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.
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.
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 :
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.
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.