What Does the Z Mean On Tires?

Boosting your vehicle’s speed is possible with the right tire. The “Z” rating on tires is not a non-standard designation: It means that the tire meets or exceeds the highest performance requirements of a given vehicle.

A “Z” rating may appear in the middle of tire size and indicate either a maximum speed over 149 mph (240 kph) or 186 mph (300 kph). There are so many tire ratings out there, it can be hard to know what they mean. A tire’s “Z” rating is one of the most misused, and misunderstood terms.

If you’re wondering how much speed a tire can handle, Z-rated tires can handle up to 149 mph (240 kph). The rating is based on a tire’s maximum speed and its stopping distance in response to different braking methods.

Are Z-rated tires necessary?

Are Z-rated tires necessary

It’s not necessary to have a Z-rated tire. However, it should be noted that the Z rating on a tire is the maximum speed capability of the tire (over 149 mph). If you’re going to be driving at speeds over 120 mph, then it would certainly be wise to have a Z-rated tire.

You can find your tire’s speed rating by reading the size code on the tire’s sidewall. Typically following the load index, your tire rating is represented by a letter that directly corresponds to the tire’s max speed.

If you’re just looking for a replacement or something with a little extra bite on dry pavement, look for something with an H or V rating.

Tire speed ratings are letters assigned to tires to indicate how fast they can safely travel. The letters range from A through Z, with each letter corresponding to a different maximum speed.

For example, tires with an A rating can only travel up to 15 mph while Z-rated tires can travel over 150 mph. 

The speed rating of a tire isn’t just about top speed. For example, a Z-rated tire is constructed with reinforced sidewalls and a unique internal structure to prevent the tire from overheating at high speeds.

This means that even if you’re not planning on driving 149+ mph, you’ll still benefit from the added strength of a Z-rated tire in everyday driving conditions.

Check what is X/T tire.

Check what is XL on tires.

What is the difference between ZR and R on Tires?

What is the difference between ZR and R on Tires

Thus, a ZR tire has a speed index of V, W, or Y. R indicates that the structure is RADIAL. There is therefore no difference between a ZR and an R tire with the same speed index.

The speed index of your tires should correspond to the maximum speed recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer. In the 1980s, tire manufacturers used a marking system that is no longer used today.

The speed symbols on tires are still in use today:

  • Speed symbol: L – maximum speed up to 75 mph/120 km/h;
  • Speed symbol: M – maximum speed up to 81 mph/130 km/h;
  • Speed symbol: N – maximum speed up to 87 mph/140 km/h;
  • Speed Symbol: P – maximum speed up to 94 mph/150 km/h;
  • Speed Symbol: Q – maximum speed up to 100 mph/160 km/h;
  • Speed symbol: R – maximum speed up to 106 mph/170 km/h;
  • Speed symbol: S – maximum speed up to 112 mph/180 km/h;
  • Speed symbol: T – maximum speed up to 118 mph/190 km/h;

ZR tires have higher speed ratings than R tires with the same load index and size. As a reminder, there are two types of tire structures.

Radial tires. The carcass is made of fabric cords arranged at 90° to the tread. This carcass provides excellent driving comfort and better resistance to heat build-up at high speeds.

The carcass is made of fabric cords arranged at 90° an angle to the tread. These tires have less grip on wet surfaces and wear out more quickly.

What do Z and R mean in tires?

What do Z and R mean in tires

A “Z” rating can mean different things. While it nearly always means a high-performance tire for high-performing sports cars, “Z” may appear in the middle of a tire’s size information. When it does, it represents either a maximum speed of more than 149 mph (240 kph) or 186 mph (300 kph). 

By contrast, an “R” rating indicates that the tire is good for up to 149 mph (240 kph) — anything higher requires a “Z” rating. 

In the U.S.A., it was once common for cars to be fitted with R-rated tires – these are made to go up to 106 mph, which is more in keeping with our roads and speeds here, but not many of those are about now either. The Z rating means the tire is capable of exceeding 149 mph and/or 186 mph. 

Z and R in tires mean the tire is radial, while the Z means it has a speed rating above 149mph, R is rated at 149mph or less.

There is nothing like an R tire, it’s simply a code for a “radial” tire. It was used when bias-ply tires were still common and only performance cars had radials. As such the terms are obsolete today.

If you’re shopping for high-speed capable tires and you see a tire with a “Z” in its size designation, be sure to check the maximum inflation pressure marked on the sidewall to determine if it’s suitable for your vehicle. If not, you’ll need to look elsewhere.

What is the ZR rating on a tire? 

What is the ZR rating on a tire

Tires having a maximum speed capability over 149 MPH may have “ZR” in the size designation. Tires with a maximum speed capability over 186 MPH are required to include “ZR” in the designation.

Below are examples of tire sizes with a “ZR” speed rating:

  1. P225/50ZR16 91W
  2. P245/40ZR17 91W
  3. P215/45ZR17 91Y

The “Z” in the tire size designation indicates that the tires are rated “over 149 MPH.” The “ZR” indicates that the tires are rated over 186 MPH. Ex: ZR-rated tire – ZR17 (84W).

To make sure that your tires are rated for their appropriate speed, check your tire’s sidewall for a letter (or letters) after the width, height, and diameter measurements.

These letters indicate what type of vehicle will be able to use the tire (e.g., passenger car, light truck, or SUV). The speed rating is indicated by an alphabetical letter enclosed in a circle on the sidewall of your tire.

  1. 265/50ZR16
  2. 295/40ZR17
  3. 285/30ZR18

The speed rating is the letter at the end of the tire size. If there is no letter at the end of the tire size, then the speed rating for that tire is “T,” meaning 118 mph.

P-Metric Passenger Tires:

Example Tire Size: P225/60R16 97H

Example Tire Size: P225/60ZR16 97W

LT-Metric Light Truck Tires:

Example Tire Size: LT235/85R16 120/116Q

Example Tire Size: LT245/75ZR16 120/116Q

Flotation Sizes: For tires that have a section width of 12 inches or greater and have a load index of 105 or less, an “E” can be used in place of the “P” to indicate the tire is intended for light truck use.

However, all other rules for the construction and performance requirements for passenger tires must be met.

What do the numbers on tires mean? 

The two-digit number after the slash mark in a tire size is the aspect ratio. For example, in a size P215/65 R15 tire, the 65 means that the height is equal to 65% of the tire’s width. The bigger the aspect ratio, the bigger the tire’s sidewall will be. 

If you replace your OEM tires with aftermarket tires having a different aspect ratio from those that came stock on your vehicle, you may have issues with speedometer accuracy and the operation of your antilock brakes (ABS) or traction control system (TCS). 

The letter following the aspect ratio represents the tire’s construction type. R stands for radial construction and B stands for bias construction. All tires sold today are radial tires, so you won’t see that letter on any new car or light truck tires.

A tire’s section width is measured in millimeters from sidewall to sidewall. This measurement changes when the tire is installed on a wheel and inflated.

The two- or three-digit number after R denotes the tire’s internal construction. “R” stands for Radial, which means that cords inside extend at a 90-degree angle from one bead to another.

What does 96/y/Z mean on a tire? 

In a tire marked “245/40R19 96Y,” the “96Y” represents the tire’s load index and speed rating. 

The load index indicates the maximum weight that a tire can support when properly inflated. You’ll find a load index chart in our Tire Tech Center.

The number 96 in our example corresponds to a maximum load capacity of 1,709 pounds, while a higher-numbered load index such as 130 would translate to a higher weight rating of 3,086 pounds. 

The speed rating indicates the maximum speed that the tire can carry a load under specified service conditions.

A speed rating is not necessarily the top speed that the tire can be safely driven at, but rather an indication of its ability to handle sustained speeds for long periods.

The “96” at the beginning tells the tire’s load index or its maximum load-bearing capability. A 96 has a maximum load capacity of 1,150 pounds, according to the Tire Rack.

What is the maximum speed of a Z-rated tire?

What is the maximum speed of a Z-rated tire
Image: www.tireamerica.com

Z speed-rated tires are for high-performance cars. The letter “Z” may appear in the middle of a tire’s size information.

Z is the highest (and fastest) speed rating you’ll find on most sports cars and high-performance vehicles. A Z-speed rated tire can exceed 149 mph or 240 km/h.

The “ZR” that sometimes precedes the size designation does not indicate a separate speed rating. 

It simply means that the tire has a Z rating for speeds above 149 mph or 240 km/h. Tires with a Z-rating are designed to handle speeds at or above 149 mph or 240 kph.

They are also designed to handle extremely high heat caused by the high speeds at which they operate. 

Even if you do not drive your car at extremely high speeds, Z-rated tires can provide you with an enhanced level of steering response and cornering grip.

Are ZR tires still relevant? 

Are ZR tires still relevant

To be more precise, all these ZR tires are meant for cars that can reach at least 150mph.

 Nowadays, the marking ZR is not relevant anymore but it is still used in the catalogs of manufacturers and tire retailers.

ZR tires are more expensive than non-ZR-rated ones because the materials used have a higher quality and make the tires more durable.

ZR tires include the speed ratings V (149mph), W (168mph), and Y (186mph). ZR tires are the highest-speed tires on the market. 

The difference to other high-performance tires is that ZR tires have a “Z” as the first letter in their marking.

Until 1999, ZR was also used as a tire category but since 2000, all ZR tires are marked with a W, V, or Y rating and therefore they can be classed as Ultra High Performance (UHP) tires.

The change happened because of the new European standards for tire categories.

There is one important thing to know about these high-performing tires: They are mostly made with hard rubber compounds which usually result in poor wet grip and short tire life.

Nowadays, the marking ZR is not relevant anymore but it is still used in the catalogs of manufacturers and tire retailers. The main reason for this is that many customers are still using the rating to find a new set of tires.


In the early days of tire manufacturing, a tire’s speed rating was expressed as a letter. This was changed when the number of vehicle speeds and tire ratings grew too large to designate with the 26 letters in the English alphabet.

A “Z” rating can mean different things. While it nearly always means a high-performance tire for high-performing sports cars, “Z” may appear in the middle of a tire’s size information.

When it does, it represents either a maximum speed of more than 149 mph (240 kph) or 186 mph (300 kph).

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Do I need ZR tires?

ZR stands for Z Rated. This is a designation that the tire manufacturer gives their tires to indicate they are certified to be driven at speeds up to 149 MPH. Not all tires are Z-rated.

The speed rating is indicated on the tire sidewall with a letter code. For example, you may see HR on your tires, which means they are rated to be driven at 130 MPH.

Most vehicles will never be driven at speeds of 149 mph or higher. However, if you want to drive your vehicle at those speeds, then you should consider getting ZR tires instead of HR or VR tires.

2. Are ZR tires better than R?

Are ZR tires better than R

ZR tires are usually found in high-end sizes, like 17-inch and up. Some sports cars will have ZR tires as stock equipment.

ZR tires are designed with more efficient hydroplaning resistance, which is why they’re considered high-speed tires. There is therefore no difference between a ZR and an R tire with the same speed index.

3. Are z rated tires repairable?

Can tires rated H (130 m.p.h.), V (more than 130 m.p.h.), or Z (more than 149 m.p.h.) be safely repaired? Yes, with some reservations.

The rubber compound used in these high-speed tires is stiffer than that of normal tires and doesn’t have enough elasticity to close a puncture without leaving a visible bulge on the outside of the tire.

4. Are ZR tires good for winter?

The short answer is no. ZR tires are not good for winter. These tires are designed for high performance, not safety and comfort. They are designed to be used in warm weather and on dry roads.

They do not have the tread or material to grip snow or ice. If you live somewhere that gets snow and ice, you should have a set of dedicated winter tires.

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