Letters and Numbers: Understanding Your Tyres

When it comes to buying a vehicle, a lot of consideration is put into the needs of the purchaser, and replacing tyres should be given just as much attention, advises Australian tyre expert and recycler Chris Lett from Branigans Budget Tyres in Queensland. The tyres a car owner chooses will affect the overall performance and safety of their vehicle.

“All new vehicles are fitted with optimal performance original equipment (OE) tyres, also known as standard tyres. These are designed specifically for the vehicle type and have been optimized for general use, making them a reliable choice, but they may not be the best tyre for the car owner’s needs,” explains Lett.

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What Car Owners Need to Consider

“Drivers need to consider their driving habits, the speed they drive at, the conditions of the roads they travel on, seasonal changes and heir vehicle requirements when choosing their tyres,” says Lett.

“A good place for car owners to start is to check the existing tyres on their car. On the sidewall are numbers and letters which give the tyre’s width, profile, diameter, load index and speed rating. If the tyres are not the original ones that came with the vehicle, the owner will be able to find this information on the inside of the driver’s door or in the owner’s manual, which will also give a list of compatible tyres. It is essential to have the correct tyres for your vehicle, as an incorrect size will add stress to the vehicle, and the tyre could even come off while driving.”

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Understanding the Numbers and Letters on the Sidewall

Being able to understand the tyre label will help car owners choose the correct tyre. The first three digits on it identify the tyre’s width. According to Lett, the wider the tyre is, the better the grip, which makes it ideal for wet roads. A narrower tyre will make less noise, but not have as good a grip.

Related to tyre width is the tyre profile, the next number on the tyre label. A high profile, above 50, offers a more comfortable drive, and long lasting tyres, whereas a low profile is considered better looking, and has better steering performance, but is more vulnerable to damage.

The numbers after the letter R are for the tyre size, and the following two numbers stand for the load rating (how much weight the tyres can bear). The last letter is for the speed rating, which affects grip and stopping power. A higher speed rating will offer better performance, but the life of the tyre will not be as long.

“With the wide variety and different types of tyres available on the market today, it can be a daunting task knowing what to choose,” says Lett. “If someone is not sure about the ideal tyre for their needs, they should speak to an expert who will be able to point them in the right direction. And they don’t need to be brand new. As long as they use a reputable outlet, good quality recycled tyres can be a safe and cost effective choice.”

For further information, visit or call Chris and his team for Second Hand Tyres Gold Coast |Branigans Budget Tyres at the Service Centres at either Burleigh Heads (07) 5535 2660 or Southport (07) 5591 8633.