Help me choose the right tire
Find your size on your tire
A tire’s sidewall is simply the outer and inner “walls” on the sides of a tire. Every sidewall has its own unique information that is divided into three main sections:
1. Tire Specs
This describes the fundamental characteristics of your tire. Size, construction, speed rating and more.
This designates the type of vehicle the tire fits. P is for passenger metric. Other letters are LT (light truck), T (temporary spare) and ST (special trailers). If your tire has no letter, this signifies a Euro “metric” size. P-metric and Euro-metric tires in the same size are equivalent in their dimensions but may have slight differences in load capacity and inflation pressure recommendations.
Also called Section Width, this is the width of the tire (or thickness) in millimeters, if measured from a tire’s widest point of its outer sidewall to the widest point of its inner sidewall. Why millimeters? It originated in Europe, which uses the metric system.
This identifies the tire’s aspect ratio, which is the relationship of the tire’s sidewall height to the tire’s width. In this example, the sidewall height of the tire is 55% of its width. The lower the ratio, the smaller the sidewall height, which means better cornering, but a rougher ride.
This is the tire’s internal construction, which is “radial.” Almost every tire on the road has radial construction, which means the cords of the carcass plies inside the tire “radiate” directly across from one side of the tire to the other. Other letters used are D, for diagonal construction, and B, for belted.
This number (in inches) indicates that the tire is designed to fit on a wheel with a 18-inch diameter.
This indicates how much weight the tire is certified to carry at maximum safe inflation. It doesn’t mean 97 pounds, because it’s actually an assigned value that corresponds with its “actual” load capacity found on a load index chart. If you look up 97 on the chart, you’ll find 1,609 pounds.
This indicates the maximum safe speed at which a tire is certified to carry a load under specified conditions. Speed ratings range from A (lowest) to Y (highest), with one exception: H falls between U and V. Exceeding the lawful speed limit is neither recommended or endorsed.
2. Department of Transportation Safety Code
This assures that your tire complies with all Department of Transportation (DOT) safety standards. After the DOT insignia is your tire’s identification number, which begins with the tire’s manufacturer and plant code where the tire was manufactured (two numbers or letters). The ninth and tenth characters tell the week the tire was manufactured. The final number(s) signifies the year the tire was manufactured.
Department of Transportation Safety Code
Tire's Manufacturer and plant code
Denotes tire size
Optional characters that identify brand and other significant characteristics of the tire
Denotes week the tire was produced
Denotes year the tire was manufactured
3. UTQG Code
The Uniform Tire Quality Grading (UTQG) was established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to test tires following government prescribed test methods and then grade each tire on three main components:
- Treadwear: This is the wear rate of the tire, comparable only to other tires within a tire manufacturer’s line. 100 is the baseline grade. Therefore a tire with 200 would theoretically last twice as long on the government’s course compared to a tire with 100.
- Traction: Traction grades are AA, A, B and C (with AA being the highest grade). They represent the tire’s ability to stop straight on wet pavement as measure on a specified government track. Any tire rated under C is considered unacceptable for road travel.
- Temperature: The temperature grades, from highest to lowest, are A, B and C. These represent the tire’s ability to dissipate heat under controlled indoor test conditions. Any tire rated below C is considered unacceptable.
Some tires have unique benefits, as showcased with specific icons.
The letters M and S (M +S) indicate that the tire meets the Rubber Manufacturers Association’s standards for a mud and snow tire. The letters can be found in the following combinations: M+S, M/S, and M&S. All-season tires carry this mark.
Find your tire size in your vehicle owner’s manual or on your door
- Find the information in your vehicle owner’s manual in the glove compartment or on the tire information sticker on your driver’s side door.
- Usually those elements contain all the information related to your tire size and specifications as well as the appropriate tire pressure.
See the “Find your tire size on your tire” tab for a full description of the numbers and letters.
What are OE tires?
OE stands for “Original Equipment”, meaning that the tires were approved by your vehicle manufacturer to come standard on your vehicle.
Some vehicle manufacturers, such as Audi, BMW, Mercedes, and others, equip their vehicles with tires that are specifically made for their brand. These tires have a special OE marking on the sidewall. In this case, Michelin recommends to replace tires on your vehicle only with tires equipped with necessary OE marking.
Table of OE markings by vehicle brand :
- = BMW, Mini
- MO = Mercedes
- AO = Audi
- VO = Volkswagen
- N0, N1, N2, N3, N4 = Porsche
- MO1 = AMG
- RO1 = QUATTRO
What should you think about when choosing a tire?
Once you know what size tires can fit your car, you need to be able to choose among the different types of tires. Tires may look similar, but they can be optimized to perform for very different conditions and usages.
Think about the following things:
- What weather conditions do I drive in? What are the worst situations I may face?
- Where will I be driving? City streets, long highways, or forest paths require different performance characteristics.
- What is your driving style : do you like to feel every curve or be cushioned from the road?
Read the rest of our tips to dive deeper into each question.
What weather conditions do you drive in?
Your tires have to handle a wide variety of climatic conditions: rain, high heat, snow, ice and so on. These all affect tire performance, so to make sure you stay safe you need to buy tires that will perform not only in your most common climate conditions, but also in the most extreme conditions that you will face.
The climate is relatively warm:
Temperature does not go below freezing....
You can choose to buy all season tires and/or summer tires.
The climate is seasonal:
In winter, temperature goes below freezing....
To maximize your safety in all conditions you need:
- One set of summer tires and
- One set of winter tires.
- One set of all-season tires.
The climate is seasonal with severe winter:
Temperature goes below freezing with heavy snow or ice.
To maximize your safety in all conditions we recommend one set of summer or all-season tires and one set of winter tires and one set of winter tires. All-season tires may not be sufficient for the severe winter conditions in your area.
What type of roads?
Different usage conditions require different tire characteristics.
For mainly city driving, look for:
- Braking distance: Use tires with the optimum braking distance, on both dry and wet roads.
- Longevity: City driving with its numerous stops and starts puts great demands on the tire. Choose tires with increased longevity.
- Fuel economy: Tires with low rolling resistance save fuel.
For mainly road or highway driving, look for:
- Braking distance at high speed: For maximum safety, select tires that provide optimum braking distance on both dry and wet roads.
- Comfort: For long trips, choose tires that offer comfort both in terms of vibration and noise level.
- Handling: Select tires that provide excellent grip and stability.
If you drive on unpaved roads:
- look for tires that provide off-road traction and maximum durability.
What is your driving style?
To make sure that you enjoy your drive, look for tires that match the way you like to drive.
If you like a quiet comfortable ride, look for tires that specifically mention comfort, smooth ride, or low road noise. Generally speaking touring tours with lower speed rating (S, T or H ratings on the sidewall) are optimized for more comfort instead of more speed – it's recommended to never go below the speed rating of the specified by the manufacturer of your vehicle. Also, avoid aggressive tread designs – they may look cool but can generate lots of road noise .
If you like to feel every curve, look for tires that mention great handling or steering precision.
These are often called high-performance tires and have higher speed ratings, meaning that they are optimized to provide better control and a stiffer, more precise ride.
What are "tire performance characteristics"?
To ensure effectiveness, tires need to deliver numerous, often conflicting, performance characteristics. Improving one of these performances must not be to the detriment of the others.
How do I choose between versions of a tire line?
Each of our tire lines is made in a selection of sizes to fit appropriate vehicles. Sometimes a tire line will have several versions of the same tire size but with different technical specifications such as speed ratings (ex: S, T, H, V, W, Y, etc.), load index (ex : 91, 94, XL, etc.), or OE markings (designating that a version was specifically designed for a vehicle manufacturer, ex : = BMW or Mini, MO = Mercedes, etc). These technical specifications are important details that can determine whether or not that version is compatible with your vehicle and the way you drive.
If several versions are compatible with your vehicle, we recommend that you choose the version with the same specifications as your original equipment tires.
You can also safely select a version with higher speed rating or load index; however, higher speed or load capability can negatively impact tread life and ride comfort.
Can I buy a tire size different from the one that was original equipment on my vehicle?
For maximum safety, Michelin recommends to only replace your tires with the same size recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.
- Never choose a tire that is smaller in size or has less load-carrying capacity than the tire that came with the vehicle.
- Tires should always be replaced with the same size designation — or approved options — as recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.
- The correct tire size designated for your vehicle should always be verified with the information in your vehicle owner’s manual in the glove compartment or on the tire information sticker on your driver’s side door.
Can I mix different types of tires?
- For maximum safety and best all-around performance, the same type of tire should always be used on all wheel positions.
- Mixing tires of different size designations, constructions, and stages of wear may affect vehicle handling and stability.
- The one exception to this rule are vehicles that were intentionally fitted by the vehicle manufacturer with different size tires on the front and rear axles.
Four-wheel drive vehicles
If no instructions for tire mixing appear in the vehicle owner’s manual, adhere to the following guidelines:
- Do not mix sizes. All four tires must be the same tire size.
- Do not mix radial and bias-ply tires. All four must be either radial or bias-ply.
- Be sure that the outside circumferences of all four tires are within 1” of each other.
- Do not mix tread patterns, such as all-terrain and all-season.
Don’t mix radial and non-radial tires
- However, if mixing tires is unavoidable, the two radials must be installed on the rear axle and the two non-radials on the front axle.
Can I buy tires with different speed ratings?
Yes you can buy tires with equal or greater speed ratings than your original equipment tires.
However, tire speed ratings make a difference not only in regards to speed, but in regards to ride comfort, wear, and cornering ability.
The impact of a higher speed rating:
- Typically, the higher the speed rating, the better the grip and stopping power, but the lower the tread life.
The impact of a lower speed rating :
Athough we don’t recommend it, if you use a tire with a speed rating lower than your vehicle’s original tires, you will reduce your vehicle’s top speed limit to the tires’ speed rating.
The handling of a performance vehicle may be different when the replacement tires are not the same speed rating. Refer to the vehicle owner’s manual to identify any tire speed rating restriction that could affect operation of the vehicle.
Can you mix different speed ratings on your vehicle?
For best performance, use the same size and type of tire on all four wheel positions. But if you do mount tires with different speed ratings on your vehicle, make sure that:
- The lower speed-rated tires should always be placed on the front axle. This is to prevent potential over-steering (your vehicle doesn’t follow your steering, turns more sharply and may spin).
How to read speed ratings:
- Tire speed ratings range from A (the lowest) to Y (the highest). However, the chart is not completely in alphabetical order. For example, H for high speed is between U and V.
Can I mount tires with a different load capacity?
- You can only mount a tire of equivalent load or higher load than indicated for your vehicle.
- The higher the tire's load index number, the greater its load carrying capacity. Typically, the load indexes of the tires used on passenger cars and light trucks range from 70 to 130.
Can I mount just two new tires?
Yes – however Michelin recommends replacing all four tires at the same time.
- When replacing only two new tires, be sure that the new tires are the same size and tire type as the current tires
- Make sure that the dealer always installs the new tires on the rear axle of the vehicle. The new tires will provide better grip in wet conditions than your older tires. This will help reduce the potential for the vehicle to fishtail and lose stability in wet conditions
Should I buy used tires?
Avoid used tires. You can never know what hazards and abuse a previously owned tire has suffered. Internal damage can lead to dangerous tire failure.
What is my tire's production date (DOT)?
Department of Transportation Safety Code
After the DOT insignia is your tire’s identification number:
- The tire’s manufacturer and plant code where the tire was manufactured (two numbers or letters).
- The week the tire was manufactured (the ninth and tenth characters)
- The year the tire was manufactured (the final number(s))
DOT signifies that the tire complies with the United States Department of Transportation tire safety standards, and is approved for highway use.
DOT M5H3 459X 065
The first two digits following DOT designate the tire's manufacturer and plant code. The third and fourth characters denote the tire size. The fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth (optional) characters identify the brand and other significant characteristics of the tire. The ninth and tenth characters denote the week the tire was produced. The final number(s) signifies the year in which the tire was manufactured.
For Michelin brand tires, DOT markings related to the week and year of production will have an additional symbol for the decade of the 1990s. It will be shown as a triangle following these last three numbers.
Beginning in year 2000, an additional digit was added to the serial number to allow the year of production to have two digits.
What information should you prepare before going?
The more prepared you are before coming to the dealer, the more assured you can be to find the right tire for your driving needs and have confidence in your purchase.
First, make sure you know what tire size is compatible with your vehicle using our Tire Selector tool, looking on your current tires, or in your vehicle’s manual or tire information door sticker.
Next, think about what you need your tires to be able to do for you : what weather or road conditions will you drive in, how you like to drive, etc.
- If you’ve done all of this using our Tire Selector tool, you can easily print out your search information or send it to your mobile / email. The information pack will have all the information on your search, your selected product, and other compatible alternatives .
5 questions to ask the dealer
- What type of tires do you recommend for my vehicle and my specific driving needs (weather conditions, types of roads, driving style, etc.)?
- For that type of tire, what specific product do you recommend?
- Why do you recommend this tire over others?
- Does its price include mounting and balancing?
- Are any other services included?
Availability and price
- If a tire you’ve selected is not immediately available at your dealer, you can ask them to order it.
- Remember that a good price is not always a good value : tire that lasts longer can help you save on fuel and help keep you safe, offering better value in the long run.