Tire Load Range Explained

Replacing the old tires on your car or upgrading them is not a simple process. As you move to a newer model, there are several things you should look out for. For example, an often-overlooked aspect is the tire load range.

Definition
Tire load range (or ply rating) inscribed on a sidewall gives an idea of how much load the tire is supposed to carry as it is inflated at its industry-specified pressure. 

Which came first, the tire or the air?

The most common misconception that people make about the tire is which part is responsible for holding the weight. Most people think that the sidewall is the one doing all the job, but in reality, it’s the air inside. I don’t claim that the sidewall has no purpose in that area; I’m just saying that the air is the most crucial part of that system.

Overall, the principle is simple – to carry heavier loads, you will need to have more air in the tires. It will prevent them from squishing from the weight while being safe to drive.

Load range vs. load index

Even though they sound similar, there are some differences.

A tire load index is a number showing you how much weight each tire can carry. The rating number can be looked up in a chart to determine the maximum load that each tire can handle.

The load range is similar but in a different way. It’s a rating that each tire gets, which describes how durable the tire is at its maximum air pressure. In other words, how much load the tire can handle when it’s being pumped and operated at max pressure.

Tire load range vs. tire ply rating

The age-old battle between these two ratings is practically pointless, as both of them are the same. They represent the maximum load they can carry at the maximum tire pressure. The difference between them is how they are presented and the era they come from.

Tire ply rating is the older sibling out of these two and was used in times when tires were designed using cotton. The ply rating was used to show the number of layers used in the tire, which shows how strong the tire was.

Since modern tires are not made from cotton, the ply rating cannot be used. Today, the tires are made from much stronger compounds, and the number of plies is not the relevant aspect that determines the load capacity at the maximum air pressure.

Load ranges per vehicle

The tire load range mainly depends on the type of vehicle you have, and there are two types of ratings: P and LT.

P-metric are load ranges used for passenger tires in general. They are designed to take the car’s load and some additional weight which mainly depends on the model. There are 3 load ranges of the p-metric tires: light, standard and extra load or LL, SL, and XL, for short. The LL and SL have a maximum load pressure of 35 psi, while XL can reach 41 psi.

P-Metric Passenger Vehicle Tires

Load RangesAbbreviatedMax. Load Pressure
Light LoadLL35 psi (240 kPa)*
Standard LoadSL (or nothing)35 psi (240 kPa)*
Extra LoadXL41 psi (280 kPa)*
*In an effort to internationally harmonize load ratings and ranges, recently introduced and future LL, SL and XL P-metric sizes will use ISO/Euro-metric maximum load pressures of 36 ot 42 psi.

LT-metric is the type of tires designed for trucks, meaning that they can hold the vehicle’s weight and additional cargo, much higher than P-metric. There are 5 different types of LT-metric, and they are determined by the ply rating, which can be 4, 6, 8, 10, or 12. The maximum load pressure starts from 35 psi and increases by 15 psi for the next ply rating, with the highest going up to 95 psi.

LT-Metric, LT-Flotation and LT-Numeric Light Truck Tires

Load RangesPLY RatingAbbreviatedMax. Load Pressure
B4B35 psi (240 kPa)**
C6C50 psi (350 kPa)**
D8D65 psi (450 kPa)**
E10E80 psi (550 kPa)**
F12F95 psi (650 kPa)**
**Selected large and LT sizes are designed with reduced maximum load pressures.

FAQs

Is a higher ply tire better?

In general, yes. Higher ply tires can carry bigger loads at higher air pressure.

What does load range mean on a tire?

The shortest answer is that a load range determines the maximum load the tire can carry while being inflated at the maximum air pressure it can handle.

Official source of information

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