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Decoding Tires and Wheels

You hit a big pothole and hear that distinctive “womp” of a flat tire. You get out to check—the rim is cracked, too. You call a few shops. Your dealership. You get a few price quotes—all outrageous. You want to look online to find better prices, but you have no idea where to start. You put in your make and model and are faced with a full page of choices and it all looks like gibberish. Ugh!

Don’t worry, decoding tire and wheel size is easy once you have a reference for what you’re looking at.


The size of your tire, assuming your vehicle is stock, is going to be on a sticker on the driver-side door frame. It will also be in the owner’s manual. The sticker should give you information on the front, rear, and spare tire sizes. More than likely the front and rear tires will be the same; spares are all over the place.

All of this info is also molded onto the tire. If you have modified your vehicle and you know the tires are different, look on the sidewall.

The size will read something like this: P245/50R17 98V. None of that makes sense, right? Here’s the breakdown.

Other markings you will sometimes see are “M+S” or “M/S” for mud and snow, or “AT” for all terrain and “AS” for all season. Most vehicles will come with “AS” tires.

If you have run-flat tires on the other wheels, it's unsafe to replace one with a standard tire. Run-flats are marked with ZP, RFT, SEAL, or sometimes a flat tire with an arrow pointing away.


Finding this is going to be a little more difficult. But there is less information to decode, and the tire already gives you some of it. Once you find it, most likely on the backside of the rim itself, it will look something like this: 7.5Jx17H2 ET44.

The hole pattern is also important. It's self-explanatory—four, five, six, or eight holes for most commuter vehicles. The pitch circle diameter (PCD) is the measurement from the center of one bolt hole to the one across from it. This is pretty standard for wheel size and hole pattern.

The center bore and axle spigot need to match too. However, most will fit if the wheel size and bolt pattern match.

So go save a few dollars. Use the power of the internet and this new knowledge to get the best deal on your new wheels.

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