What to Know and Look for When Picking Car Tires

In Beginner Info by T.MannLeave a Comment

Buying tires isn’t something you do frequently, but when it comes time to make this decision, you want to be sure you know what you are doing.

The tires on your car will affect its performance, your gas mileage, and how safely you are able to drive in certain conditions, but different tires also meet different needs. The following article explores the different types of tires and the different things one should understand when picking car tires for their vehicle. By having the right information on hand, you can make a more informed decision and choose tires that provide a comfortable ride while offering optimal safety for several years.

Knowing When to Change Your Tires

An important part of changing your car tires is knowing when it’s time to change them. To get the most out of your tires, you don’t want to change them prematurely, but it’s also dangerous to wait too long. Generally, you will get three to four years of use out of your tires, but it could be more or less, depending on how often you drive and under what conditions.

Treadwear is the most obvious sign of a tire that needs to be replaced. The shallower your treads are, the less stopping power you have, and you should start being cautious whenever your tread get below one-eighth of an inch. Other physical signs of a tire that needs to be replaced include the following:

  • Uneven treads
  • Damaged areas
  • Damaged valves
  • Sidewall bubbles

You will also want to be careful if you are constantly driving in extreme weather conditions, and if you realize that it has been years since you changed your tires, you might want to start thinking about it.

Consider Buying the Same Type

When picking car tires, you can either choose the same type of tires that you currently use or opt for something different, and the decision is entirely up to you. If you are satisfied with how your previous tires performed, you may not want to risk making a change, in which case buying the same kind of tires is a good decision.

If your previous tires were the original tires of the vehicle, you at least know that those tires were designed for your vehicle and that choosing them again will 100% work. You also know what to expect in this case.

However, if you had a bad experience with your previous tires, whether they are original to the vehicle or not, you may want to explore other options. Maybe you thought the ride was too rigid or uncomfortable, or maybe the factory tires wore out quicker than you expected. Whatever the case, there is an excellent variety of tires out there for you to choose from.

Choose a Type of Tire

When you decide that you want to change tires, you can narrow down your options by deciding which type of tire best satisfies your needs. Some tires are designed for specific seasons, and some car owners might have two sets of tires for this reason. The types of tires you might see include the following:

  • All-Season Tires: These tires are designed to last all throughout the year and are popular for this reason. These tires are pretty standard and basic, but for many people, they get the job done. They are especially great for areas with mild climates where the tires won’t be exposed to extreme heats, wetness, or excessive snow.
  • Performance All-Season: These are essentially a higher-quality version of all-season tires and tend to offer better cornering grip and handling. Visually, they tend to be higher quality as well, and while you might enjoy the better handling, these tires might wear out faster.
  • Summer Tires or Ultra-High Performance: Ultra-high-performance tires, also called summer tires, are yet another step up. They are commonly found on sports cars and other performance vehicles. They are excellent for dry roads and warm temperatures, and they are able to handle high speeds, but as the weather gets colder and wetter, you won’t get as much traction with them.
  • Winter Tires: There are also tires that are designed specifically for winter and snowy conditions. Generally, these will have a snowflake symbol on the tire’s sidewall. The busier treads are another way to identify snow tires, and the tread patterns provide better grip in snow and ice. If you are going to buy winter tires, it’s best to buy them as a set of four, and while you could use these all year, many people swap them out when the weather starts warming up.

Consider what your needs are and consider what’s most important to you. Are you more concerned about how your vehicle handles on dry roads? Or do you want to make sure that you have good traction when the roads get wet?

Generally, winter tires have less-than-good handling and dry-braking capabilities compared to other types. On the flip side, ultra-high-performance tires are excellent when it comes to handling and dry braking but poor when it comes to snow traction. Winter tires offer better ride comfort than ultra-high-performance tires, and all-season tires fall somewhere in between the other two.

New or Used Tires?

If you are only replacing one or two tires, you can often get away with buying used tires. However, the chances of a used car dealer having four tires that are all the same type could be slim, and it could be a bad idea to mix and match. On the other hand, some retailers have deals where you can buy three tires and get a fourth tire free, and choosing this route could be perfectly fine, especially if the tires are only lightly worn.

When picking car tires from a used retailer, however, you want to make sure that you can trust the people that you are buying from. Used tires could have defects or punctures that you aren’t aware of, so you may want to inspect the tires before driving off with them. As you are inspecting, make sure that the tread is intact and even across the tire.

You might save money when you buy used tires, but you may also wind up having to change your tires sooner as a result. New tires not only come with a longer lifespan, but buyers can also get guarantees or warranties that protect their tires when they wear too quickly.

Know Your Vehicle’s Tire Size

When you go into a tire shop, they are going to ask you what size tires you need, so it’s helpful to have this information ready.

You can find your tire size on the sidewall of your tire, but if the numbers are too worn, you should be able to find this information in your owner’s manual or through a simple online search. You are looking for a number/letter combination, and common sizes are P235/75R15 and P205/65R15, but they vary from vehicle to vehicle. By knowing this information beforehand, you can save some time and make sure that your retailers give you the right tires for your vehicle.

What You Are Looking For

So, in general, there are several things you should look for when picking car tires. Once you decide which features are most important to you, you can make an informed and accurate decision about your next set of tires, and the following are all of the most important aspects of new tires that you should be aware of:

  • Qualities: Tires affect the comfort and safety of your vehicle, and they determine how well your vehicle handles in both dry and wet conditions. The qualities you are looking for include handling, dry braking, wet braking, ride noise, ride comfort, rolling resistance, and snow traction. Some tires are better in certain areas, and all-season tires attempt to be decent in all of these areas, but the quality of your tire will depend on the manufacturer.
  • Longevity: How long are the tires expected to last? Manufacturers will provide estimates, but you also want to consider your driving habits, where you drive, and how difficult the driving conditions are. For example, do you frequently drive uphill? Does it rain a lot in your city? Or do you live in a particularly warm, dry area of the country? All of these things can affect the longevity of your tires.
  • Size: This is an obvious one, and it’s hard to get this one wrong. The appropriate tire size for your vehicle will be listed in your owner’s manual, and your retailers can also look up this information for you based on the make and model of your vehicle.
  • Speed Rating: Speed rating is another metric found on the sidewall of your tire, and it tells you how fast you can go. Speeds ratings are generally listed as V, W, Y, or Z, but there are others that are less common. High-performance tires will have higher speed ratings.
  • Price: Tires are available at all sorts of different prices, and the price will vary depending on which type of tire you buy. It’s important to shop around, find deals, and look for the most affordable tires that meet all of your needs. 
  • Tread Warranty: Manufacturers frequently put warranties on their tires, so if you choose the right tires, you will be covered if they wear out quicker than they should.

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