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Tips For Buying the Right Tires For Your Car

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Shopping for a new set of tires may seem like a fairly simple activity, but keeping these few tips in mind will save you time and money. Before buying, you should identify if your tires really need to be replaced. Next, check your owner’s manual and manufacturers recommendation. Also, check the speed rating of your tire to ensure the new tires meet your exact needs. Last, environmental concerns like the weather where you live and type of roads play a huge part in tire and tread wear.

How to tell if your tires need to be replaced

The first indicator that clues you in to whether you should replace your tires is your current mileage. Typically, the average lifespan of all-weather tires is about 40,000 to 100,000 miles and a set of touring tires is a bit less with 40,000 to 70,0000 miles. Of course, plenty of conditions can raise or lower this estimate. Your personal driving habits can make your tires more prone to wear and tear. The roads themselves whether they are gravel, dirt, curvy, and/or filled with potholes also affect the life of your tires.

Even with this rough mileage estimate, it is very important to check your tread wear about once a month. You should be checking for nicks, dents, gouges, and cuts. Also, check the tread depth by using a penny. Insert president Lincoln’s head, face down into the tread groove. If the tread covers some of his head (2/32 of the tread depth), you’re in the clear. If the tread does not touch any of his head, you definitely need to replace your tires. If the tire tread is getting close to not covering, I would strongly consider a new set of tires as worn tread presents a safety hazard. Stopping distance and general grip of the road is greatly affected by tread depth.

Always rotate your tires with your regular maintenance check-ups. Depending on your vehicle the method of tire rotation will vary. When in doubt, consult your owner’s manual. Also remember to regularly check the air pressure of your tires.

Manufacturers recommendation

When it’s finally time to buy, take a look at your tire and loading information sticker and your owner’s manual. Be sure that your new tire is within tolerance of the specifications presented. This critical step serves some important functions. Choosing the proper tire size will ensure that your new tires can hold the weight of your vehicle. The tire size is typically located inside of the driver’s side front door, in the door jam. A double check for proper weight tolerance and type is the tire speed rating. See the table below as a reference. The figure, such as S (Max 112 mph 180 km/h, family sedans and vans) will be stamped to the sidewall of your tire. It is important to pick the closest speed rating for use because using a higher or lower rated tire will wear your tire faster and may be a hazard.

 

Fig.

Maximum Speed

Type/Vehicle type

L

75 mph 120 km/h

Off-Road and Light Trucks

M

81 mph 130 km/h

Temporary or Spare Tire

N

87 mph 140 km/h

Temporary or Spare Tire

Q

99 mph 160 km/h

Winter, Studdable and 4×4

R

106 mph 170 km/h

Heavy Duty Light Truck

S

112 mph 180 km/h

Family Sedans and Vans (Most Common)

T

118 mph 190 km/h

Family Sedans and Vans

U

124 mph 200 km/h

Sedans and Coupes

H

130 mph 210 km/h

Sports Sedans and Coupes

V

149 mph 240 km/h

Sport Cars

Z

149+ mph 240+ km/h

Sports Cars

W

168 mph 270 km/h

Exotic Sports Cars

Y

186 mph 300 km/h

Exotic Sports Cars

(Y)

186+ mph 300+ km/h

Exotic Sports Cars

 

By using the recommendation from your owner’s manual, you will get the best gas mileage possible. The vehicle’s manufacturer will generally choose the cheapest, but best performing tire — in terms of mileage. A surefire way to get the right tire is to revisit your dealership. Unfortunately, dealerships often markup their services more than normal. We recommend using your local tire shop or even a chain tire shop to select and mount your tires. Always have a trusted friend inspect your vehicle prior to a shop visit. Or at least go to multiple shops if the mechanics want to sell you multiple repairs.

Environmental concerns

Depending on where you live, different tire types can make a remarkable difference. Keep in mind your climate (very hot or very cold), the weather, and the roads that you travel on most. All of these factors put very specific strain on your tires. Contemplating these things will maximize tire life and safety.

If you live in a very hot climate in particular, be sure to not over-inflate or under-inflate your tires. Under-inflated tires force more stress on tire sidewalls which generate more heat. This is a major cause of blowouts. It’s no wonder that AAA sees a sharp increase in roadside assistance calls during the summer months. For hot climates, choose a tire that has a tread wear rating of 300 or better. This simply means that the tire has more durability compared to its brand counterparts. This treadwear rating is called the UTQG (Uniform Tire Quality Grade) and it will follow the words Tread wear, stamped on the sidewall of the tire. Often, you may simply search for summer tires and select from there.

According to the NHTSA “tires are rated for sustained travel A, B, and C.” Check your tires rating prior to purchase.

Of current tires:

62% are rated “A”

34% are rated “B”

4% are rated “C”

Snow and Winter Conditions

 

winter snow tires
Studded Tires vs Studless Tires for Winter Conditions

 

In the snow or very cold weather, the tread and overall durability should be your main concern. Every all-season tire must meet certain tread pattern requirements mandated by the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA). If the tire has MS, M+S, M/S or M&S stamped on the side wall then you know it is rated for mud and snow. All-season and winter tires typically have an extra ply layer that helps prevent flats. Remember to inspect your tires regularly in inclement conditions. For snow tires, search for all-season or winter tires, depending on how long the winters are where you live.

For other weather concerns like rain, you should consider the tread type. If you live in a place that gets a heavy amount of rain, opt for a tread pattern that disperses the water outward easily. This will prevent hydroplaning and give you much better stopping distance. Also, get a decent treadwear grade since the less tread there is on your rain tires, the higher chance the hazard.

Summing everything up, check to see if your tires really need to be replaced. Check your loading information sticker and owner’s manual and speed rating. When in doubt, check with your dealership, a trusted friend, or local tire shop. After all of that, take into account the environment you live in to choose your tire type.

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