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The wheel and tyre Bible - everything you need to know about how to read your tyres and

wheels with more info on rim sizes, tread

depth and wear, aquaplaning, wheel balancing, aftermarket wheels, alloys, TPM tire pressure monitoring systems and much more!
Page "avigation
Tyre markings Tread types # run-flat tyres $rip, alignment, tyre pressure and TPM %heel dimensions # matching
wheels and tyres
%heel dimensions
&kay! 'f you want to change the wheels on your car, you need to take some things into consideration!
"umber of bolts or studs
't goes without saying that you can(t fit a )-bolt wheel onto a *-bolt wheel hub! ounds obvious, but people
have been known to fork out for an e+pensive set of alloy wheels only to find they( ve got the wrong number of
mounting holes!
Pitch ,ircle -iameter
.ight! o you know how many holes there are! "ow you need to know the P,-, or Pitch ,ircle -iameter! This
is the diameter of the invisible circle formed by scribing a circle that passes through the centre point of each
mounting hole /red in the image here0! 'f you(ve got the right number of holes, but they(re the wrong spacing,
again the wheel 1ust won( t fit!
P,- notation
tud patterns and P,- values are typically listed in this notation 2 *+33)!)4! This means a *-bolt pattern on an
imaginary circle of 33)!)4mm diameter!
,entre spigot size
This is a tricky one! There are two types of a+le5wheel design2 hub-centric and lug-centric!
6or hub-centric designs, the wheel is centred using the spigot before the wheel nuts or lug bolts are tightened!
'n this design the spigot normally sticks out from the a+le of the car which is why it can be used to centre the
wheel beforehand! %ith aftermarket alloy wheels, the spigot hole is often larger than the spigot on the car
which is why you need a spigot-locating or hub-centric ring! This is a plastic or metal doughnut that matches
the outside diameter of the wheel(s spigot hole and the inside diameter of the a+le spigot, and is used to ensure
a snug fit between the two whilst centring the wheel!
6or lug-centric designs, the wheel is centred during the process of tightening the lug nuts, often because the
a+le spigot does not stick out /either at all, or far enough0 to be any use in centring the wheel!
'nset or outset
This is very important! 'gnore this and you can end up with all manner of nasty problems! This is the distance in
mm between the centre line of the wheel rim, and the line through the fi+ing face! 7ou can have inset, outset or
neither! This determines how the suspension and self-centring steering behave! The most obvious problem that
will occur if you get it wrong is that the steering will either become so heavy that you can(t turn the car, or so
light that you need to spend all your time keeping the bugger in a straight line! More mundane problems
through ignoring this measurement can range from wheels that foul parts of the bodywork or suspension, to
high-speed 1udder in the steering because the suspension setup can(t handle that particular type of wheel! This
figure will be stamped on the wheel somewhere as an 8T figure!
'nset and outset are subsets of offset and the relationship is this 2 positive offset 9 inset! "egative offset 9
outset! Typically you can get away with *mm-:mm difference from the vehicle manufacturer specification
before you( ll run into trouble with the wheels fouling the suspension or bodywork! o for e+ample if your stock
wheels have an offset of )4mm and you can only find replacements with a );mm offset, that 4mm difference
ought to &<!
"o offset 'nset wheel &utset wheel
More inset 9 closer to the suspension=
't may sound counterintuitive, but when you increase the inset of a wheel, you decrease the clearance between
the inner edge of the wheel and the suspension components! 'n the e+ample here, the red wheel has a larger
inset - ie! the distance from the mounting face to the centreline of the wheel is larger than that of the green
wheel! The grey blocks indicate a stylised mounting hub, a+le and suspension component! 7ou can see that by
increasing the inset /positive offset0 of the wheel, it pushes the inner edge of the wheel and tyre closer to the
suspension! ,onversely, decreasing the inset moves the wheel and tyre closer to the outside of the vehicle
where it might scrub and rub against the bodywork and wheel arches! 't might help to think of this more in
terms of overall offset rather than inset and outset! The most positive the offset, the more the wheel is tucked
into the car! The more negative the offset, the more the wheel sticks out !
> real e+ample
They say a picture is equivalent to a thousand words, so study this one carefully! 't(s one of the alloy wheels off
one of my old cars! 8nlarged so you can read it is the wheel information described above! 7ou(ll notice it reads
?@A + 3) B4 8T)*?! The ?@A + 3)? part of that is the size of the wheel rim - in this case it has a depth of @
inches and a diameter of 3) inches /see the section directly below here on wheel sizes for a more in-depth
e+planation0! The ?A? symbolises the shape of the tyre bead profile! /see rim contours below0
The ?B4? means that this wheel rim is a double hump design /see hump profiles , below0! The ?8T)*? figure
below that though symbolises that these wheels have a positive offset of )*mm! 'n other words, they have an
inset of )*mm! 'n my case, the info is all stamped on the outside face of the wheel which made it nice and easy
to photograph and e+plain for you! &n most aftermarket wheels, they don(t want to pollute the lines and style of
the outside of the wheel with stamped-on information - it(s more likely to be found inside the rim, or on one of
the inner mounting surfaces!
Trivia note2 8T comes from ?8inpresstiefe? in $erman - rim offset /actually ?inset?, literally0!
The wheel offset calculator
This little 1avascript will help you to understand the different between your old and new wheel and tyre
combination in terms of the offset and how it(s going to affect the overall lateral position of the wheel and tyre!
Technically you can do this calculation with either the wheel width in inches or the tyre section in mm! ' chose
to use the tyre section instead of the wheel width because in almost every case, the tyre e+tends beyond the
wheel rim so it(s the widest part of the wheel and tyre combo! o whilst calculating the clearance 1ust with the
wheel might show no interference between the suspension or bodywork and the wheel, once a tyre is added, it
could interfere as the tyre is wider!
,urrent wheel5tyre "ew wheel5tyre
Tyre ection2 %heel offset2 Tyre ection2 %heel offset2
Matching your tyres to your wheels
&kay! This is a biggie so take a break, get a hot cup of Aava, rela+ and then when you think you(re ready to
handle the comple+ities of tyre matching, carry on! This diagram should help you to figure out what(s going on!
%heel sizes
%heel sizes are e+pressed as %%%+--- sizes! 6or e+ample :+3)! > :+3) wheel is has a rim width of :
inches, and a rim diameter of 3) inches! The width is usually below the width of the tyre for a good match! o a
3C*mm tyre would usually be matched to a wheel which is @ inches wide! /3C*mm is more like : inches, but
that(s across the entire tyre width, not the bead area where the tyre fits the rim!0
tatic loaded radius, outer diameter and rolling circumference
These three measurements are all important to consider when talking about wheels and tyres! They(re all
interlinked! traight from the manufacturer, a tyre is circular and it(s outer diameter /&-0 is based on this
unladen, perfectly circular condition! Because tyres deform under load /flatter on the bottom than they are on
the top when taking the weight of a car0, the vertical radius of a tyre under load is not half the diameter! 't(s
typically about ))D of it /from the centre of the wheel to the road0! 'n addition, a tyre doesn(t roll like a solid
wheelE the steel or fabric belt (rolls along the ground( like a caterpillar tank tread does! Because of this, the
rolling circumference of the tyre isn(t quite what you(d e+pect! The closest appro+imation for this value can be
calculated by taking the outer diameter, subtracting twice the tread depth and multiplying by P'! .oughly
speaking, that(s ;!F@ + &- + P'!
"ow why is this magical value so important= 'f the rolling circumference changes because you(ve mismatched
your new wheels and tyres, then your speedo will lose accuracy and the fuel consumption might go up! The
latter reason is because the manufacturer built the engine5gearbo+ combo for a specific rolling circumference!
Mess with this and the whole thing could start to fall down around you!
A, AA, <, A<, B, P and - 2 Tyre bead profiles 5 rim contour designations!
"o, my keyboard letters weren(t stuck down when ' typed this! The letter that typically sits between the rim
width and diameter figures stamped on the wheel, and indicates the physical shape of the wheel where the tyre
bead meets it! 'n the cross-section on the left you can see the area highlighted in red!
Gike so many topics, the answer as to which letter represents which profile is a long and complicated one!
,ommon wisdom has it that the letter represents the shape! ie! ?A? means the bead profile is the shape of the
letter ?A?! "ot so, although ?A? is the most common profile identifier! )+) vehicles often have ?AA? wheels!
Aaguar vehicles /especially older ones0 have ?<? profile wheels! ome of the very old H% Beetles had ?P? and
?B? profile wheels!
>nyway the reason it is an ?awkward topic to find definitive data on? is very apparent if you(ve ever looked at
tandards Manual of the 8uropean Tyre and .im Technical &rganisation! 't is e+tremely hard to followI There
are pages and pages /@) in total0 on wheel contours and bead profiles alone, including dimensions for every
type of wheel you can think of /and many you can(t0 with at least a dozen tabled dimensions for each! ,asually
looking through the manual is enough to send you to sleep! Gooking at it with some concentration is enough to
make your brain run out of your ears! To try to boil it all down for you, it seems that they divide up the rim into
different sections and have various codes to describe the geometry of each area! 6or e+ample, the ?A? code
makes up the ?.im ,ontour? and specifies rim contour dimensions in a single category of rims called ?,ode 3;
to 4@ on *deg! -rop-,entre .ims?! To give you some idea of 1ust how comple+ 5 anal this process is, '(ve
recreated one such diagram with Photoshop here to try to put you off the scent!
6rom the tables present in this manual, the difference in dimensions between ?A? and ?B? rims is mainly due to
the shape of the rim flange! This is the part in the diagram defined by the . radius and B and P mi n parameters!
Bence my somewhat simpler description 2 tyre bead profiles!
"ote that in my e+ample, the difference between ?A? and ?B? rims is small but not negligible! This area of rim-
to-tyre interface is very critical! Hery small changes in a tyre(s bead profile make large differences in mounting
pressures and rim slip!
?>? and ?-? contour designations come under the category of ?,ycles, Motorcycles, and cooters? but also
show up in the ?'ndustrial Hehicles and Gift Trucks? category! "aturally, the contours have completely different
geometry for the same designation in two different categories!
The ??, ?T?, ?H? and ?%? contour designation codes fall into the ?,ommercial Hehicles, 6lat Base .ims?
category! The ?8?, ?6?, ?$? and ?B? codes fall into the ?,ommercial Hehicles, emi--rop ,entre .ims?
category! >re you beginning to see 1ust how comple+ this all is=
' think the best thing for you, dear reader, is a general rule-of-thumb, and it is this 2 if your wheels are stamped
*A3* and you buy *<3* tyres, rest assured they absolutely won(t fit!
B, B4, 6B, ,B, 8B and 8B4 2 Bump profiles!
More alphabet soup! o you might have 1ust about understood the bit about bead profiles, but there(s another
design feature of wheel rims! The (hump( is actually a bump put on the bead seat /for the bead0 to prevent the
tyre from sliding off the rim while the vehicle is moving! >s with rim contours, there are several different
designations of hump design and configuration, depending on the number and shape of the humps! 6or the
inquisitive reader, here(s a table of the hump designations, and a diagram similar to the one above which
displays in nauseating detail 1ust what a hump really is! The eagle-eyed amongst you /or those paying attention0
will notice that this diagram is an enlarged view of the area around Pmi n in the other 8T.T& diagram above,
because that(s typically where the hump is!
Bead eat ,ontour
&utside 'nside
Bump Bump "ormal B
-ouble Bump Bump Bump B4
6lat Bump 6lat Bump "ormal 6B
-ouble 6lat Bump 6lat Bump 6lat Bump 6B4
,ombination Bump 6lat Bump Bump ,B
8+tended Bump 8+tended Bump 8+tended Bump 8B4
8+tended Bump 4J 8+tended Bump 4J 8+tended Bump 4J 8B4 J
'f you(re obsessive-compulsive and absolutely must know everything there is to know about bead profiles,
humps and rim flanges, you can check out the 8T.T& /8uropean Tyre and .im Technical &rganisation website
from where you can purchase their manuals and documents! $o nuts! Meanwhile, the rest of us will move on to
the ne+t topic!
Gike the site= The page you(re reading is free, but if you like what you see and feel you( ve learned something, a small donation would
be appreciated to help me pay my server space! Thank you!
%hy would ' want to change wheels and tyres anyway=
> good question! tyling and performance are the only two reasons! Most cars come with horrible narrow little
tyres and 3K inch rims! More recently the manufacturers have come to their senses and started putting decent
combinations on factory cars so that(s not so much of a problem any more! The first reason is performance!
peed in corners more specifically! 'f you have larger rims, you get smaller sidewalls on the tyres! >nd if you
have smaller sidewalls, the tyre deforms less under the immense sideways forces involved in cornering!
o how does it all figure out=
Point to note2 3 inch 9 4*!)mm! 7ou need to know that because tyre5wheel manufacturers insist on mi+ing mm
and inches in their ratings!
Gets take an average e+ample2 a car with factory fitted @+3) wheels and 3C*5@* .3)(s on them!
-iameter of wheel in mm 9 3)L4*!) 9 K**!@mm
ection height 9 @*D of 3C*mm 9 34;!4*mm
&uter diameter of the unladen tyre 9 /wheel diameter0 J 4/section height0 9 K**!@mm J 4+34;!4*mm 9
>ppro+imate rolling circumference is ;!F@ + &- + P' 9 ;!F@ + *F@!3mm + P' 9 3:F:!:Fmm
'n other words, for one rotation of the wheel, the car will travel about 3:FCmm along the ground - about 3!Cm!
%ith me so far=
$ood! "ow lets assume ' want some :+3* rims which are slightly wider! > good tyre size for those would be
4;*5*; .3*! /see the section below on aspect ratio to understand why0! -o the same calculation again2
-iameter of wheel in mm 9 3*L4*!) 9 KC3mm
ection height 9 *;D of 4;*mm 9 3;4!*mm
&uter diameter of the unladen tyre 9 /wheel diameter0 J 4/section height0 9 KC3mm J 4+3;4!*mm 9
>ppro+imate rolling circumference is ;!F@ + &- + P' 9 ;!F@ + *C@mm + P' 9 3:@:!KKmm
Gook at the difference from the original tyre and wheel combo to the new one! 3:F:!:Fmm versus 3:@:!KKmm!
The new combo gives a rolling circumference that is 3!@FD less than the original! 'n the world of wheels and
tyres, that(s good! 7ou should aim to be within KD when changing wheels and tyres!
> tyre size calculator!
%ell if all that maths seems a little beyond you, and 1udging by the volume of e-mails ' get on this sub1ect, it
might well be, '( ve made a little Aavascript application below to help you out! elect the tyre size you currently
have, and then the size you(re interested in! ,alculate each tyre size and then click on the click to calculate the
difference button! 't will show you all the circumferences, percentage differences and even speedometer error!
,urrent wheel5tyre "ew wheel5tyre
5 . 5 .
,urrent rolling circumference
"ew rolling circumference
-ifference in circumference2 mm or D
o when your speedo reads :;mph, you(re actually travelling at mph
> peedometer error means an odometer error too!
't stands to reason that if you change the rolling circumference of your wheels and tyres, and the speedometer
no longer reads correctly, that your odometer will also gradually become inaccurate! >ssume for e+ample that
you bought a car brand new and changed the wheels and tyres on day one from 3F*!@*.3) to 4;*5*;.3* - not
an uncommon change! By the calculator above, that makes your speedometer over read by 3!:D! ,onsequently,
the registered odometer reading will also be out by the same value! o for e+ample, when you get to 3;,;;;km
of driving /in the real world0, your odometer will actually read 3;,3:;km! &< so that(s not a huge difference
but it is one of the reasons why most car dealers have a disclaimer on their secondhand vehicles telling you that
they won(t guarantee the displayed mileage! /?,locking? the odometer is the other reason0! &dometer errors due
to mis-matched tyres and wheels will happen on regular odometers as well as the newer digital ones!
> quick word about motorcycle speedometers!
Heering off-topic for a moment, it(s worth pointing out that without e+ception, all motorbike speedometers are
designed to inflate the ego of the rider by at least *D! 'n some cases, they are are much as 3;D optimistic! ie!
the speedometer on a motorbike will always over-read! 3;;mph= "ot likely - you(re actually doing closer to
>spect .atio and .im 5 Pan %idth!
>spect ratio is, as you know if you read the bit above, the ratio of the tyre(s section height to its section width!
The aspect ratio is sometimes referred to as the tyre (series(! o a *;-series tyre means one with an aspect ratio
of *;D! The maths is pretty simple and the resulting figure is stamped on all tyres as part of the sizing
>spect ratio 9
ection width
The actual dimensions of a tyre depend on the rim on which it is mounted! The biggest variable is the tyre(s
section widthE a change of about ;!4? for every ;!*? change in rim width!
The ratio between the section width and the rim width is pretty important! 'f the rim width is too narrow, you
pinch the tyre in and cause it to balloon more in cross-section! 'f the rim width is too wide, you run the risk of
the tyre ripping away at high speed!
6or *;-series tyres and above, the rim width is :;D of the tyre(s section width, rounded off to the nearest ;!*!
6or e+ample, a 4**5*;.3@ tyre, has a design section width of 3;!;)? /4**mm 9 3;!;) inches0! :;D of 3;!;)? is
:!;4C?, which rounded to the nearest half inch, is :?! 'deally then, a 4**5*;.3@ tyres should be mounted on a
:+3@ rim!
6or )*-series tyres and below, the rim width is C*D of the tyre(s section width, rounded off to the nearest ;!*!
6or e+ample, a 4**5)*.3: tyre, still has a design section width of 3;!;)? /4**mm 9 3;!;) inches0! But C*D of
3;!;)? is C!*K)?, which rounded to the nearest half inch, is C!*?! 'deally then, a 4**5)*.3: tyre should be
mounted on an CM+3: rim!
ources2 8T.T& -esign manual! 7okohama Tyres
>n ideal rim-width calculator
Blimey '( m good to you! ,an(t figure that maths out either= ,lick away my friend and ,hris(s .imwidthulator
t m
will tell you what you need to know! &bvious disclaimer 2 the results should be verified with the tyre
7our tyre size2 5 . + up to +
Too wide or too narrow - does it make a difference=
$iven all the information above, you ought to know one last thing!
> rim that is too narrow in relation to the tyre width will allow the tyre to distort e+cessively sideways under
fast cornering! &n the other hand, unduly wide rims on an ordinary car tend to give rather a harsh ride because
the sidewalls have not got enough curvature to make them fle+ over bumps and potholes! That(s why there is a
range of rim sizes for each tyre size in my .imwidthulator above! Put a 3C*5@*.3) tyre on a rim narrower than
*inches or wider than @!*inches and suffer the consequences!
The Plus &ne concept
The plus one concept describes the proper sizing up of a wheel and tyre combo without all that spiel '( ve gone
through above! Basically, each time you add 3 inch to the wheel diameter, add 4;mm to the tyre width and
subtract 3;D from the aspect ratio! This compensates nicely for the increases in rim width that generally
accompany increases in diameter too! By using a larger diameter wheel with a lower profile tyre it(s possible to
properly maintain the overall rolling circumference, keeping odometer and speedometer changes negligible! By
using a tyre with a shorter sidewall, you gain quickness in steering response and better lateral stability! The
visual appeal is obvious, most wheels look better than the sidewall of the tyre, so the more wheel and less
sidewall there is, the better it looks!
Tyre size table up to 3:? wheels
Bere, for those of you who can(t or won(t calculate your tyre size, is a table of equivalent tyres! These all give
rolling circumferences within a few mm of each other and would mostly be acceptable, depending on the wheel
rim size you(re after!
C; 8.'8 :* 8.'8 :; 8.'8 @* 8.'8 @; 8.'8 ** 8.'8 *; 8.'8
3K*5C; . 3K - 3)*5:; . 3K - 3:*5@; . 3K - -
- - 3**5:; . 3K 3@*5@* . 3K - - -
- - - 3:*5@* . 3K - - -
3)*5C; . 3K - 3**5:; . 3K 3:*5@* . 3K 3C*5@; . 3K 3C*5** . 3) -
- - 3@*5:; . 3K 3@*5@* . 3) 3:*5@; . 3) - -
- - 3:*5:; . 3K - - - -
3**5C; . 3K 3@*5:* . 3K 3:*5:; . 3K 3@*5@* . 3) 3:*5@; . 3) 3F*5** . 3) 3F*5*; . 3*
- - 3C*5:; . 3K 3:*5@* . 3) 3C*5@; . 3) 3C*5** . 3* -
- - 3@*5:; . 3) - 3F*5@; . 3) - -
3@*5C; . 3K - 3C*5:; . 3K 3:*5@* . 3) 3F*5@; . 3) 4;*5** . 3) 4;*5*; . 3*
- - 3@*5:; . 3K 3C*5@* . 3) 4;*5@; . 3) 3C*5** . 3* 3F*5*; . 3@
- - 3:*5:; .3) - - 3F*5** . 3* -
- - - - - 4;*5** .3* -
3:*5C; . 3K 3:*5:* . 3) 3:*5:; . 3) 3C*5@* . 3) 4;*5@; . 3) 3F*5** . 3* 43*5*; . 3@
- - 3C*5:; . 3) 3F*5@* . 3) 43*5@; . 3) 4;*5** . 3* 3F*5*; . 3@
- - - 3C*5@* . 3* 3F*5@; . 3* - 4;*5*; . 3@
3C*5C; . 3K 3C*5:* . 3) 3C*5:; . 3) 3F*5@* . 3) 43*5@; . 3) 4;*5** . 3@ 4;*5*; . 3@
- - 3F*5:; . 3) 3C*5@* . 3* 44*5@; . 3) - 44*5*; . 3@
- - - 3F*5@* . 3* 3F*5@; . 3* - 4;*5*; . 3:
- - - - 4;*5@; . 3* - -
- - - - 43*5@; . 3* - -
o that(s it then=
7es - that(s it! > little time with a calculator, a pen and some paper will enable to you confidently stride into
your local tyre5wheel supplier and state e+actly what you want!
> ,ase study to help you out
Gead by e+ample - that(s a good motto! My ,ase tudy will walk you through the entire process of selecting a
new set of wheels and tyres so you can get an idea of what is involved!
&versizing tyres
'f you want the fat look but don(t want to go bonkers with new wheels, you can oversize the tyres on the rims
usually by about 4;mm /to be safe0! o if your standard tyres are 3C*5@; .3)s, you can oversize them to about
4;*mm! But make sure you recalculate the percentage value to keep the sidewall height the same!
6itment guides
.ochford Tyres has an e+cellent fitment guide page where they list a
ton of combinations and permutations of wheels and tyres for all the popular makes and models! The guide is
designed to give you an idea of wheel and tyre sizes that will keep you close to spec for rolling circumference!
Nse the (>lloy %heel earch( bo+ at the top-left of their site! >s an added bonus, if you decide to buy anything
from them, use the at the checkout to get *D offI weetI
>nd finally, you might like to check out this little program written by Brian ,assidy,which helps with tyre size
read more2 http255www!carbibles!com5tyreObibleOpg)!htmlPi+zz3QPN-d41-