Do you know which tires you should put on your vehicle? When you want to put the right tires on your ride, there are a few things you should know.
The tires on your vehicle are the only part that touches the road. This fact makes them extremely important to your safety, ride control, and driving experience. Not all tires are made the same, and not all tires work right for every vehicle. This means you need to understand certain factors and how to find the rubber that meets the road for your vehicle.
Before You Look at Specs, Make One Decision
Are you going to upgrade or replace your tires? This question refers to either simply putting the same tires on your car that it came with or upgrading to a higher grade or different size tire. The easiest thing you can do is put the same tires on. If you bought your car new, the tires it came with are the ones that the manufacturer felt would offer the best performance under most driving conditions.
Upgrading your tires is a lot more complicated than replacing them. You can choose high-performance tires of the same size for your wheels or switch out the wheels and tires entirely. If you change your tire and wheel size, more of the geometry of your vehicle could be changed than you think. You’ll want to consult experts and find out if your vehicle is set up to handle the tires you want to put on your car. Finding the right tires sometimes becomes an adventure that requires more changes than just the rubber on the wheels.
What Do Those Numbers Mean?
Have you ever stopped and looked at the sidewall of your tires? Some tires have the numbering and lettering printed in white, but most are printed in black on the side wall. Each number in the series means something for your vehicle and that tire. If you understand how to read your tire, there are 13 different aspects listed to give you all of the information you need. These readings are:
- Tire Width – First three numbers before the slash
- Aspect Ratio – First two numbers after the slash
- Radial-tire designation – Letter after aspect ratio
- Diameter – Number after the letter; this is your wheel size
- Load Rating with Speed Rating – Next three numbers and letter
- Heaviest spot in the tire – Indicated with a red dot
- Tread-wear rating
- Traction rating
- Temperature rating
- Mud and Snow rating
- Three-peak mountain rating
- Vehicle-specific marking
- Tire materials list and manufacturer
As you can imagine, you won’t need all of this information to find the right tires for your vehicle. Here’s what you’ll need to think about.
Which Tire Size Should You Use?
Most people will put tires on their vehicles that are the same size as what they replaced. This is pretty easy, and the first few numbers of the tire ratings give you the information. An example of the tire size is 245/40R18. This gives the tire shop all of the information required to give you the right size tires for your vehicle.
Speed Rating Matters for High-Performance Vehicles
If you’re planning on taking your car to a track to compete, you’ll want special tires made for the track. Otherwise, most tires will have a speed rating with letters that range from L to Y and cover maximum speed ranges from 75 mph to 186 mph. When your vehicle was made, the speed rating of the tires was matched to the top speed of your ride. This gives you an idea of how fast your car could go, but not how fast it should go.
How Long Do You Want the Tires to Last?
The lifespan of your tires can be an important part of picking out the right tires for your vehicle. The tread-life warranties offered by the manufacturer give you a good idea of how long the tires will last. Most drivers find that tires last as long as the tread warranty. Of course, for your tires to last as long as you would like, you need to make sure your wheels are aligned. This ensures the tires wear evenly.
Run-Flats Have Replaced Spare Tires
Many automakers now put run-flat tires on their cars right from the factory. These tires eliminate the need for a spare tire. Run-flat tires are designed to drive for short distances at low speeds, even if there isn’t any air in the tire. You won’t need to change a flat on the side of the road, but you will need to replace the tire very soon. Run-flat tires often cost much more than conventional tires. The next time you replace all of your tires, you can change to conventional tires and a spare, but make sure you have the right equipment to change a flat when it happens.
Most Tires Are All-Season Tires
When you’re looking for the right tires for your vehicle, most of the time you’ll choose all-season tires. These tires are made to perform well under all weather conditions. They aren’t the best tires for snow and ice, but they are adequate for cold wintry conditions. Most owners will put all-season tires on their vehicles and forget about them. If you put these tires on, you won’t have to worry about them when the weather changes.
Some People Like Seasonal Tires
Another part of picking out the right tires for your car will be choosing to have one or two sets of tires. Some vehicles are sold with tires that are called summer tires. These tires should be called three-season tires. They are good for spring, summer, and fall. That means you’ll need to have a set of winter tires to put on when the weather changes and turns colder. Make sure you know which tires your car has before you buy your next set. It’s easy to change to all-season tires, but there might be a reason the automaker put summer tires on your ride.
Now that you know more than you probably ever wanted to about tires, you can buy the right tires and drive with confidence.
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