Index" which tells how much weight the tire can carry at specific pressures. The "91" in this size tells us this is a "Standard Load" tire with a maximum load capacity of 1,356 lbs at 36 psi. The "H" tells us the tire has a "Speed Rating" of 130mph.

This is the point where you get into the differences between a P-Metric and Euro-Metric tire. The dimensions are the same but the Load Index numbers are usually different and they equate to different loads at different pressures. For example a P-Metric standard load tire of the same size would have a Service Index of 89H (P205/55R16 89H). The speed rating is the same but the P load index equates to a maximum load of 1,279 lbs at a slightly lower 35 psi maximum. For some cars care has to be taken if switching from P-Metric to Euro-Metric tires or vice-versa in order to insure the tire has the proper load carying capacity for the application. That is why all of these numbers are important and you can't just look at the dimensions - the "205/55/16" bit.
 

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