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Tyre Sidewall Markings

How to read a tyre?

There are a lot of markings on the side of a tyre, but what do they all mean? We’ve created this guide so you know exactly what all the different markings on your tyres relate to.

Tyre care information from

1. Energy Saver+ This denotes the name of the tyre.

2. 205/55/16 19V This is the size and characteristics of the tyre.

205 This is the section width of the tyre. That means the overall width of the tyre in mm
55 This is the aspect ratio of the tyre. That is the sidewall height of the tyre as a percentage of the section width
R This means the tyre is of Radial construction
16 This is the Rim diameter in inches, e.g. 16” wheel
91 This is the load index, which is a code associated with the maximum load a tyre can carry
V This is the speed symbol, which relates to the maximum speed of use

3. Tubeless: This means the tyre requires no inner tube

ZR Ratings

When ZR ratings were introduced, they reflected the highest tyre speed rating ever likely to be required, in excess of 150 mph (240 km/h).  However, how far above 150 mph was not identified.

W (169mph) & Y (187mph) ratings were subsequently added to identify tyres that meet the needs of newer high performance vehicles that have very high top-speed capabilities.

Tyre Size Miles Per Hour Speed rating Kilometers Per Hour Speed rating
225/50ZR16 in excess of 150 240
205/50ZR17 93W XL Up to 169 270
285/30ZR20 99Y XL Up to 187 300

When replacing W & Y rated tyres wherever possible replace them like for like, however:

  • In the absence of availability of a W rated tyre a ZR tyre is a suitable alternative
  • All Continental ZR tyres are capable of W speed capability (169mph)*
  • This is not always the case with Y rated tyres, as not all ZR tyres are capable of 187mph

This may not be the case with all tyre manufacturers so please ask if your unsure. 

XL and RF tyre markings

  • RF stands for Reinforced
  • XL stands for Extra Load

RF and XL markings indicate tyres designed for load capacities and air pressures higher than those of standard tyres.

Extra Load tyres have increased load carrying capacity and achieve this by using higher inflation pressure.  They have the same load carrying capacity as Standard Load tyres have at 35 psi, and have more load carrying capacity as the pressure increases - up to a maximum of 41 psi.

These tyres have a stronger internal construction which means they can hold more air pressure and therefore carry more weight

  • RF - 58kg more
  • XL - 70kg more

XL designations are predominantly used for car tyres and RF designation predominantly used for van tyres.

XL and RF tyres are however not interchangeable and mixing these two types of tyres could lead to poor handling.

If higher load tyres are originally fitted to a vehicle, the lower load version is not a suitable replacement.

Manufacturer Markings or OE tyre markings

Vehicle manufacturers in conjunction with tyre manufacturers develop tyres which are specifically tuned to compliment the characteristics of a vehicle.  Getting a tyre approved as OE involves a significant investment in development and testing and can take many years to complete.  Vehicle manufacturers demand extremely high standards across a whole range of performance characteristics including:

  • Handling
  • Braking
  • Noise
  • Comfort
  • Rolling resistance

Even though a tyre manufacturer may produce an equivalent tyre size that is not OE marked and approved, it’s important to fit the OE approved tyre all round to ensure the your vehicle continues to perform exactly as the vehicle manufacturer intended.

A number of manufacturers have designated marks to indicate a tyre has achieved OE approval:

Vehicle Manufacturer OE Marking
Audi RO1 (R8)
AO (A6)
BMW *
Jaguar J
Mercedes M0
Porsche N0, N1, N2

Tyre Labelling

Tyre Labelling is an important initiative which enables the motorist to better understand the real impact that tyre performance can have on their lives and on society as a whole. It measures 3 areas of performance.

Read more tyre about tyre labelling and how to read them correctly here:

Read Tyre Labelling PDF

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