Buying a good car and properly maintaining it will keep you cruising along, but what actually makes a difference are the tires you put on the wheels. After all, tires are the ones that meet the road. Putting poor quality tires on a quality car can be like wearing a tuxedo with thongs.
Every few years, you probably need new tires. In general, they’re all black and round, so it’s difficult to tell how well they’ll perform by simply looking at them or touching them for that matter.
Everyone has their own favorite tire, depending on their own style of driving. So, how do you choose the right tires for your car? The following guide outlines the steps you need to follow.
What Type of Tire do You Need?
Many retail sites will list all tires available that match your size. In many cases, however, you’ll need to do some research to find the right speed rating. The following list can help you identify your tire type.
All-season tires are available in speed ratings of S and T. Known for long mileage and good all-weather grip, these are typically ideal for SUVs and mainstream cars.
All-terrain and all-season truck tires are typically available in big sizes and are perfect for the towing and hauling duties of SUVs and light-duty pickups. All-terrain tires usually have a more forceful tread pattern to enable off-road traction. Many all-terrain tires will have “All Terrain” or “A/T” tag right next to the name of the model.
Performance all-season tires are available in V and H speeding ratings on many new automobiles, especially those with upgraded wheels and fanatic appeal. They usually have a better cornering grip compared to all-season tires with S and T speed ratings, but they may not last as long.
Summer and ultra-high performance all-season tires usually come in W, Y, and ZR speed ratings for performance sedans and sports cars. It can be difficult to differentiate between the two tires and you may need to visit the manufacturer’s site to check the details. One tip to tell between them: Summer tires wouldn’t have a Mud & Snow (M&S) label on the sidewall.
Snow/winter tires are simply identified by a snowflake and mountain sign on the tire’s sidewall. And the tread appears busier than all-season tires with plenty of slits, referred to as sipes. When shopping, make sure to buy four sets of winter tires to optimize handling and braking.
Tube-Type vs. Tubeless
When choosing between tube-type and tubeless tires, always plump for tubeless ones since they’re safer and more advanced than tube-type tires. Moreover, they have other advantages too and you don’t need alloy wheels to install them. Steel wheels will do just fine with tubeless tires as they’re rust free and come with an anti-rust coating on the inside.
Size of Tire
When shopping for new tires, you should carefully consider the size. To do that, you need to know how to tell the size of tires. It’s generally indicated on a tire’s sidewall and is displayed in a standardized way.
For instance, 195/55 R 16 87V can be read as:
- 195 (millimeters) is the tire’s tread width
- 55 (percent) is the tread width percentage that contributes to the sidewall height
- R (Radial) is the tire’s radial construction
- 16 (inches) is the wheel’s diameter
- 87 is the tire’s load index
- V is the tire’s speed rating
The tire’s size can be represented by 3 parts—the tread width of the tire, the size of the rim, and the height of the sidewall.
When picking a tire, remember that it should be the same size as the rim you’ll install on. If your rim is bigger than the tire, then it’ll lower the sidewall height. That will adversely affect the handling quality and ride of your car.
Be sure to choose the tread width carefully as it will determine your vehicle’s performance on the road and your comfort. Your tread width will be based on the car you’re driving, and what type of driver you are.
For instance, if you want your vehicle to have a powerful, stylish look, if your vehicle generates plenty of power, or if you usually keep high speeds when cornering, you can choose a wider tread. But if you want to keep your steering light, want to better your fuel mileage, or if you usually drive in the city traffic, don’t pick a wider tread.
Once you’re done picking the right rim size and tread width, you should then pick a sidewall height that’ll help keep your new tire size the same as your old tires.
The tire’s rubber material is the most important factor to consider when shopping for car tires. It determines the tread wear and traction qualities of a tire. Make sure to buy a tire made of high-quality material to ensure that the speed rating and traction of the tire is high. It also allows you to get a better hold of your car.
A tire’s tread pattern has a major impact on the wet weather performance of the tire, which is determined by its ability to drive water away from the point where the tire touches the road. In addition, the tread pattern has an effect on the amount of road noise produced by the tire as a result of air being trapped and released from the channels during running.
In terms of traction, tests have indicated that a tire’s tread pattern doesn’t have as much of an impact as the tire’s compound, but it plays a role nonetheless. Unless, of course, you’re shopping for a tire that can handle sand, mud, or snow, in which case tread pattern becomes important. Never go for re-treated tires; they’re hazardous and definitely not worth the little savings you can make.
That said, here are the main types of tread pattern:
This is the most popular type of tread pattern. It’s neither asymmetric nor uni-directional and thus can run in any direction. It can also be installed on the rim in either direction.
This type of tire works best when rotating in a specified direction. There’ll always be a sign on the sidewall indicating the rotation direction with an arrow. Tires whose tread pattern is in some kind of “V” or “A” configuration are normally uni-directional. They best work when spinning in the specified direction mainly in terms of controlling tire noise and water channeling.
Asymmetric tires are designed with a car-facing/inside and road-facing/ outside sidewall. They always have a sign on the sidewall indicating which side will be outside or facing the road.
The benefit of asymmetrical tires is, for instance, the tire tread’s outside shoulder may have a different compound of rubber and pattern to help with high speed cornering, while the remaining part of the tire can be made with a tougher compound to improve tread wear and minimize uneven tread wear, or another tread pattern for improved wet weather performance and so on.
The Tire’s Overall Quality
When it comes to the overall quality of a tire, here are things to keep in mind:
Reputation of manufacturer: Read reviews, ask around, do some research, or just go for a trusted and well-known tire manufacturer. It makes a significant difference as a reputable manufacturer has more advanced facilities, newer equipment, and better quality standards at their manufacturing plant.
Warranty: Manufacturers usually provide a warranty for all their tires. However, the warranty of tires may be pretty limited as there are normally so many damages that are not covered. In addition, different manufacturers offer different lengths of warranties. When picking your brand of tire, also have a look at the warranty so you can pick a brand that gives good coverage.
Date of manufacture: All tires are stamped with a 4-digit DOT code on the sidewall which indicates the week and year of manufacture. The first two digits denote the week and the rest indicate the year. For example, 3005 means the 30th week of 2005.
The newer the tire you purchase, the better. Try to avoid tires that are more than 6 months old, and definitely don’t buy anything older than 12 months.
Added technologies: Each tire manufacturer has their own tricks and technologies that they use on their tires but they don’t focus on these too much unless it’s actually something quite revolutionary. Nevertheless, they have unique and cute names for their added technologies.
The tires are simply one of the most essential parts of your car. The condition and quality of your tires could be the difference between you driving safely to your destination and getting involved in a serious accident.
As such, it is vitally important to maintain your tires all year round by having them checked regularly and replacing them when necessary. Hopefully, we’ve helped you choose the right tire for your car. And remember: if you’ve got any doubts about your tires, don’t hesitate to contact your local mechanic right away.