What Is Best on a Jeep; OWL or BSW Tires

Many people ask if they should get white or black sidewall tires. The truth is there is not a significant enough difference between the two to help you decide.

With that being said, let us take a look at the benefits each of these tires have to offer. This guide may help you make up your mind.

Jeep BSW vs OWL

BSW Facts

  • BSW stands for black sidewall
  • The black sidewall is easier to keep clean
  • The main reason for a black sidewall is to make the vehicle appear slightly more aggressive
  • Can hide the fact that you are running a lower-priced tire
  • They come in all tire sizes and styles
  • Most manufacturers of tires make a black sidewall version
  • The black sidewalls are not more or less expensive than white lettered tires

OWL Facts

  • Over time the white lettering tends to discolor and turn yellow
  • The washing of these tires is more difficult because of the special care you have to give to the white lettering
  • It is possible for you to add the white lettering yourself.
  • OWL means outlined white lettering
  • RWL means raised white lettering
  • There are no uniform standards set on the lettering size, color, or placement

Choosing Black Sidewalls or White Lettering


If you want the lettering on your tires to stand out and be easy to read then you want white lettering. You might even want raised white lettering. This means you will need to scrub the lettering often to keep it white and looking good.

Raised white lettering can be attractive. Raised dingy yellow lettering looks nasty.

White letters make it very easy for you to read what style and size the tire is.

The black sidewalls are more discreet. They tend to look more masculine and aggressive. The black color also hides the fact that you are running cheaper tires.

Black sidewalls are a personal choice. If you do have black lettering on your tires it is often harder to determine what the lettering on the side of the tire is.

Tips on Reading The Sidewall of a Tire

all terrain tire in snow in winter closeup

When you look at the numbers and letters on the side of your tire each of those numbers and letters tell you something about the tire.

  • The brand of the tire will be boldly displayed.
  • The first of the series of letters and numbers will be a letter. This indicates what type of tire it is. LT tells you it is for a light truck, P is a passenger tire which is usually found on cars, 
  • The next three numbers tell you the width of the tire these three numbers are normally followed by a slash. This set of numbers is millimeters not inches.
  • The next two numbers tell you the ratio of the height to the width. The ratio matters because higher ratios provide smoother and more comfortable rides.
  • Following the height ratio numbers a letter displays the type of construction used in the tire. If you see an R then you are looking at a radial tire. If you see a B then the tire is belted.
  • The next two numbers tell you the wheel diameter. Unlike tire width, which is displayed in millimeters, the wheel diameter is displayed in inches.
  • If you see an XL after the wheel diameter letters the tire is reinforced so it can handle a greater load.
  • The next two numbers on a tire tells you the maximum amount of weight they can carry
  • The next letter represents the speed rating associated with the tire. Speed ratings are listed from A1 – A8, then B through Y. The A1 is the lowest rating which is a maximum mile per hour of 3. The highest rating is a Y which is a maximum mile per hour of 186 or greater.
  • If you see an S or M or S+M then you know the tire is great for traveling in mud and snow

In case you are interested in jeep spare tire covers, you can read this article.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Is The Difference Between OWL and BSW Tires?

Owl has white letters and BSW is strictly black.

What is OWL on Off-Road Tires?

These are outlined white letters on the side of the tire.

Are OWL Tires Heavier Than BSW Tires?

The raised lettering of the OWL may slightly increase the weight of the tire.

Final Thoughts

When it comes down to the nitty-gritty the only difference between the OPWL tires and the BSW tires is a personal preference. If you like the white lettering then buy the OWL and if you like the darker black sidewall tires buy the BSW. The performance of each tire is basically the same.

Related Articles
1. How to Make a Jeep Wrangler Ride Smoother
2. Are Jeep Wranglers Good in The Snow?

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