Tire and wheel glossary

Tire glossary

Find the definitions for the tire and wheel related terms inside our glossary.


Term Definition
Air Pressure the measure of the force exterted by the air inside a tire, measured in pounds per square inch (psi) or kiloPascals (kPa)
Alignment refers to the correct angle settings of suspension components - the 3 alignment settings are caster, camber and toe.
Aspect Ratio the dimensional relationship of the tire’s section height to the section width expressed as a percentage.
Asymmetric tires that have differing tread patterns on each half of the tire
Balance equal distribution of the weight of a tire and wheel. If a tire & wheel is not balanced it can lead to vibrations or uneven wear. For balancing, weights are attached to the wheel to compensate for uneven weight distribution.
Backspacing also called rearspacing, it is the distance from the mounting pad to the back edge of the rim. This is different than wheel offset.
Bead the part of the tire in contact with the wheel flange. It is made of high tensile steel wires shaped to fit the rim and hold the tire on the wheel. The steel wires are wrapped in woven fabric and held in place by the plies.
Bead Seat the edge of the rim that creates a seal between the tire bead and the wheel
Belted Bias Tires tires constructed similar to bias tires, but with reinforcing belts between the casing plies and the tread.
Belts rubber coated cords located between the plies and the tread. They help reinforce the tread, as well as help the tire keep its shape against such forces as: tire inflation pressure, centrifugal force, cornering and braking. These cords are made from such materials as steel, fiberglass, radon, nylon, polyester or other material.
Bias Tire a tire that is constructed with plies laid out in alternating directions in angles about 30-40 degrees to the center line of the tire. The plies form a criss-cross pattern.
Bolt Pattern the arrangement of the bolt holes on a wheel. A 4 bolt wheel with 100mm between opposite bolt holes would be written as 4/100. Some wheels have more than one bolt pattern on the same wheel to accommodate multiple fitments.
Camber the angle of the centerline of a tire and wheel relative to completely vertical.
Cast wheels that are made from liquid metal being poured into a mold. Low pressure casting involves pouring into a mold, while counter pressure casting involves sucking the metal into the mold like a vacuum. The counter pressure technique reduces impurities making the wheel much stronger than a low pressure cast rim.
Caster the angle between the vehicle's steering pivot axis and completely vertical.
Centerbore the center hole in the wheel that centers the wheel on the hub of the car. Since most wheels are mass produced, they have a large center bore to accommodate several different vehicles. If this is the case, it is recommended that you use a hub ring. Hub rings are hard plastic or metal ring that fits between the wheel and the vehicle. This centers the wheel perfectly on the hub ensuring that there is no run out when the wheel is installed on to the vehicle. Without hub rings it is possible to get vibrations even if the wheel / tire assembly is perfectly balanced.
Chafer abrasion resistant rubber coated material to help prevent the tire's beads from rim damage and chafing.
Cold Inflation Pressure the measure of air pressure of a tire that is not warm from driving (less than 1 mile or standing for at least 3 hours)
Compound the materials used in the construction of the tire's rubber. The main materials used are rubber, carbon black, plasticizers, curing materials and ozone retardants. Different compounding formulas are used to achieve different tire characteristics such as: heat resistance, increased traction, increased treadwear, cut resistance, cold resistance, etc.
Cord strands of nylon, rayon, polyester, steel or fiberglass that make up the plies & belts of the tire. The strength of a tire & its load carrying capacity is determined by the strength of the cords.
Crown the center section of the tire's tread
Curb Guard extra rubber running around the sidewall of a tire. It is there to protect the side of the tire and the wheel face from any damage that may come as a result of hitting a curb.
DOT stands for Department of Transportation. The 10 digit code appearing after the DOT designation gives information such as the week and year the tire was produced, as well as the manufacturer, plant, tire line, and size.
Footprint the area of the loaded tire's tread that is in contact with the road. This is also called the contact patch.
Forged Considered to be the best wheel manufacturing technique, forging allows for the compression of an aluminum billet (one solid piece of aluminum) into an aluminum wheel using over 13 million pounds of pressure combined with heat. This produces a wheel that is both stronger and lighter then your standard aluminum wheel.
Grooves the space between two tread ribs of a tire
Hub Centric a wheel with a centerbore made to match up with a vehicle's hub diameter.
Hub Centric Rings (Hubrings) hard plastic or aluminum rings mounted on a vehicle's hub before the wheel. They ensure the wheel is perfectly centered on the vehicle's hub. Without hub rings, there is a possibility of getting a vibration even if the wheel & tire assembly is perfectly balanced.
Hydroplaning when a tire loses traction as a result of water on the road. The water accumulates under the tire's footprint and causes the tire to lift from the road surface. Vehicle speed, tread pattern and water depth all affect hydroplaning.
Load Index a number used to represent the maximum weight a tire can support. The index number corresponds to the actual load carrying capacity. Truck tires use a different system incorporating letter codes to establish a Ply Rating.
M+S a sidewall marking indicating that the tire is approved for Mud & Snow use. This approval is made by the RMA (Rubber Manufacturers Association).
Mixing Tires combining different tire sizes or tire models. This is not recommended as not all 4 tires will respond the same and it may cause unpredictable handling. Some performance vehicles do come stock with different front and rear tire sizes.
Mounting installing tires onto wheels
Offset The offset of a wheel is the distance from the mounting surface of the wheel to the true centerline of the rim. A positive offset means the mounting surface of the wheel is positioned in front of the true centerline of the rim / tire assembly. This in effect brings the tire in to the fender well more. Conversely, a negative offset means the mounting surface of the wheel is behind the true centerline of the rim / tire assembly. This will cause the tire to stick out away from the vehicle.
Overinflation when a tire is inflated more than the recommended vehicle air pressure. This might be done for better performance but has negative consequences including: a less comfortable ride, damage to the tires and stress on the suspension.
P-Metric System a system for specifying tire sizes using the treadwidth (millimeters), the aspect ratio, type or tire construction and the rim diameter (inches). The sizes are written as such: P225/60R18
Plus Sizing changing from the original stock tire size of your vehicle. Plus sizing your wheel & tire combination was designed to enhance vehicle performance and looks by allowing  fitment of larger diameter rims and lower profile tires. The theory is that while making these changes, you keep the overall tire diameter within 3% of the original equipment tires. This is important because larger variances can cause problems with transmission shift points which can decrease fuel mileage. It can also confuse braking system computers which can even lead to brake failure.
Ply layers of cord fabric that give a tire its strength. They are situated between the tire tread and the innerliner, and they run from bead to bead. These cords are rubber coated.
Profile refer to aspect ratio.
PSI the most common measurement unit for tire pressure. It stands for pounds per square inch and it measures the force exterted by the air inside a tire.
Radial Tire tires built with plies running perpendicular (90 degrees) across the crown of the tire. To strengthen the tread, these tires require belt plies going circumferentially around the tire.
Retreading applying new tread to a used tire casing. This practice is common among medium & heavy trucks.
Ribs rubber sections of the tread that run around the circumference of the tire
Rim Width the measurement between the flanges of a rim
Rotation moving a vehicle's tires from left to right and from front to rear. This is done in a set pattern and should be done periodically. Its purpose is to prevent uneven tire wear and to extend treadlife.
Run flat tire is a pneumatic vehicle tire that is designed to resist the effects of deflation when punctured, and to enable the vehicle to continue to be driven at reduced speeds - under 56 mph (90 km/h) - and for limited distances - generally between 10 mi (16 km) to 50 mi (80 km), depending on the type of tire.
Section Width the distance between the sidewalls at their widest point of an inflated tire not under load.
Series refer to aspect ratio.
Shoulder the outer edge of the tire tread where it meets the sidewall
Sidewall the side portion of a tire between the tread and the bead.
Sipes small slits in a tire's tread that help push water away from the crown of the tire for improved wet traction. They also provide biting edges for ice and snow traction.
Speed Rating a letter that identifies a tire's high speed durability. A tire's capabilities are tested at preset speeds and the results of these tests determine the tire's speed rating. Speed Ratings include: Q, S, T, U, H, V, Z, W, Y
Tire Placard a label on a vehicle that identifies the vehicle's stock tire size and its recommended tire air pressure. This label is often found on the inside of the vehicle's door.
Toe the difference between the distance between the front left & right tire and the distance between the rear left & right tire. Toe-In means that the front of the tires are closer together than the rear. Toe-Out means that the rear of the tires are closer together than the front.
Tread Blocks individual sections of the tread separated by lateral grooves
Tread Depth the distance from the top of the tread to the grooves in a tire. This measurement is taken at the centerline of a tire and is measured in thiry-secondths of an inch.
Tread Pattern the arrangment of grooves, blocks, sipes and channels on the tread.
Tread Shaving shaving some of the tread from a tire for optimal performance and durability in racing applications.
Tread Wear also called the tread life, it is the measure of how long a tire lasts. It is measured in miles or kilometers.
Tread Wear Indicators narrow rubber bars built into the tread grooves that define the tire's legal wear out point. Also called the wear bars, they are even with the tread when 2/32" of tread is left and then the tires are ready to be replaced.
Treadwidth the width of a tire tread, normally measured in millimeters. This is narrower than the overall tire width (called the Section Width)
Underinflation a tire with less than the recommended air pressure for a given load. This may lead to tire rollover and deflection.
UTQG The Uniform Tire Quality Grading rating is a quality rating system developed by the American Department of Transportation. It is designed to tell consumers the relative performance of passenger tires (but does not apply to winter tires).
Wheel Weights weights attached to a wheel to balance a tire & wheel. The weights can be on the inside or outside of the wheel and can be clipped, taped or self-adhered to the wheel.