A tire's sidewall showing tire size, load index, and speed rating.

tire buying guides

Tire speed rating guide

When most people purchase tires, they are usually concerned about price, size, and how many miles they might last. People don't pay much attention to the speed ratings of the tires. However, the speed rating should be a crucial part of the selection process when you are buying new tires.

What are tire speed ratings?

When tire speed ratings were first developed in Europe, they were meant to match the speed capability of tires with the capability of the vehicles they were fitted on. This was especially important on Germany's speed limitless Autobahns. If the tires in question exceeded their maximum speed capability by a large amount, they were at risk of failing, causing serious risk to the safety of both driver and passengers. Today, speed ratings are used to inform both automakers and vehicle owners of the maximum speed capability of their tires.

1960s Porsche 911 at Duck Castle in Germany

How are speed ratings measured?

The tire manufacturers rely on a series of controlled laboratory tests to verify the set maximum operating speed for a specific tire. The tire manufacturer sets a maximum operating speed based on several factors including the application of the tire, the compounds used to create it, and the probability of failure at speeds deemed excessive for the tire.

Speed ratings are verified by running tires at ever-increasing speeds of 6.2 mph steps in 10-minute increments. Engineers place a large diameter metal drum against the tire during the test to simulate the appropriate load. The test continues until the manufacturer achieves the desired speed rating for that particular tire.

SimpleTire Chart for Speed Rating Maximum Speed

How speed ratings affect my tires' performance

Speed ratings are merely a formal indicator of the top speeds the tires can safely handle. In other words, they themselves don't affect the performance but simply measure it. You can find the speed rating recommended for your vehicle in the owner's manual. As a safety precaution to the driver and occupants, the maximum operating speed of the vehicle is usually limited to the lowest speed rating given for the tires fitted on the vehicle.

How to find my tires' speed rating?

Speed ratings are included on the sidewalls of nearly every tire made in the United States, Canada, Europe, and other parts of the world. The rating is included within a special alphanumeric code that also denotes the tire's width, sidewall height, and wheel diameter size. This code appears on the sidewall in one of the following formats, with "S" denoting the speed rating:

225/50R16 89S

Each speed rating is assigned an alphabetical letter, ranging from "L" for the lowest-rated tire (75 mph) to (Y), reserved for extreme sports cars capable of speeds over 186 mph. Most daily drivers use ratings "P" (93 mph) through "T" (118 mph) for family sedans, vans, and light-duty trucks. Sports sedans and coupes regularly use "V" rated tires (149 mph) created from performance-oriented compounds.

Pirelli on a Porsche showing Speed Rating

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