Tire Speed Rating (Explained) | TireGrades (2024)

One of the parts of a tire’s size is it’s speed rating. The speed rating will tell you its maximum speed capability. But this is only one aspect of how the speed rating system affects tire performance and handling characteristics.

Tire manufacturers test their tires to see the fastest speed they can withstand and safely sustain speeds shown in the tire speed rating charts. But why do they do this when the maximum speed numbers are so high?

It’s because these ratings are not just about speed.

What Is Speed Rating On Tires?

Tire speed rating is the tested top speed a tire is able to safely maintain without performance beginning to deteriorate due to the excess buildup of heat in the tire.

It is represented by a single letter (with the exception of “ZR”) at the end of the tire size code.

It’s unlikely your tires will ever need the maximum speed capability of their rating since they are usually well beyond the legal speed limits. But the performance improvements due to the improved heat resistance and sidewall reinforcement are key.

Let’s take a closer look

Where Is The Speed Rating On A Tire?

Tire Speed Rating (Explained) | TireGrades (1)

The speed rating of a tire is usually molded into the sidewall of a tire along with the tire size designation. It is usually the last metric displayed in the tire size sequence.

Tire speed ratings are paired with theload index. The load index is a 2 or 3 digit number followed by the letter designation of the speed rating.

Tire Speed Rating Chart

Speed ratings are indicated on your tire’s sidewall with a speed symbol as shown below. Each symbol represents a safe maximum sustainable speed.

SPEED SYMBOLMAX SAFE MPH
A13
A26
A39
A412
A516
A619
A722
A825
B31
C37
D40
E43
F50
G56
J62
SPEED SYMBOLMAX SAFE MPH
K68
L75
M81
N87
P93
Q99
R106
S112
T118
U124
H130
V149
W [Within ZR]168
Y [Within ZR]186
(Y) [Within ZR]Above 186

ZR includes all tires with a rating above 149mph

Does Tire Speed Rating Matter?

Your tire’s speed rating is a guide to how much heat it is capable of handling at higher speeds. To handle the higher speeds a tire must use softer rubber compounds and stronger sidewall designs.

Generally speaking, a tire with a higher maximum speed capability will have better control and handling. It’s also common for tires capable of higher speeds to have worse ride comfort due to the stiffer sidewall designs.

What Is The Best Tire Speed Rating?

The best rating is the one that best fits the needs and meets or exceeds the manufacturer’s requirements.

Higher speed rated tires will have better control and handling as well as being able to handle speeds that you will likely never come close to seeing on public roads.

A higher speed rated tire will be able to handle higher speeds but it will usually have less tread life so simply going with higher speed ratings isn’t the best choice.

Usually following the vehicle owner’s manual tire specifications is recommended. The rating selected by the vehicle manufacturer will meet or exceed the requirements that most drivers of your vehicle type will need.

Tire Speed Rating (Explained) | TireGrades (2)

Does Higher Speed Rating Mean Better Tire?

Different speed ratings have different pros and cons. Higher speed ratings don’t necessarily mean a tire is better. The term “better” is a subjective term.

In general, while higher speed ratings will have better handling, steering response, and stopping power, it will have softer rubber compounds and wear out more quickly.

Lower speed rated tires are very capable for regular use on lower performance cars and will last much longer.

How To Choose Speed Rating On Tires

Vehicle manufacturers choose a tire’s speed rating based on the requirements of the car or truck and the recommended speeds the tire’s size code and tire’s performance requires.

You are best served by following the guidance of your vehicle manufacturer when you shop for new tires for your car or truck.

Can I Put A Higher Speed Rated Tire On My Car?

Purchasing tires with a higher speed rating than what is recommended by the manufacturer may not be money well spent. It depends on what characteristics you hope to improve by increasing the speed rating of the tires on your vehicle.

High performance sports cars may benefit from tires with a higher speed rating due to the improved performance characteristics of the tires.

A minivan on the other hand will likely not take advantage of the increased traction and handling nor appreciate the lower ride quality and faster tire wear.

Tire Speed Rating (Explained) | TireGrades (3)

Can I Put A Lower Speed Rated Tire On My Car?

It’s not recommended to purchase tires with a lower speed rating.

Changing to higher performance tires with a higher speed rating can be done safely, although with some compromises in comfort and tread wear.

Reducing the tire speed rating can reduce performance beyond that designed by the manufacturer of your car or truck. To safely maintain the performance level intended, you should always meet or exceed the tire specifications that your vehicle is intended to meet.

Can You Mix Tire Speed Ratings?

Never mix tire speed ratings. Having different ratings at different positions around your vehicle can create unbalanced and unpredictable handling characteristics.

Can I Use The Same Tire With A Different Speed Rating?

Tire manufacturers offer tire designs with different speed rating codes for the unique needs of various passenger cars and light trucks.

Purchasing four new tires with speed ratings greater than or equal to the recommended rating of the manufacturer is acceptable, but the speed ratings should never be lower than the rating on the tires the car or truck left the factory with.

Does Tire Speed Rating Affect Ride Quality?

In general, higher speed rated tires will have harsher ride characteristics due to the need to reinforce tire sidewalls to cope with excess heat from the increased speed capability.

To safely sustain speeds shown by the speed rating codes, rubber compounds become softer and sidewalls become more rigid.

Best Tire Speed Rating For Trucks And SUVs

Light trucks and large SUVs usually require lower speed rated tires such as N, P, Q, R, S, T, or H. It’s best to stick to the OEM tire size designation that includes the recommended speed rating.

Resources

Below are some links you may find helpful when learning about tires

Final Thoughts

The ratings of tires for speed can be confusing. Especially when most of the speeds that tires are rated to safely maintain are so far beyond the legal speed limit.

These ratings are really less about speed and more about heat resistance, and in a sense, durability.

Our recommendation is to stick with the rating listing in the character sequence of the tire size designation. Performance vehicles can step up to a higher rating to improve handling and traction, but expect treadwear to be lower.

Good luck and happy motoring

Tire Speed Rating (Explained) | TireGrades (2024)

FAQs

Tire Speed Rating (Explained) | TireGrades? ›

The higher the speed rating, the better control and handling you'll have at higher speeds. The speed rating system was developed to help control the safe performance of tires at standardized speeds. A tire's certified speed rating is given a letter from A to Z, ranging from 5km/h (3mph) to above 300 km/h (186 mph).

Which is better, T or H speed rating? ›

H-Rated Tires: This is a perfect, average tire for most sedans and commuter vehicles. It might not seem to fit in our chart, but the tire speed rating “H” is rated for up to 130 mph. T-Rated Tires: This tire is often recommended for family sedans and vans. It's rated for up to 118 mph.

Do H or V rated tires last longer? ›

Sticking with H-rated tires comes at a cost. While we found prices are similar to S- and T-rated tires, H-rated tires didn't last as long in our treadwear test--an average of 49,180 miles, versus 61,080 for our S- and T-rated tires. V-rated tires had an even shorter tread life of 48,260 miles.

How do I know what speed rating I need for my tires? ›

HOW TO FIND YOUR TIRE SPEED RATING. If you're wondering what tire speed rating your vehicle manufacturer recommends, simply look in the manual. You might also find it in the driver's side door jamb, the gas tank hatch, or inside the glove box door – anywhere that lists the right tire code for your vehicle.

What do the letters on tires mean speed rating? ›

Speed ratings are given letters, and each letter represents a speed between 75-186 mph. The most common are L, M, N, P, Q, R, S, T, U, H, V, W, and Z. When buying new tires, choose a set that meets at least the minimum speed rating suggested by the vehicle manufacturer.

Can I mix T and H tires? ›

Light truck drivers should look for symbols N, P, Q, R, S, T or H. If you're replacing tires and think you may want a lower- or higher-speed-rated tire, it's best not to mix and match.

Does tire speed rating really matter? ›

Manufacturers recommend tires with a specific speed rating based on the way your vehicle was engineered to drive. When you change the speed rating, it affects how your vehicle handles braking, cornering and the heat generated from sidewall flexing.

Is it OK to have tires with different speed ratings? ›

Never mix tires with different speed ratings, as this may cause serious handling problems. We don't recommend downgrading the speed rating of your tires, as the vehicle manufacturer has done extensive testing to determine which tires match the various driving characteristics of the vehicle.

Are 15 year old tires still good? ›

Any tire over ten years old is too weak to ensure safe driving. At this age, it's imperative that you replace your tires. For your safety, we will not service any tires aged 10 years or older.

How fast can V rated tires go? ›

149 mph

Can you go up in speed rating on tires? ›

You can fit tyres with a higher speed rating than recommended by your vehicle's manufacturer. If you do this, you don't need to advise your insurance company and you won't face any penalties for doing so.

Can I buy a tire with lower speed rating? ›

Never install a tire, rated lower than the vehicle calls for

Placing a higher rated tire, than is required, is not necessary but will generally increase the handling and braking of many vehicles. Substituting an underrated tire, may save a few dollars. It may also cost the driver far more than can ever be saved.

What does LT mean on a tire? ›

What Does LT Mean on a Tire? An “LT” on your sidewall before that long string of numbers and letters denoting your tire size signifies the tire is a "Light Truck-metric" size; it was designed for use on a vehicle that carries heavy cargo loads or tows a large trailer.

What happens if you go over tire speed rating? ›

What happens if you exceed your tire's speed rating? If you drive faster than the rated speed for your tires you are risking damage to the tires that could cause safety and performance problems down the road.

Are V rated tires better than H rated? ›

V. A V rating indicates the tire is approved for speeds up to 149 mph (240 km/h) under optimal conditions. H and V tires often go hand in hand. While the V rating technically allows for a higher maximum speed, practically speaking, this a distinction without much of a difference (in light of U.S. speed limits).

How do you decode tire ratings? ›

Speed rating: This letter denotes the maximum sustainable speed and is found directly after the load index. For S-speed-rated tires, it's 112 mph; for T, 118 mph. Speed ratings for other tires include Q, 99 mph; H, 130 mph; V, 149 mph; W, 168 mph; Y, 186 mph; and ZR, more than 149 mph.

How fast can you go with T rated tires? ›

118 mph

What is the difference between 84 h and 84 t? ›

They are speed ratings for the tires. “H” means the tire is safe up to 130 mph. The “T” rating means the tire is safe up to 118 mph. There is an “S” rating which is safe to 113 mph, and a “V” rating which means the tire can safely go to 160 mph.

What is the difference between 102T and 102H? ›

102T and 102H are service descriptions. 102 is the Load Index, what this means is, the tire is capable of carrying weight up to, 1,874 lbs per tire. The T and H are speed Ratings, this indicates that a tire is capable of speeds up to, 118 mph and 130 mph (respectively).

What is the difference between 110t and 110h? ›

As you probably already know, T tires are rated up to 118 mph and H tires are good to 130 mph.

References

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