How to read tyre markings?

  • Author: OPONEO.CO.UK

When you need to know vital information about a car tyre, you can often find it on the product itself. These products come with various car tyre markings to indicate various important attributes and data.

Of course, to save space, this is often given via codes. As a result, you need to have a good understanding of the various tyre markings meanings to read the information that is available to you.

Basic Tyre Markings Explained

Most drivers know how to read the basic tyre markings. Let’s use 205/55 R16 91 V as an example. With this, you can determine:

  • The tyre size. In this case, it is a 205/55 R16 size product.
  • The speed index, which is given as a letter. In this example, it is V (149 mph)
  • The load index, which is given as a number, to differentiate from the speed value. Here, it is 91 (615 kg).


The tyre markings for the size can be found on the sidewall.

This code is well known to drivers and can be easily found on the sidewalls. It can also be found on the driver’s door pillar, in the glove compartment, on the fuel cap and in the car manual.

When it comes to tyre load values, don’t forget that this is the value for a single tyre. Since your car has 4 tyres, each is only responsible for a quarter of the overall weight. This total figure should exceed the maximum permitted mass of your vehicle - this can be found in the owner’s manual.

However, there is also more information available on the tyre that, at various points, can prove highly useful. This includes codes and tyre symbols for:

  • The meaning behind the “VR” or ZR” codes, which sometimes replace the “R” in the tyre size.
  • The tyre age markings and production date.
  • Operating symbols
  • Symbols indicating reinforced tyres
  • How to install the tyre
  • If a rim protection flange is present
  • Winter tyre qualities

What does ZR mean on a tyre?

Sometimes, instead of the “R” in the tyre size, there will be another code, such as “ZR” or “VR”.

These symbols indicate that there is a speed index included in the size marking. This means such a tyre can be used with maximum loads at speeds that do not exceed a given value, depending on which mark is present:

  • For VR tyres, it cannot exceed 130 mph (210 km/h)
  • A ZR Tyre Rating, can allow speeds of up to 149 mph (240 km/h)

As an example, imagine a tyre that has a ZR tyre rating of 225/45 ZR17 91 W. This indicates that, while it has a maximum speed index of 167 mph (2070 km/h), it has a maximum speed of 149 mph (240 km/h) when driven with a full load.

Similarly, you can also find tyres with an “RF” rating, such as 205/55 RF16. This indicates that the particular product is, in fact, a Run Flat tyre.

Operating symbols

Tyres also have a range of additional symbols letting you know which conditions they are most suited for. Aside from winter and summer tyres, this tells you what environments a tyre can cope with, any legal permissions granted to the tyre and even practical guidelines for tyre maintenance.

The most common tyre symbols include:

  • M+S Symbol. Short for Mud and Snow, this is used on both winter and all-season tyres.
  • Max Inflation Symbol. It is the maximum tyre pressure value allowed for the given model.
  • ECE Symbol. Also known as the E symbol, this is short for the Economic Commission of Europe, indicating that the tyre can be used within the European Union and has, accordingly, received European approval.
  • TWI Symbol. Short for Treadwear Indicator, the TWI symbol is located in six places around the tyre in the form of bars along the tread grooves. This indicates the limit of legally allowed tread wear (1.6 mm). When the tread has worn down to the TWI level, it indicates the tyre has reached this statutory minimum and the tyre should be replaced.

An example of the M + S symbol

Reinforced tyre markings explained

When it comes to reinforced tyres, there are often a number of additional markings to consider. These include:

  • XL Symbol. This stands for Extra Load and indicates that the tyre has a higher load bearing capacity than a standard tyre in the same size.
  • RF Symbol. This is similar to the XL symbol and indicates a reinforced tyre with a higher load carrying capacity.
  • Other variants also include EXL, RFD, REF and REINF which are all variants of the XL and RF signatures.

A reinforced tyre with an extra load marking.]

Tyre installation markings explained

Similarly, there are a number of markings that indicate how the tyre should be fitted. These are used with different tread patterns, as each often requires a specific pattern to its installation (and rotation). The main tyre markings are:

  • Rotation. Always used with an arrow, indicating the rolling direction of a tyre. This is used with directional tyres, as these need to face the right way.
  • Outside. Used on asymmetrical tyres, this indicates the side of the tyre that should be facing the outside. As a result, this should be visible on the outside of the vehicle, even after it is fitted.
  • Inside. This is the opposite of the outside marking, indicating the internal side of an asymmetric tyre. This can help when fitting the tyre but, of course, should not be visible from outside the car when installed.

Rotation tyre markings are used on directional treads.]

What does MFS mean? Rim protection markings explained

Some tyres - most specifically, winter products, make use of rim protection flanges. This flange is designed to protect the fringe of the rim against mechanical damage, such as when driving on a curb, potholes or hitting an object.
Depending on the manufacturer, there will often be a different name for this rim protection. The most common codes are:

  • MFS (Maximum Flange Shield)
  • RFP (Rim Fringe Protector)
  • FP (Fringe Protector)
  • FR (Felgen Ripen)

A car tyre with a protective flange.

As you can see, car tyre markings can tell you quite a lot about the tyre. Whether it’s finding out the tyre size, load and speed indexes, whether or not there is a protective flange or even if it’s a reinforced tyre, a great deal of useful data is presented right on the sidewall itself!

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Thank you
Re: How to read tyre markings?
RB 30/04/2014 Answer

Awesome Information. I have been buying tyres but didnt know the meaning of all the stuff on the tyre. Very informational and I learned something new today. Thanks for putting it together.

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