How Do I Choose the Right Tires for My Car, Truck or SUV?
Putting the right tires on your vehicle is important. It’s where the power transfer is. Your car, truck, or SUV could be tuned up and have the most power around, but the wrong tires will lead to disaster! Still, far too many people are more than happy to get the cheapest available tires. There are many variables to consider when choosing the right tires for your car, truck, motorcycle, or SUV. So how can you navigate the world of tires and get the right ones for your needs?
Seasonal or All-Season?
First, you’ll need to make a choice – do you want seasonal tires, or are you happy with the same set year-round? Summer and winter tires are great options, providing optimal power transfer and increased vehicle handling and response in their respective seasons. Making that bi-annual change is a headache, though, and if you miss your tire change, you may find yourself wearing down the winter tires on hot asphalt. Even worse, you could have difficulty navigating snow and ice in the winter because you still have your summer tires on. All-season tires are just that – capable of handling all weather.
So you’ll have to make a choice – do you want summer tires that will provide better response and wear in the summer, then have to take the time to swap in the hardy winter tires with improved grip in poor weather? Or do you want to buy a single set of tires, not have to worry about changing them every six to eight months, and have an adequate response in the summer and decent grip in the winter? Do you want performance, or convenience, and lower expense?
Match the Tires to the Car
Every vehicle functions best with specific tires. Stick to the same tire size that was original on the car. Unless you have made other changes – tuning the suspension, tuning the steering, perhaps doing the necessary bodywork – switching tire sizes by more than an inch is not a great idea. Your vehicle is built with specific tolerances in mind – switching tires like this is out of tolerance.
Don’t ever change up tires one at a time. It’s okay to replace a flat tire with an undersized spare temporarily. If you have a flat that needs to be replaced, replace it with a tire of identical specs to the other tire. It would be preferable to get the same tire. Having different tires on the wheels of your car is a recipe for disaster. Don’t skimp and buy only one tire unless you want to have to spring for four new tires shortly anyway.
Tires and Your Driving Behavior
Don’t buy more tires than you need, but don’t come up short. Don’t buy a high-end touring tire when all you may need is a quality all-season tire. Conversely, if you have a performance-minded vehicle, you won’t want to settle for bargain rubbers that rob your vehicle of its performance characteristics.
It’s not just how and where you drive that is a big part of your driving profile. Do you spend the majority of your time driving in the city? Then you’ll want tires that are different from someone spending much of their time driving on the highway. City driving needs tires that reduce braking distance are tough enough to put up heavy and poor roads and have less rolling resistance for fuel savings. Highway drivers will want tires that reduce vibration and noise levels and provide improved handling for superior highway rides.
If you’re into hypermiling to get the best fuel efficiency, select tires are available as low-rolling-resistance tires, sometimes referred to as LR or LRR tires. By cutting down on the rolling resistance your vehicle faces, they help to improve fuel efficiency. Not drastically, but by 2-3 miles per gallon – nothing to shrug at. However, these tires may rob the vehicle of some performance characteristics. Weigh the benefits, and if saving extra cash at the pump is worth it, look for low-resistance rubbers!
Are Premium Tires Worth the Price?
While the tire salesmen will tell you that premium tires are always worth it, it’s not the case for those of us on a budget. Do you drive minimal miles at low speeds on relatively smooth surfaces? If so, there’s absolutely no need for premium tires. On the other hand, if you plan on high-speed or high-performance driving, then premium tires will be worth it for you. Premium tires generally come with longer expected mileage and longer warranties as well, so they may be worth it if you have a lengthy commute or want a little extra peace of mind.
On the sidewall of all tires will be a code telling you the type of tires. For example, there may be a code reading P215/65R16 98T. In this case:
- “P” refers to the type of tire, where “P” means passenger and “LT” stands for Light Truck. Light truck tires are also used for SUVs.
- 215 is the width of the tire across the tread, in millimeters.
- 65 is the aspect ratio of the sidewall compared to the width. Usually, the higher ratios are more all-season tires, while lower ratios are for performance tires.
- “R” refers to the construction; it will be “R” for radial in almost all passenger cars or SUVs. D means diagonal, B means bias belt, and if there is nothing there, the
- 16 is the diameter of the rim in inches
- 98 is the tire’s load index – the lower the number, the lower the load it can handle. ETRTO standards indicate that the 98 code provides 1,650 lbs. of load support.
- “T” is the speed rating – common letters and their equivalent speed ratings are “S” (112 MPH), T (118 MPH), H (130 MPH), and V (149 MPH). W, Y, and Z ratings are for exotic sports cars, while L and R ratings are for light-duty trucks. A higher speed rating may reduce the comfort of the ride, in a trade-off for improved speed. Lower speed ratings may have reduced durability, particularly when driven in hot weather or regularly close to their speed ratings.
- There may be additional letters at the end of the code for special cases. You may see “M+S” for mountains and snow-rated tires, XL for Extra Load Capacity, WW for Whitewall, and more.
The best way to avoid figuring out what you need in a new tire purchase is to avoid the purchase in the first place. Maintaining your tires will extend their lives, keep you safer on the road, and reduce the likelihood of being stranded due to a tire-related problem.
The key to keeping tires in great shape for a long time is to keep them inflated properly. Inflate your tires to match the recommended PSI for your tires, often found on the inside of the doorframe of the driver’s side rear door. It should also be in your owner’s manual.
Regularly checking your tread depth to ensure even wear is a great idea, and it’s simple – all you need is a penny. Insert the penny upside down into the tread. If you can see all of Abe’s head, your tread is too low.
Slow down on the road as well! High speed will wear your tires down faster. Peeling out will wear them down faster. Heavy braking will wear them down faster. Aggressive cornering will wear down tires fast. Basically, fast and aggressive driving is a sure way to shorten your tires’ life span and cause you to have to purchase a new set earlier than planned.
No Wear and Tear, with Auto Transport Options!
One way to keep your tires from accumulating wear and tear is to use the car carrier options from Number 1 Auto Transport when you can! If you’re making a move, need your new vehicle moved to or from one dealer to your home dealer, or are bringing home a new purchase from an out-of-area auction or seller, we’ll get your car, truck, or SUV home with no undue wear and tear on your tires! Save time, save tires, and partner with Number 1 Auto Transport for your transporting needs.