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Tires: How do you tell the difference? Viewed 75,686 timesBy: Thomas Broschinsky
Published for Logan, Utah (Area-Info.net Mar. 28, 2012)
P235/70R16 104S vs. P235/70R16 104T…Is there really a difference?
The answer to this question is yes. But, the real question is, how much of a difference. Is there enough of a difference to merit a price difference? Is one safer than the other? All legitimate questions with real answers.
Let’s start with breaking down what those numbers mean.
P = P-Metric not Passenger
This is common misconception. Many years ago tires use to only be in European Metrics which are very similar to what they are now with the difference now being in load rating.
235 = Width of the tire in millimeters
70 = Indicates the height of your sidewall as a percentage of the width. So, this particular tires sidewall is 70% of the width (235 mm). Or, that the sidewall above and below the rim is 6.4 inches.
R = Radial
There are still some tires out there that are a bias-ply but the majority of the tire market is a radial tire.
16 = Rim size in inches
104 = This number references to a load rating index (found here) stating how much weight each tire can hold at a max psi.
S & T = These two letters designate the speed rating of the tire. In a previous post I mentioned how a speed rating designates how stiff the tire is. (Click here to view post.) It does this by referring to a speed that the Rubber Manufacture Association and your vehicles manufacture decide on as the fastest speed your vehicle can maintain and still have the tires be safe. Now, that doesn’t mean you can go out and cruise down the road at 120+ mpg thinking your tires will handle it. What it means is that your tires sidewalls won’t flex so much that they will roll off your tire as you corner or that going down the interstate you don’t need to worry about your tire blowing out when you hit a bump.
These letters also provide you with the ability to get a tire that will last you for the guaranteed mileage. Take for example two vehicles, same in nearly every way except for one is a sport package and one is the base package. The sport packages typically have a stiffer suspension than base models. When it comes to tires, if you get too soft of a tire (tires with a slower speed rating than recommended) it will wear to fast. You also run the risk of the tire affecting handling which puts you, your passengers, and other drivers at risk.
Due to the difference in stiffness of tires, there will be price differences. The ones I have seen vary the most are with Toyota’s and Mazda’s. Their base packages generally run an H speed rating, but their sport packages will run a V rating. Depending on the width of your rim and rim the price difference can be as much as $50 per tire.
The best thing to do when you are looking for new tires is first start with the driver side door. Either on the door itself or the door frame, there will be a placard indicating the size of the tire. Newer vehicles typically will have the speed ratings. In the event yours does not a quick visit to a local tire store and an associate there can help you.
Below are some additional links about speed ratings and load indexes.
Speed Rating & Load Index
How to Read a Sidewall
Additional Tire Tips
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