Tire Guides and Advice that make the Grade

Tire Sidewall Types

Do you want your vehicle to stand out from the crowd, but aren’t quite sure how to do it? It could be as simple as the tires you choose! Yes, you heard it right – the sidewall style of your tires can make a big difference in the overall look of your ride.

Tire Sidewall Types

  • OWL: Outlined White Letters
  • RWL: Raised White Letters
  • ORWL: Outlined Raised White Letters
  • B, BLK, BW, BSW: Black Sidewall
  • W, WW, WSE: Whitewall or White Sidewall
  • VSB, SVSB: Vertical Serated Band, Slanted
  • SBL, SRBL: Serated Black Letter, Raised

In this article, we’ll decode the common sidewall style abbreviations found when shopping for tires online, dive into the specifics of each style, and provide tips on how to choose the perfect tire sidewall style to match your vehicle and personal style.

Let’s take a closer look.

Tire Sidewall Style - VSB - Vertical Serrated Band
Tire Sidewall Style – VSB – Vertical Serrated Band

Decoding Sidewall Style Abbreviation Meanings

Welcome to the fascinating arena of tire aesthetics! Tire shopping can be a bit like trying to read a foreign language. You’ve got all these abbreviations, like “OWL,” “RWL,” “ORWL,” “B,” “BLK,” “BW,” “BSW,” “W,” “WW,” and “WSE.” If you’re wondering what they mean, you’re not alone. These abbreviations aren’t generally found on the tire itself, but they often pop up when shopping for tires online. So, let’s crack the code!

To clarify, these abbreviations are all about the tire’s appearance. They’re like the fashion labels of the tire world. So, while they don’t influence how the tire performs, they do play a big role in your vehicle’s overall look. Just as you might pick out a new pair of shoes to match your style, these sidewall style abbreviations help you pick out the perfect ‘shoes’ for your ride.

Think about it this way: If you’re shopping for tires online and there’s no picture of the tire available, these abbreviations act like a text description. They clue you in on what the tire looks like.

Tire Sidewall Style - ORWL - Outlined Raised White Letter
Tire Sidewall Style – ORWL – Outlined Raised White Letter

Sidewall Style Descriptions

Tire shopping can be a unique experience, especially when you come across all these abbreviations like “OWL,” “RWL,” “ORWL,” “B,” “BLK,” “BW,” “BSW,” “W,” “WW,” “WSE,” and more. To make your shopping experience a breeze, let’s dive into the specific styles these abbreviations represent. Remember, these descriptions primarily focus on how your tires look, not how they perform.

Outlined White Letters (OWL) “OWL” stands for “Outlined White Letters.” This style showcases letters (often the tire’s brand and model) in white, neatly outlined along the sidewall. This style is often associated with a sporty or rugged look, making it a popular choice for many vehicle enthusiasts.

Raised White Letters (RWL) “RWL” signifies “Raised White Letters.” With this style, the letters on the sidewall of the tire are white and raised, providing a cool 3D effect that adds a stylistic element to your vehicle.

Outlined Raised White Letters (ORWL) “ORWL” stands for “Outlined Raised White Letters.” Combining the characteristics of OWL and RWL, this style features raised white letters that are also outlined, contributing to a bold and distinct look for your vehicle.

Black Sidewall (B, BLK, BW, BSW) These abbreviations refer to a Black Sidewall. If you prefer a sleek and classic look for your vehicle, a tire with a black sidewall may be just what you’re looking for. The black sidewall offers a clean, streamlined look, complementing nearly any vehicle style.

Whitewall or White Sidewall (W, WW, WSE) These abbreviations represent Whitewall or White Sidewall tires. These tires feature a band of white around the tire’s sidewall, offering a retro or vintage aesthetic. This style is often seen on classic cars and can add a touch of nostalgia to your vehicle.

Vertical Serrated Band (VSB) and Slanted Vertical Serrated Band (SVSB) “VSB” and “SVSB” stand for Vertical and Slanted Vertical Serrated Band, respectively. These styles have a pattern of vertical (or slanted) lines, like serrations on a knife blade, along the sidewall. This design gives a unique, textured look to your tires.

Serrated Black Letters (SBL) and Serrated Raised Black Letters (SRBL) “SBL” and “SRBL” stand for Serrated Black Letters and Serrated Raised Black Letters. This style features black letters, with or without a raised effect, designed with a serrated pattern along the sidewall, adding a distinctive and edgy vibe to your tires.

Tire Sidewall Style - WL - White Letter
Tire Sidewall Style – WL – White Letter

Types Of Cars And Trucks Typically Associated With Each Sidewall Style

Here’s a general guide on which types of vehicles typically go well with each sidewall style:

  • Outlined White Letters (OWL): This style is often seen on sporty cars, off-road vehicles, and pickup trucks. The white letters can add a rugged, adventurous look that complements these vehicles’ strong, dynamic profiles.
  • Raised White Letters (RWL): Similar to OWL, RWL tires are commonly used on sports cars, off-road vehicles, and trucks. The 3D effect of the raised letters can provide an aggressive, high-performance aesthetic.
  • Outlined Raised White Letters (ORWL): ORWL tires bring a bit of a bold and dramatic effect. These are often found on high-performance vehicles, sports cars, or show cars where the owner wants to make a statement.
  • Black Sidewall (B, BLK, BW, BSW): Black Sidewall tires are incredibly versatile and can work well with almost any vehicle. From family sedans to minivans, from compact cars to luxury SUVs, black sidewall tires provide a clean, classic look.
  • Whitewall or White Sidewall (W, WW, WSE): Whitewall tires are commonly associated with classic or vintage cars. They can also be found on luxury vehicles or limousines for a touch of elegance and nostalgia. Occasionally, you might see them on custom modern cars for a unique, retro-inspired look.

Remember, these are just general suggestions. The right sidewall style for you ultimately depends on your personal taste and the look you want for your vehicle.

Tire Sidewall Style - RBL - Raised Black Letter
Tire Sidewall Style – RBL – Raised Black Letter

Choosing the Right Tire Sidewall Style

Now that you’re familiar with the various sidewall style abbreviations, it’s time to apply that knowledge to your tire shopping. Remember, these styles do not affect the performance of the tire, they’re all about appearance. Here’s how you can choose the right style for your vehicle.

Consider Your Vehicle Type

Just as you’d choose clothes that match your style and body type, you want to pick a tire style that suits your vehicle. Sporty cars might look great with Outlined White Letters (OWL) or Raised White Letters (RWL), giving them a trendy, rugged vibe. Classic cars or luxury sedans, on the other hand, might pair well with Whitewall (W, WW, WSE) tires for a vintage, elegant look.

Reflect Your Personal Style

Your vehicle is an extension of your personal style. So, choose a tire that reflects that! If you’re into the classic, understated look, Black Sidewall (B, BLK, BW, BSW) tires might be your go-to. But if you want to make a bold statement, Outlined Raised White Letters (ORWL) could be just the ticket.

Think About Maintenance

While tire styles don’t impact performance, they can influence maintenance. White letters or whitewall tires can show dirt and brake dust more than black sidewalls, so consider how much time you’re willing to spend cleaning your tires.


Below are some links you may find helpful when learning about tires

Final Thoughts

The key takeaway from this exploration is clear: understanding sidewall style abbreviations, like OWL, RWL, ORWL, B, BLK, BW, BSW, W, WW, and WSE, can help you add a personal touch to your vehicle. While these styles don’t influence how your tire performs, they play a significant role in your vehicle’s overall aesthetic.

As renowned auto designer Harley Earl once said, “Style is the great catalyst by which change is precipitated.” When it comes to your vehicle, the style extends right down to the tires you choose.

Good luck and happy motoring.

About The Author
Will Creech
Will has been an automotive enthusiast since he was old enough to make engine sounds. Formerly a member of the contract training team at Discount Tire, he is unusually knowledgeable on all things related to tires. He is now the owner of and main contributor to TireGrades.com.
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