Tire Buying Guides

LT Tires: What Are They and Why Are They Used?

Last updated 1/19/2023 - Originally published 1/19/2023
Written by SimpleTire

If you own a truck, SUV, or van, you may have noticed the letter "LT" embossed on your tires before the string of numbers and letters indicating the tire size. You may have also made an effort to comprehend what LT tires are and why they are used. Finding the right tires for your vehicle, on the other hand, can cause a lot of confusion and frustration for almost every driver.

Let us look at what” LT” tires means and whether you should consider getting a set if you're in the market for new tires. This is necessary because it is a critical classification based on the weight of your vehicle and how it is used.

What is an LT Tire?

LT stands for "light truck," which refers to a particular class of passenger tire, but the goal of designing LT tires is for very specific heavy-duty tasks. An LT tire is essentially a reinforced tire with thicker, stiffer sidewalls and a deeper tread compared to the p-metric tire commonly used for passenger vehicles. These tires have stronger internal cords and belts that allow them to support the added weight of trucks and other larger vehicles. The rubber composition may vary as well because LT tires will generate more heat as a result of carrying more weight.

Furthermore, you can sometimes identify the LT tires with their squared-off shoulders and deeper, more aggressive tread patterns.

What is the Purpose of an LT Tire?

For more challenging driving conditions, LT-metric tires are appropriate and their load capacities of 1/2 ton, 3/4 ton, and 1 ton are also available. Moreover, an LT tire on a truck or car indicates that they are more efficient when hauling, working, and driving on unpaved roads.

What Types of Vehicles Typically Use LT Tires?

The Tire and Rim Association has standardized the designation LT-Metric for a "light truck" type tire. LT tires are designed for trucks, but full-size SUVs and vans that frequently travel off-road also utilize these tires to carry heavy loads.

Understanding LT Tire Sizes

Older tire models and commercial tires frequently used the LT tire size. Today, it is still utilized in a large number of commercial tires in addition to off-road, heavy cargo, trailer, and tires with higher sidewall ratios than usual. This is one of the explanations for the variety of names this size goes by, including LT, Wide Base, Numeric, and Floatation sizes.

Numeric tires, such as trailer tires, are used for heavy cargo or towing. Wide Base tires have a 16.5 inch rim or higher or are taller (so these would fall under the higher sidewall ratio). A "Flotation Light Truck" tire has the tire size ending in LT. These are off-road tires that are designed to drive on loose surfaces such as sand or dirt (they "float" on top of these surfaces).

What Do the Values Represent?

The letters "LT" will appear before the size number sequence on LT-Metric tires. We can break down the LT metric size LT265/65R17 in the following way:

  • LT: As mentioned above The Tire and Rim Association has standardized the term "light truck" type tire as "LT-Metric."
  • 265: First number after “LT’ refers to tire width which is nominal width from one sidewall to another.
  • 65: The next number after the slash mark is the tire's aspect ratio; here it is 65 which essentially tells you how tall your tire's profile is. Aspect ratios are presented as percentages. The aspect ratio of a tire is calculated by dividing its height off the rim by its width.
  • R: Following the aspect ratio is a letter indicating the type of internal construction that keeps your tire stable. Here R represents the radial construction.
  • 17: Number after R represents the rim diameter or wheel size in inches. Here it is 17 inches.

There is one more sizing type to be aware of, especially if you are looking for off-road tires for a light truck or SUV. Given that they are in-inch measurements, this will not be the same as a metric size with the prefix "LT." In fact, the "LT" notation here typically comes after the size rather than before it. An LT at the end of the tire size designates a special "Flotation Light Truck" tire capable of towing and handling heavy loads.

Let’s analyze the LT tire size 33X12.50R17LT in order to better understand this.

  • 33: The first number in these sizes represents the tire's overall diameter, or how big it is when inflated (but not under load). In this case, it's 33 inches.
  • 12.50: The second number in the size represents the section width, or how wide the tire is from sidewall to sidewall. (The first number in metric sizes indicates this.) In this case, it's 12 and a half inches wide.
  • 17: Like in metric sizes, the third number represents the rim or wheel size in inches, in this case 17 inches.


Superior performance for heavier vehicles is what the term "LT tire" means for drivers of light trucks, SUVs, and vans. The tire's sidewalls and bottom are reinforced with materials, which reduce sway and increase load capacity. When the vehicle is hauling heavy cargo, the internal steel belt structure, wider tread, and thicker rubber all help to keep the vehicle stable. In summary, it's critical to understand LT when changing tires.

Yes, LT tire sizes are still used today for off-road tires, heavy cargo or trailer tires, or tires with higher sidewall ratios than usual and also in many commercial tires.

The majority of passenger tires have metric or "P-metric" sizing. However, there is a different system of sizing available called LT sizing, which is mainly used for light truck and off-road tires. You can calculate how much clearance the tire will have in your wheel well using the diameter.

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