Buying new car tyres: How to decipher side markings to buy the exact car tyre?


Posted by: Juliet Onyeachonam

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Buying new tyres can be quite overwhelming for car owners that are new to driving. Nevertheless, in this article, you will find information on how to interpret the markings on your tyres which we help you purchase the right replacements.

How many parts of your car are actually in contact with the ground surface? There is just one part - the tyres. However, most of us ignore the state of our car tyres until they become damaged beyond repair before we think about buying new tyres.

Buying new car tyres could be overwhelming especially for new drivers. There are numerous brands available at differ in sizes, constructions, compositions and prices. To make selection an easier task for even the most basic of beginners, this article, by Naijauto, will enlighten you on the things to consider before buying new tyres.

1. Ensure it's time for new tyres

By carrying out a visual inspection, you can assess the wear and tear on the treads, cracked sidewalls or any discoloration. If you notice any of these then it is probably time to get new set of tyres. If you have had tyres for a decade then it requires immediate attention and change even if they look okay because rubber loses its strength with continuous exposure to oxygen.


If you see these cracks on sidewalls of car tire, replace it immediately!

>>> One of the best tips in maintaining car tyres is rotating. Check in our previous post What's the basic rule in rotating your car tyres?

2. Ensure your vehicle is in a good condition

Visually inspect the tyres for uneven wear and tear. Uneven wear is an indication of suspension or alignment problems. Even if you replace the tyres on a car with suspension or alignment issues, the uneven tyre wear will remain pervasive and prominent. This will in turn require another new set of tyres thereby wasting money.

It is advisable to get an impartial opinion from a trusted mechanic regarding the condition of the car before purchasing new tyres.

3. Study the car manual and manufacturer recommendations

The owner’s manual that comes with the car gives all the manufacturers recommendations about the perfect tyre type and size for the vehicle. The information placard is permanently attached to either your glove compartment or inside the trunk lid. This serves as a guide for buying new tyres.

If your vehicle does not come with an owner’s manual, then it is advisable to visit the manufacturer or the dealer for tyre replacement at competitive prices.

>>> If you don't have your car manual at hand, find it here: List of websites to download car owner's manual online for free

4. Decipher the sidewall markings

This could be the most difficult task while considering purchasing new tyres. The numbers of the sidewall could be confusing. These numbers have been standardized and marked on all tyres as required by law to ensure uniformity in the description and identification of tyres.

Example of sidewall tyre code : P215/65R 15 95H M+S

  • The initial letter or letters indicates the type of vehicle the tyre is intended for. Letter “P” indicates passenger cars and letter “ LT” fit light trucks.
  • The three digit number “215” is an indication of the tyre width and it is measured from one sidewall edge to the other.
  • The “65” indicates the aspect ratio of the tyre which is the ratio of the height to width. The larger the number,  the greater and longer the sidewall.
  • The “R” indicates radial tyres which are the most readily found tyres in this day and age except on classic cars.
  • The two digit “15” number indicates the diameter of the wheel the tyre would be fitted to.
  • The next two or three digits, in this case “ 95” indicates the load bearing capacity of the tyre. This load index is not required by law to be included in the sidewall markings but it is essential in choosing tyres. Always ensure the load index does not fall below the value indicated by the manufacturer in the owner’s manual.
  • The letter “H”, that follows the load index is the tyre’s speed rating. Ensure to abide by the instructions of the manufacturer when making this choice. You will only need a higher tyre speed rating if you have modified your car for track racing purposes.
  • The “M+S” refers to mud and snow. It is usually found on radial tyres manufactured and sold in America.


A helpful illustration of how to read your tyre markings

There are other numbers and letters that you need not worry too much about. This usually comprises of tyre manufacturing place, maximum inflation pressure, manufacturing date, materials, maximum load rating, composition, traction, temperature grades and tread wear.

A capable tyre expert will be able to talk you through all these codes, interpret them for you and also help you in choosing the best tyres that fit your vehicle specifications. You will have to make comparisons depending on your preference such as better handling or greater tread life, all season, summer or winter purpose tyres and so on.

Ensure the tyre expert answers all your questions regarding your choice of tyres and what each letter or digit refers to on the sidewall.

>>> Don't just throw your old tires away, see how you can recycle them! How to turn old tyres into unique furniture? Ask this Nigerian man!

5. Choose appropriate wheels

Ensure you stick to the manufacturer’s original specifications if you decide to customize or change your wheels. Although bigger wheels appear fancier, it might pose handling issues if the tyres does not match it.

6. Purchase a complete set of matching tyres

Modern suspension technology are designed to function best with matching set of tyres. You must desist from cutting costs by changing only the worn out tyres to avoid future suspension issues. By replacing the four tyres at a go, it is easier to maintain and achieve a greater degree of safety and effective handling.

7. Maintain your new tyres

After buying new tyres, the next thing left is to regularly inspect the tyre inflation. This will improve gas mileage and prolong the lives of the tyres. Also, ensure to maintain air pressure and rotate the tyres after every oil change.

>>> Auto technology has reached a whole new level: See this! The 2020 Ford Explorer comes with self sealing tyres!

Juliet Onyeachonam
Juliet Onyeachonam

Juliet Onyeachonam

Car maintenance

Juliet Onyeachonam is an enthusiastic car nut which is why she has turned that passion into a fantastic job by becoming a car blogger on Juliet's blogs are a wealthy resource for information on car maintenance, driving tips and also how things pertaining to cars work.

Additionally, because of her passion for the entertainment industry, Juliet does not write only hardcore but also entertaining articles about cars.

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