What Does the T or H Mean on Tires? (Speed Ratings)

The amount of letters and numbers on a tire sidewall can bring anyone to ask, “What does the T or H mean on tires?” Depending on whether you are a nouveau or savvy car owner, these markings could look like an algebraic equation waiting to be solved or a bunch of helpful codes. This article will help to fill that knowledge gap and make the vast array of information more accessible for everyone.

What does the H or T mean on tires? The “T” or “H” on tires pertain to their speed ratings. A tire rated T can sustain speeds up to 118 mph (193 km/h) while a tire rated H can support 130 mph (215 km/h). These markings should be noted and adhered to.

This article will explain what the H and T on tires mean. This article will also list our top picks for H- and T-rated tire for 2021. You can find out more about H/T tires in this guide.


Car Tire Close-Up

Tire sidewall markings decoded

We are now interested in understanding the service description for tires so we may as well try to decipher all sidewall markings. Sidewall markings contain a wealth of useful information about your stock tires or aftermarket tires.

Metric Sizing

The sidewall marking’s first three (3) digits indicate the tire width measured in millimeters. It is not to be confused with tread width, which is dependent on a tire’s aspect ratio and varies between brands. These numbers are usually preceded by a letter (either a C, P, or LT), which indicates the type of vehicle compatible with the tire.

The aspect ratio is the second pair after the tire width. This number pair indicates the sidewall height, measured from the tire to its top. It is displayed in percentage.

The third pair of numbers is the rim diameter. It may or not come with a letter. Sometimes, the letter with the rim size indicates tire construction. Usually, an ‘R’ before the number pair means a radial ply construction, while a “B” or “D” means either a bias or diagonal ply construction. For new vehicles, it is crucial to adhere to the rim diameter for replacing stock rubber.

Flotation Sizing

Metric sizing on tire sidewalls is usually in this format – P205/65 R16. But the smaller tires on tractors, golf carts, and the like utilize flotation sizing – a system using imperial (inches) instead of metric units. The format for this system looks something like this – 31X10.50R15LT. The first, second and last numbers pair tell you the tire height, tread width and rim diameter.

Numeric and Alphanumeric Sizing

Alphanumeric and numeric sizing are obsolete, phased-out versions the current metric sizing and flotation systems. Alphanumeric sizing (as its name suggests) was somewhat confusing – examples are A76-14 and L78-16. Contrary to metric sizing the letter in alphanumeric format refers to both tire size and weight capacity. Conversely, numeric sizing only consisted of two number pairs denoting tire and rim size and was used for cars and some farm applications until the ’70s.

Tire Service Description – Load Index

The load index refers to the number pair located on the service description section of your tire sidewall marks. You can see it as 99H, or any combination of letters and numbers. Since the assigned numerical value denotes a tire’s load-carrying capabilities, a higher load index means a higher capacity. Below is a table showing tire load indexes from 70 to 126, along with their equivalent values in kilograms and pounds.

Load Index Pounds (lbs) Kilograms (Kg)
70 739 335
71 761 345
72 783 355
73 805 365
74 827 375
75 853 387
76 882 400
77 908 412
78 937 425
79 963 437
80 992 450
81 1,019 462
82 1,047 475
83 1,074 487
84 1,102 500
85 1,135 515
86 1,168 530
87 1,201 545
88 1,235 560
89 1,279 580
90 1,323 600
91 1,356 615
92 1,389 630
93 1,433 650
94 1,477 670
95 1,521 690
96 1,565 710
97 1,609 730
98 1,653 750
99 1,709 775
100 1,764 800
101 1,819 825
102 1,874 850
103 1,929 875
104 1,984 900
105 2,039 925
106 2,094 950
107 2,149 975
108 2,205 1,000
109 2,271 1,030
110 2,337 1,060
111 2,403 1,090
112 2,469 1,120
113 2,535 1,150
114 2,601 1,180
115 2,679 1,215
116 2,756 1,250
117 2,833 1,285
118 2,910 1,320
119 2,998 1,360
120 3,086 1,400
121 3,197 1,450
122 3,307 1,500
123 3,417 1,550
124 3,527 1,600
125 3,638 1,650
126 3,748 1,700

You should temper information provided by the load index with manufacturer-recommended towing limits, as well as tire and drivetrain capacities. Again, the owner’s manual is the best reference for determining your vehicle’s hauling capabilities.

Information about the load rating and ply rating

If you’ve been buying tires for a while, you will have noticed the letters P, ST, LT, or XL attached either to the tire width portion of a sidewall mark or the rim diameter portion. These letters indicate ply rating (a combination of load-carrying capability and tire type) and should not be confused with a tire’s load index or construction type.

The standard-load passenger-type tires with a 4-ply rating are those that have no letter or a minus sign. Tires with heavier weight capacities and 6 to 14-ply ratings (load ranges of C to G), are called LT or ST. These tires are suitable for SUVs and pickups. ST tires are for use with trailers only. If your vehicle has a load capacity of 3/4 to 1 ton, it is best to not go below 8-ply-rated tires.

Maximum Inflation

The sidewall markings, which include metric sizing and load information at the top, should be able to spot the maximum inflation somewhere on the left inner circle, below the brand name. It is easily distinguishable because of this specific format “Maximum load XX lbs., (XX Kg.) at XX psi.”

The average passenger car has a maximum of 44 psi to 51 psi. Light trucks and trailers have 50 psi up to 80 psi. The maximum inflation largely depends on a tire’s ply rating and is not the same as the recommended tire pressure for your tire of choice. If you need information on cold tire pressure, refer to your owner’s manual.

Snow and Mud Markings

Some tire brands would have “M+S” markings to indicate that they have met minimum requirements to work decently on these types of terrains. This is usually the case for 4WD and 2WD tires that have extra space between their tread blocks. However, note that no tire actually works seamlessly on either mud or snow – except for those with the three-peak mountain snowflake icon on them.


Car Tires in Winter Snow

Tread Markings

While not yet standard on all tires these markings greatly aid consumers in selecting the right tires for them. Different applications require different tread patterns. Tires can have either a directional or an asymmetrical pattern. Directional and chevron patterns are used to disperse water, which helps reduce aquaplaning. Whereas asymmetrical patterns serve different purposes all at once – improved acceleration and cornering, enhanced water dispersion, and better grip – as in the case of performance tires.

DOT Codes and Other Stamps

DOT (Department of Transportation), codes provide information about the manufacturing plant, model designation and the manufacture date of a particular tire. The other details can be found elsewhere on the sidewall markings. Vehicle owners tend to refer to the date and manufacturer sections of the DOT code. Experts in the industry consider it crucial to identify the tire age based its manufacture date. This is because tires can be used only up to six (6) year after they were manufactured.

The DOT code’s initial two digits identify the manufacturing facility. This is especially important for private brand tires. The last three to four digits of the DOT code refer to the date code. Three digits would be used for tires made before 2000, while four digits would be used for tires made after 2000. The first two numbers are for the week. The last two numbers are for the year.

Tire Service Description – Speed Ratings

Although the service description comes after the rim diameter information, I purposely reserved the topic for this section to better answer, “What does the T or H mean on tires?” Simply put, tire speed rating H vs T are just two of the 31-speed ratings currently used on tires. This table will help you understand the speed ratings in general. It also gives a brief history of how they are calculated.

Speed Rating mph (km/h). Application
A1 3 mph (5km/h)
A2 6 mph (10km/h)
A3 9 mph (11.4 km/h).
A4 12 mph (19 km/h).
A5 16 mph (26km/h)
A6 19 mph (31km/h)
A7 22 mph (35 km/h).
A8 25 mph (40 km/h).
B 31 mph (50 km/h).
C 37 mph (60 km/h).
D 40 mph (64km/h)
E 43 mph (69km/h)
F 50 mph (80 km/h).
G 56 mph (90 km/h).
J 62 mph (100 km/h).
K 68 mph (109km/h)
L 75 mph (120 km/h). Off-Road & Light Truck Tires
M 81 mph (130km/h) Temporary spare tire
N 87 mph (140 km/h).
P 93 mph (150 km/h).
Q 99 mph (160 km/h). Studless & Studdable Winter Tires
R 106 mph (170 km/h). Tires for heavy-duty light trucks
S 112 mph (180 km/h). Family Sedans & Vans
T 118 mph (190 km/h). Family Sedans & Vans
U 124 mph (200 km/h). Sedans & Coupes
H 130 mph (210 km/h). Sport Sedans & Coupes
V 149 mph (240 km/h). Sport Sedans, Coupes & Sports Cars
Z / ZR 149 mph+ (240 km/h+).
W 168 mph (270 km/h). Exotic Sports Cars
Y 186 mph (390 km/h). Exotic Sports Cars
(Y) 186 mph+ (300km/h+). Exotic Sports Cars

Where did Speed Ratings originate?

The system was first developed in Europe (specifically Germany’s Autobahn) in the ’60s and began with only three letters – S, H, and V. Eventually, the introduction of new speed classes and the development of tire technology led to utilizing most of the alphabet. Current speed ratings mostly appear in alphabetical order – except for the “H” rating, which retained its placement between “U” and “V.”

The speed ratings were established by running different tires at 6.2 mph in 10-minute increments, until they reach the required speeds. Engineers still use the Step-Up Speed Test, but they do so in accordance with ECE (Economic Commission for Europe), and SAE (Society of Automotive Engineers) standards.

In addition to time-controlled testing and ideal riding conditions, industry leaders take other factors like ride quality/comfort, wear resistance, and cornering ability into account in determining a given tire’s speed rating. A higher speed rating means better traction and stopping power, but shorter tread life. A lower speed rating can lead to better tire performance, but lower top speed.

Trivia: Before 1991, speed ratings were mixed with tire size information that confused some consumers. This was corrected by separating speed rating and load index from the information about the rim diameter on sidewall markings.

Up Close – H vs T Tires

Out of all the speed ratings, tires with “H” and “T” markings are the most frequently used on sedans, family cars, and SUVs. These tires can withstand speeds of up to 118 mph (190 km/h), depending on the riding conditions.

H-rated tires are specifically classified under the grand touring category. They are ideal for sport/luxury coupes, sedans and amateur racing cars, even though they were not designed for full-fledged performance vehicles. While T-rated tires fall in the standard touring and all season categories, they are great for family cars or minivans.

Both speed ratings have handling advantages due to the soft rubber compounds and stronger tire construction. However, H/T tires do have some drawbacks. Consumer Reports has shown that T-rated tires have a longer tread life than H-rated knobbies based on mile wear tests. This offsets the lower top speeds these tires can handle.

However, H-rated tires are becoming more popular than factory tires on certain automobile brands. Despite their shorter life span, H-rated tires can meet tire safety standards and are better suited for higher levels of braking, handling/cornering, and acceleration – perfectly matching the enhanced capabilities of recent family cars and sedans.

Top Picks 2021


Car Tires Rack

It makes sense to share a list of top-rated H/T tires since we are discussing H/T tires. Although there are many trusted tire brands on the market, these top picks were praised by some of the most respected automakers and automotive publications.

T-rated tires H-rated tires
Michelin Defender LTX(View on Amazon). Michelin CrossClimate 2
Goodyear Ultra Grip Winter Tires or a more-speed-rated tire like Goodyear Assurance WeatherReady Bridgestone Blizzak W90 or a tire with a higher speed rating such as Bridgestone Turanza Quiettrack
Cooper Evolution H/T Yokohama Avid Ascend GT
Bridgestone Dueler A/T Revo #3 Michelin Defender T+H(View on Amazon).
Pirelli Scorpion All Terrain Plus Cooper CS5 Ultra Touring – H/V
BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sport LT BFGoodrich Advantage T/A Sport LT
Continental CrossContact LX25 Continental CrossContact LX25
Yokohama AVID Touring-S Yokohama Geolandar A/T G015
Yokohama iceGUARD iG52c (winter tire) General AltiMAX RT43
General AltiMAX Arctic 12 Hankook Kinergy 4S2 (or a higher-speed-rated tire like Hankook Ventus ST RH06)

Special Mentions

T-rated tires H-rated tires
Cooper Discoverer AT3 4S (for SUVs) Michelin X-Ice Xi3 (winter tire)
General Grabber A/TX (SUV, 4×4) Firestone WeatherGrip
Toyo Open Country A/T III(View on Amazon). Dunlop Direzza DZ102(View on Amazon).

FAQ

Can you mix H- and T-Rated Tires

It is discouraged for vehicle owners to do this as tires with different speed ratings could cause premature tire degradation. It is also against the best practice for gripping on slippery surfaces, which is to put tires with the most tread at their rear.

Mixed speed ratings can also lead to the possibility of oversteering, which can adversely impact vehicle handling. This can be prevented by placing the T-rated tires on your front axle, regardless of which axle you drive. However, mixing tire speed ratings should only be used in the most extreme cases.

Can I use H-Rated Tires instead of V?

Opting for H-rated tires is fine – provided that you keep to the 130-mph top speed limit instead of the 149-mph limit supported by a V-rated tire. You should also ensure you have the same speed rating on all four wheels for maximum performance.

You should avoid tires with speeds that are two tiers below the vehicle’s original requirements. It can increase tire failure at high speeds and could also cause insurance to be invalidated.

What does T/H stand for on Michelin Tires

Michelin tires have the same speed rating that any other brand of tire, and they use the H or T markings. Michelin tires are able to accommodate speeds between 118 and 130 mph (190-208 km/h), unlike other tires that only have one rating.

What does 94T mean on a tire?

“94T” markings on a tire denote its service description. These numbers indicate that the tire has a load-carrying capability of 670 Kg (1.477 lbs.). When properly pressurized, the tire can carry a load of 670 Kg (1,477 lbs.) and has a speed rating at 118 mph (190 km/h).

Are T tires allowed on race cars?

T-rated tires wouldn’t be adequate as 118 mph would be too fast for race cars and other high performance, sports-oriented wheels. In such situations, Z-rated tires or higher will be more suitable. A H-rated tire will suffice for amateur racecars.

Conclusion – What Does H/T Mean on Tires?

In summary, H and T markings on tires refer to the maximum speeds they can support – given payload capacity, recommended tire pressure, and ideal road conditions are met. Tires rated H can withstand speeds up to 130 mph (220 km/h), while tires rated T can withstand speeds up to 118mph (190 km/h). These tires are required for all types of vehicles, including sedans and SUVs.

You now know what H/T tires mean. It is also important to remember that these speed ratings can only be applied to new tires that have not suffered damage, puncture or any other form of repair. It is better to buy new tires than secondhand when replacing your car’s tires. By doing so, you will be able to adhere to the vehicle’s speed limits.

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