Tires might look like the least complicated component in a car, but they are crucial to the function of any vehicle. A suitable tire mounted on a wheel can significantly increase the level of ride comfort and ensure safety on the road. Furthermore, it grants drivers better control regarding changing and maintaining the direction. Thus, shopping for the correct tire should be among the top priorities for new drivers.
Still, not many of them are aware of what to look for when going tire shopping. If you are struggling with the same issue, let’s have a look at the following advice on how to buy tires for beginners, regarding the 4 main tire aspects below.
The first aspect to examine is how big your tires should be. Some drivers jump to the conclusion by letting their used tires be the benchmark for references. The thing is, after extensive use, the existing tires no longer remain in their initial shape. The inaccuracy here – however small – can gravely affect the performance of your overall vehicle in the long run. So what to do in this situation?
Check up the door jamb located somewhere on the driver’s door, and you will see a placard printed on it. There, everything related to your car’s specifications is on display, including the recommended size for your tires. For those who want to be extra careful, open up the car’s manual and find more details. Make sure the numbers from these two places match each other.
But knowing where the information lies does not mean you can get a tire right away. Tire sizes are often presented in a series of numbers and letters, which is confusing for many people. Thus, it is essential that you learn how to read this combination and grasp the meaning behind it.
Let’s say the manual states that your tire size is P210/65R15 100U. Now, break things down into smaller pieces for easier analysis.
- P: P refers to the type of vehicle compatible with the tire. Here, P stands for P-metric tire, which comes with a passenger-car in the US. Different vehicles require different letters for marking. For example, a light truck would be LT, as it usually requires more pressure to function than typical P-rated tires. In some cases, you will see no letters at all. It means that this particular car does not comply with US-approved standards and is based on European metrics. The two systems vary in how they determine the load capacities.
- 210: 210 determines the tire’s width, which is measured from sidewall to sidewall in millimeters. In all tires, the width is illustrated by the first three digits placed right after the letter at the beginning.
- 65: 65 calculates the percentage of a tire’s height compared to its width, typically termed the aspect ratio. In this particular case, the tire’s height is 60% of 210, which is 126mm.
- R: R is the construction of the tire, specifically how it was built in the factory. Standing for Radial, an R-rated tire means different layers are arranged radially across the tire.
- 15: 15 represents the diameter of the wheel in inches. It helps drivers determine which wheels the tire will be perfectly mounted on. So a tire saying P210/65R15 best fits wheels with a diameter of 15’’.
- 100: 100 illustrates the load index of a tire, meaning the maximal weight that a tire can carry with optimal performances for a sustained amount of time. A tire with a 100 load index can carry 1765 lbs. Multiplying it by four and you have the loading capacity of the entire vehicle, which is 7060 lbs.
- U: U belongs to the tire speed rating chart, which was originally developed in Europe to standardize the performance of car tires. U-rated tires can spin at 180 km/h or 112 mph with the lowest level of ride discomfort. Most mechanics would advise you against exceeding the limit set out, as it would decrease the tire durability and compromise your safety.
Now that you have decoded the message behind a tire size specification, make sure to create a checklist and follow it through. If you can get a set of tires that 100% fit the requirements, good for you! But if you cannot manage to buy something identical, be sure to buy anything as close to the measurements as possible.
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Tires are available in numerous categories, each of which has different pros and cons. Therefore, spend some time to reflect on your needs and see which type will best serve your purposes. Below are some of the most common car types to take into consideration.
For fans of intense, off-the-road traveling, using a mediocre tire puts your vehicle at risk of accumulating mud, sand, and other substances along the way. Furthermore, most standard car tires do not provide a good grip when driving on bumpy, uneven areas. This is when a mud tire comes into force.
But remember, the name already says that this tire is designed for adventurous trips. Using it for commuting is a terrible idea, as it is prone to wear and tear easily. That is not to mention its screeching sounds and feeble grip on city driveways.
This tire type is pretty self-explanatory. Snow tires are for car drivers living where the winter is extremely harsh, and the snow falls in bulk. The icy surface means car slipping, and accidents are more frequent, which calls for softer rubber, extra indentations in the treads, and larger space between the tread blocks.
Sometimes, the snow tire comes with studs placed all over the tread for increased friction. This is to double down on the grip these tires offer when it comes to driving on snowy lanes. Snow tires are slightly more versatile than their mud counterparts, as they can move around even when the winter is over. However, the performance would not be as satisfying.
When driving in the city, all-terrain tires can emit some more noise compared to commuting cars. But it still provides an acceptable ride comfort, especially when the weather is not favorable. Roads covered in light to medium rain or thin layers of snow will pander to the build quality of this particular tire.
Even better, these tires can cross through most areas smoothly. Bumpy, sandy, or slightly muddy areas, you name it. As long as you stay away from serious mudding, your all-terrain tires will suffice on most trails.
Most family or commuting cars turn to all-season tires instantly due to their affordability and efficiency. If your vehicle is mostly for road traveling and there are no extreme weather conditions, this type of tire is enough to do the job. Not only is it quiet while driving, but it also grips firmly to the road and lessens the jerk. Furthermore, just like all-terrain tires, they can handle rain and snow as long as they are not too heavy. So unless you live in a snowy land and need to tread out regularly with snow tires, your car is fine with all-season tires.
Also known as performance tires, summer tires vary in their diameter and sidewall compared to other categories. They enjoy a much wider diameter and shorter sidewall, making them perfect for cornering and abrupt changes in direction. Regardless of how wet or dry the roads are, these tires offer impressive traction and are a must-have for sports car enthusiasts.
Unfortunately, summer tires are highly seasonal and high maintenance. Their design makes them more prone to cracks and dents if the road is bumpy. Thus, the lifespan of each tire is relatively short. You will have to take extra care of it should you want to maintain its durability. Next up, when the temperature drops, the whole tires become much stiffer and virtually unmovable. So summer tires are more or less useless when winter comes.
For trailers or trucks, none of the above tire types would do justice to their hefty loading capacity. They need something thicker and bigger to support the entire vehicle. LT tires are the ideal choice in this situation. A consistent ride highly resistant to road craters or bounces ensures the quality of a truck ride.
There are roughly 100 companies selling tires in the US, so the choice is all yours. You can go for some of the most familiar names like Michelin, Goodyear, Cooper, or Bridgestone.
As they are brand names and have been established for a long time, in most cases, the quality would live up to the reputation. If something is wrong with your purchase, you can quickly contact dealers and get the tires warrantied. In addition, popular car tire manufacturers are widely accessible and available even in far-flung areas, so you can go and hand-pick everything on your own.
For those who want to try out newer, more recently-established tire companies, make sure you put in more effort with the research. Look at their websites and leaf through the catalog to see what the company offers. Compare their pros and cons to other choices on the market and see what their unique selling points are.
If possible, find some candid reviews of past customers for better insights into the tire’s quality. One more thing to take into account is their warranty policies. You would have to prepare for the worst when the tires accidentally fail. Seal the deal only after you have done your homework
In case you want to save the hassle, check out the brand of your previous tires. If you already tossed the used tires away, contact the automaker or professional mechanics for an answer. Simply buying a tire you have used in the past is no big deal, especially for tires that have done an excellent job keeping your drive safe and smooth.
But then again, some people enjoy the thrill of getting new car compartments and experimenting with different brands. Therefore, it is essential to examine your needs and review the performance of old tires before making a final decision.
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After purchasing the tires you deem desirable for your car, do not forget to keep them in good condition by frequent check-ups. There are a few procedures that you should follow entirely to maintain the tire’s quality, listed as follows.
Ensure the air pressure
Each tire has a distinct recommended PSI, and this number should not drop by 25%. You can find out more about this specification in the manual or the placard printed on the driver’s door.
If the air pressure becomes too low, the Low Air Tire Pressure light will keep flashing on the dashboard to remind you. But if the car does not have a TPMS or built-in sensors, you need to inspect the tires manually. Mechanics would advise doing this once a month regardless of how your tires look. Some potential leaks or punctures might appear invisible at first look but become dangerous if ignored for a long time.
Rotate the tires
For every 5000 to 7000 miles (or 8000 to 11200 km), switch up the positions among the tires. There is no exact order as long as all the tires get the chance to be mounted on four wheels. The purpose behind this is to wear the tires evenly. From there, your tires become sturdier and can withstand more time spent on the road.
Our detailed guide and tips on how to buy tires for beginners might confuse you at first. But with a bit of time and research, you will eventually know what to look for when shopping for a highly adequate tire. If you find this article helpful, feel free to bookmark it for later use and share it with fellow drivers!