On a sunny day, you are on the way home. Imagine that you are happily driving and enjoying your favorite songs, when suddenly, your car runs over a screw.
‘Oh my God! What happends?’, you shout out.
Hands on head, looking at the flat tire, evaluating the damage.
What a nightmare!
Flat tires is one of the most annoying problems that drivers can face. Buying car tires is a piece of cake. However, finding the right ones can be difficult.
If you choose wrong car tires , your car’s performance will be decreased. Therefore, knowing how to make sure you are buying the right ones will be very crucial.
I will provide you some tips that will help you choose your right car tires. These tips include how to choose the right tire size, how to choose the right type of car tires, and things that should be considered before you buy car tires.
How to choose the right tire size
The most common mistake that a novice driver can make when he or she replace tires is not choosing the right size for his or her car tires.
There are four common places where you could find the suitable size of your car tires, these are:
- on your driver’s side door jamb
- inside your glove box door
- within your gas tank hatch
- on the sidewall of your original car tires
At the three former places, it is very easy for you to find proper size of your car tires. At the last place, however, it requires you good knowledge in order to read the size of your car tire. You also need such understanding to know whether your new tires have proper size.
In order to do this, let me tell you a little bit about the secret of numbers and letters on your tire sidewall.
You can use the sidewall codes and values to determine a wealth of information about your tire. When you replace your car tires, I recommend that you should stay with the size and speed rating of your car’s original tires. However, you have some flexibility to go higher with the load index and speed rating.
Let move to our example and I will tell you how to define tire size, load index and speed rating on the sidewall of car tires.
On the sidewall of car tires, you will be able to see a mixture of numbers and letters printed in the largest size, such mixture is called tire specs. On the above example, “P215/60R16 94T” could be called tire specs. Information on tire size, speed rating, and load index is included in tire specs.
Size: The mixture “215/60R16” indicates tire size. “215” is the cross-section width in millimeters; 60 is the ratio of sidewall height to its width (60 percent); R indicates radial-ply construction; and 16 is the wheel rim’s diameter in inches.
Load index: Shorthand for the weight each tire can carry safely. Load index, in the above example, could be interpreted through number “94”. The 94 here means 1,477 pounds per tire—pretty typical for a midsized car tire. That’s the maximum tire load.
Speed rating: Speed rating is printed as the last letter in tire specs. This letter denotes the tire’s maximum speed when it carries the load defined by the load index.
Please remember, it does NOT indicate how fast you should drive!
Standard all-season tires are usually rated S (112 mph) or T (118 mph). For higher speed rating, we have letters H (130 mph), V (149 mph), ZR (149+ mph), W (168 mph), and Y (186 mph). Winter tires may carry the letter Q (99 mph) or higher.
How to select the right type of car tires?
Once knowing what the right size of your car tires is, you could then select the most suitable tire type.
There have been many types of car tires in the market nowadays, yet most car tires fall into three main types: all season, summer and winter/ snow.
Most customers choose all season tires because it is easier and cheaper to buy such tire type than buying individual set of tires for each season.
However, the former choice is not always the optimal since there are many factors determining the right type of your car tires.
In fact, to select the most appropriate tire type for your car, you need both to understand key features of each car types and to clearly define your car types, your driving style, main types of roads where you usually drive and weather conditions in your areas.
Main tire types:
Come in S (112mph) and T (118mph) speed ratings.
They are known for year-round traction, long tread wear, and a comfortable ride.
They come in different sizes to be able to fit everything from small cars to light-duty SUVs and pickups.
However, all-season tires are typically lack of precise handling and grip of performance tires.
Treadwear warranty: None or 40,000 to 100,000 miles.
Typical wheel size: 14 to 18 inches.
Performance all-season tires
Come in H (130mph) and V (149mph) speed ratings.
They provide year-round grip tuned for enthusiastic driving.
They tend to have better cornering grip than S- and T-speed rated all-season tires, and they generally provide better handling and braking than regular all-seasons.
However, performance tires may not wear as long.
Treadwear warranty: None or 40,000 to 80,000 miles
Typical wheel size: 15 to 20 inches.
Ultra-High performance tires
Come in ZR (more than 149mph), W (168mph) and Y (186mph) speed ratings.
All season and summer ultra-high performance tires are commonly fitted to upscale sedans or sport cars.
All season UHP tires are designed to provide good handling and responsive steering in wet and dry conditions, but the tread wear and ride comfort are common compromises.
Summer UHP tires are not intended for cold weather and won’t grip in snowy or icy conditions.
All-season versions may compromise some dry and wet grip to gain winter traction.
Differentiating between all-season and summer tires can be challenging and may require going to a manufacturer’s website to find out the details.
One thing to tell them apart: A summer tire would not have an M&S (Mud & Snow) designation on the sidewall.
Treadwear warranty: None or 30,000 to 60,000 miles.
Typical wheel size: 17 to 22 inches.
All-season and all-terrain truck tires
Come in S (112mph), T (118mph) and H (130mph) speed ratings.
They are large sizes and are designed for the hauling and towing duties of light-duty pickups and SUVs.
All-season tires are well-rounded tires designed to perform well in most conditions.
All-terrain truck tires have more rugged tread designed to provide added traction on unpaved and snowy roads.
One thing to tell them apart: Many all-terrain tires will have “A/T” or “All Terrain” right in the model name.
All-season truck tires: None or 40,000 to 80,000 miles.
All-terrain truck tires: None or 50,000 to 60,000 miles.
Typical wheel size:
All-season truck tires: 15 to 22 inches.
All- terrain truck tires: 15 to 20 inches.
Come in Q (99mph) and higher speed ratings.
Winter/Snow offer superior grip to go, stop, and corner in cold, inclement weather. But they typically have faster tread wear than all-season tires because the tread is specifically designed to bite into snow and ice, and the rubber is formulated to stay pliable at freezing temperatures.
Also winter/snow tires generally stop longer than all-season tires on cleared roads. They are easily identified by a mountain and snowflake symbol displayed on the sidewall of the tire.
Plus, the treads are designed with lots of slits, known as sipes. When shopping, be sure to buy winter tires in sets of four to optimize braking and handling. Winter/Snow tires suited to cars.
Treadwear warranty: None for most.
Typical wheel size: 14 to 22 inches.
Performance Winter/Snow tires
Come in H (130mph) and higher speed ratings.
Performance Winter/Snow tires come in sizes to fit cars using UHP all-season and summer tires, in other seasons, providing improved cold-weather grip.
Performance Winter/Snow tires suited to sport cars.
Treadwear warranty: None.
Typical wheel size: 17 to 20 inches.
Key things to know about Tire type
As discussed above, each tire type is suitable for a certain kind of cars and every type has its own pros and cons. I have summarized these into the table below so that it will be easier for you to compare them.
|Tire type||Suitable vehicles||Suitable weather||Pros||Cons|
|All-season tires||Small cars, light-duty SUVs and pickups||All kinds of weather||Cheap and easy to buyYear-round traction, long treadwear, and a comfortable ride.||Lack the precise handling and grip of performance tires.|
|Performance all-season tires||Small cars, light-duty SUVs and pickups||All kinds of weather||Tend to have better cornering grip than S- and T-speed rated all-season tires.Provide better handling and braking than regular all-seasons||Performance tires may not wear long|
|Ultra-high performance tires (UHP tires)||Upscale sedans or sport cars||All season UHP tires: All kinds of weather.Summer UHP tires: summer||All season UHP tires: provide good handling and responsive steering in wet and dry conditionsSummer UHP tires: provide better performance in wet driving conditions||Summer UHP tires are not intended for cold weather and won’t grip in snowy or icy conditions|
|All-season and all-terrain truck tires||Light-duty pickups and SUVs||All season||All-terrain truck tires: more rugged tread designed to provide added traction on unpaved and snowy roads.All-season tires: less noisy, deal with bumps well, provide more handling on turns and brakes well-rounded tires designed to perform well in most conditions.||All-terrain truck tires: noisier than regular all-season tires, have shorter tread life, prone to cupping due to their design and have lower fuel efficiency.|
|Winter/snow tires||Small cars||Cold, inclement weather||Have faster tread wear than all-season tires||Winter/snow tires generally stop longer than all-season tires on cleared roads|
|Performance winter/snow tires||Upscale sedans or sport cars||Cold, inclement weather||Better grip, superior braking||Poorer handling, tough on roads, comparatively fragile|
If you would like to understand deeper about key differences in performance of these tire types, you could have a look at the chart below. This chart illustrates performance rating of key tire types evaluated by ConsumerReports.com.
Performance rating of key tire types
As you can see from the chart, no single tire type can be well performed under all conditions of the environment; rather, each type could have its optimal performance under a certain condition.
As stated earlier, there has been no absolute answer for the question of the most appropriate type of your car tires.
The answer of such questions will depend on many factors, including your needs, your car type as well as environmental conditions.
Things that need to be considered before you select car tires
In order to select the most appropriate tire types for your car, you should carefully think about three main things (i) weather conditions in the place you live, (ii) main type of roads that you usually drive, and (ii) your driving style.
Weather conditions in your area
Weather will have significant impacts on the performance of your car tires. In order to stay safe, you should choose tires that select tire type that will perform well both in your most common weather conditions and in the most extreme conditions that you might face as well.
For relatively warm weather, you shouldbuy all season tires and/or summer tires.
For seasonal climate with normal winter, you should consider buying two different sets (one set of summer tires and one set of winter tires) or buying one set of all season tires.
For seasonal climate with severe winter, I strongly recommend that you should have two set of tires, in which one should be winter tire set. That means, you should have one set of summer tires and one set of winter tires, or one set of all season tires and one set of winter tires.
Main type of roads that you usually drive
Different characteristics of roads that you usually drive will require different tire types.
In case that you mainly drive inside city, you should look for tires that
Have optimum braking distance, on both dry and wet roads.
Have high longevity since driving inside city puts great demand on car tires with many stops and start.
In case that you mainly drive on highways, you should look for tires that
Have optimum braking distance, on both dry and wet roads.
Offer high comfort, both in terms of vibration and noise.
Provide excellent grip and stability.
In case that you drive on unpaved roads, you should look for tires that
Have maximum durability.
Provide excellent grip and stability.
Your driving style
In order to enjoy your drive, you should look for tires that suit your driving style the most.
If you prefer a quiet and comfortable driving style, you should look for tires that specialize in comfort, smooth ride, or low road noise. In other words, you should choose tires with lower speed rating (S, T or H ratings on the sidewall) since these are optimized for more comfort instead of more speed. I strongly recommend that you should NOT choose tires with speed rating below the level of speed specified by the manufacturer of your car. You should also avoid aggressive tread designs; even though they look cool , they can generate lots of road noise.
If you enjoy the feeling of every curve turn, you should look for tires that have great handling or steering precision. In other word, high-performance tires might suit you since they have higher speed rating and are optimized to provide better control and a stiffer, more precise ride.
In short, I have introduced some information and tips about how choosing right tires for your vehicle in this article.I do hope that this article will be useful for you and will help you choose your new car tires easier.
Alvin Reyes has expertise in automotive evaluation. He collaborated with famous newspapers and is still making efforts in tire review for DrivingPress.com