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What Do Tire Sizes Mean?
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What Do Tire Sizes Mean?

Driving is typically a big part of life for us if we own a car. Most use it to commute. I personally have to drive an hour each way to get to work and back. It's a fact of life for many people. With this fact of life comes one of the necessary parts of any vehicle owners responsibility and inevitable part of regular maintenance which is getting new tires. For us Northern folk, we may have to switch tires more often to accommodate the snow and ice as well. I actually remember someone in Florida looking at our tires and asking where we were from while at the same time being amazed at how "meaty" they looked.

Have you ever looked for tires and wondered what the heck they were talking about with the size? I mean, it might as well be Chinese right? Well hopefully you will take away from this, the theory behind a tire size and remember it for down the road.

As with any unit of measurement, there is going to be an Imperial (American) and Metric (Canada and the rest of the world) size. It's the exact same format, just vastly large differences in numerical values.

We'll start out with the easier version: Imperial (American). Typically the standard form of nomenclature is:

35/12.5/17

This means: 35 inches tall, 12.5 inches wide, and it is meant for a 17 inch rim. It can also be written SLIGHTLY different:

35/1250 - 17R

(Just for the record, this wouldn't be a standard size tire for a car at all. This would typically be found on a Jeep or truck. At one time I had a 37/13.5/17 tire on my Jeep!)

Now, for the first time ever, the Metric conversion which is a little bit more difficult. Now, a typical metric tire size may be:

235/55/R18

What this means is: 235 is the width of the tread (in millimetres), 55 is the ratio for the tire side wall. What this means is that if the width is 235, the tire wall would be 55% of that length, or 129.25 so ~130mm, and the 18 is the rim size (in inches [yes, Canadians couldn't let go of the Imperial system all together]).

So these are the two forms of tire sizes that you'll typically come across. Hopefully you'll be able to remember this for next time as you're searching for tires so you know what you're talking about!

I hope this has been valuable to you and that you're able to take away some knowledge.


Street Talk

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