There are quite a few things to pay attention to when buying new tires, and tire speed rating codes are one of them.
In this article, we will go over what tire speed rating codes mean, the different types of codes by industry standards, their meaning, and their significance in your buying decision to align with your driving needs.
We will also look at how you can easily identify the speed rating code of any tire and the types of vehicles for which different speed ratings are commonly used for their tires.
As a bonus, I have also put together a speed rating chart that will be handy whenever you need instant info about a particular tire speed rating. You will only sometimes have to surf the entire internet for such information.
Let’s get started.
Tire speed rating code meaning
To understand these codes, you must first familiarize yourself with the tires’ speed rating.
Tire speed ratings mean the optimal speed the tire can safely maintain over time. Tire manufacturers use alphabetic codes to represent their tires’ speed rating, indicating the fastest speeds a tire can handle before it no longer performs optimally.
However, the speed ratings don’t mean that the vehicle will always drive safely at the maximum speed of the tire, especially on extreme roads and weather conditions.
In the tire manufacturing industry, the speed rating system doubles as a performance control system for tires using standardized speeds.
As I mentioned, it is almost in alphabetical order, from letters A to Z, with some having extra letter modifications. However, the letters’ speed ratings range from 5 km/h (3mph) to 300 km/h (186 mph).
For example, tires with an “M” speed rating can go up to 81 mph, N; 87 mph, P; 93 mph, Q; 99 mph, R; 106 mph, and so on.
Meanwhile, it is helpful to note that the speed rating of a tire is not always about speed per se. We will stress this in the later part of this article, but you should know that the higher the tire’s speed rating, the better handling and control you will have when driving at higher speeds.
Now, we will look at how to identify any tire’s speed rating on a vehicle and what it means for the overall driving experience. But before then, here is a chart showing the different tire speed rating codes and their meanings.
You can bookmark this page and always refer to this chart to quickly confirm the meaning of a speed rating code since you don’t have to put it all in your head at once.
Tire speed rating codes and their meaning
|Speed rating codes||Speed (km/h)|
|A1||5 (km/h)||3 (mph)|
|A2||10 (km/h)||6 (mph)|
|A3||15 (km/h)||9 (mph)|
|A4||20 (km/h)||12 (mph)|
|A5||25 (km/h)||16 (mph)|
|A6||30 (km/h)||19 (mph)|
|A8||40 (km/h)||25 (mph)|
|B||50 (km/h)||31 (mph)|
|C||60 (km/h)||37 (mph)|
|D||65 (km/h)||40 (mph)|
|E||70 (km/h)||43 (mph)|
|F||80 (km/h)||50 (mph)|
|G||90 (km/h)||56 (mph)|
|J||100 (km/h)||62 (mph)|
|K||110 (km/h)||68 (mph)|
|L||120 (km/h)||75 (mph)|
|M||130 (km/h)||81 (mph)|
|N||140 (km/h)||87 (mph)|
|P||150 (km/h)||94 (mph)|
|Q||160 (km/h)||100 (mph)|
|R||170 (km/h)||106 (mph)|
|S||180 (km/h)||112 (mph)|
|T||190 (km/h)||118 (mph)|
|U||200 (km/h)||124 (mph)|
|H||210 (km/h)||130 (mph)|
|V||240 (km/h)||149 (mph)|
|W||270 (km/h)||168 (mph)|
|Y||300 (km/h)||186 (mph)|
How do I identify my tire’s speed rating?
Most vehicles’ tire speed ratings can be found in four places: the car owner’s manual, the driver’s side door jamb, the glove box door, or the gas tank hatch.
On some vehicles, the speed rating is detailed wherever the tire code of the vehicle is listed.
Meanwhile, all tire manufacturers indicate the speed rating of that tire on the sidewall. The alphabetic representation of the speed rating is typically the LAST item in the character sequence in the size code written on the tire’s sidewall.
For example, on a tire’s sidewall, you could see the code: “P225/70R1691S”
In the above tire code, S is the speed rating, which means the tire should not be driven at more than 180 km/h or 112 mph. Still, no tire manufacturer advises that you drive faster than the law in your city allows.
What does an H or V speed rating mean?
You will mostly see the H rating on sports sedans and coupes. On the tire speed rating codes chart, which is the industry standard. “H” sits between the U and V ratings. It represents a maximum speed of 130 mph (210 kph).
Speed ratings go beyond the speed definition for your tires.
I mentioned earlier that your tire’s speed ratings represent more than just speeds. This is a timely point on which to stress that.
By identifying the speed ratings, you can tell so much about your tire’s comfort, cornering ability, and wear potential.
A tire with a high-speed rating, say the V or W rating, has a lower tread life, even though drivers enjoy perks like better-stopping power and improved grip. The rating also plays a part in the pricing of the tires. People tune their tires to increase the speed rating and performance, but they cannot decrease it.
What does tire speed rating mean to you as the buyer?
This is the most crucial part of this article because you are learning about the speed rating of tires and ultimately deciding what tires to use for what vehicles.
With the knowledge of a tire speed rating, you can picture how well the tires are built for speed. That being said, I’d recommend you go for tires with speed ratings around the ZR range if you intend to drive on the autobahn in your M3 and then V ratings or above if you prioritize extra stability at very high speeds. However, I recommend something other than V-rated tires if you are looking for cost-effective options for minivans.
The bottom line is always choosing the speed rating that corresponds to your vehicle manufacturer’s specifications. Also, make sure that all four tires have the same rating (I’ve realized many people ignore this, and it’s important.)
Before you go, remember that it is only safe to mix tires with different speed ratings if you want to experience ridiculous handling problems (which I believe no driver would wish for themselves.)