What size tires do I need?
The simplest way to determine what size tires are needed for your car is to look at your current size of tires. You can find the size on the tire, usually in a series of letters and numbers (i.e. P235/55R17, 225/70R17, 265/70R15). The tire size could include the letters LT (light truck), P (passenger), or T (temporary spare). These letters are usually followed by a series of numbers. The first three numbers are the width between the sidewalls of the tire, such as 175, 235, or 255. The second number is the aspect ratio, which is a percentage. The last number, typically between 15-20, is the diameter of the wheel rim that the tire fits on.
How do I drive?
Choosing the cheapest tires is an option, but not always a good one. Be honest with your driving style and intentions. If you want a daily commuter tire for basic driving, look for tires built specifically for high mileage driving. For tires for a muscle car, research tires with a higher speed rating (or let your mechanic do the research).
What is the condition of my current tires?
The condition of your current set of tires can give you clues about any car issues. Before you put on the next set of tires, have your current set inspected to make sure they are wearing evenly. If you find uneven wear, make an appointment with a mechanic. Uneven wear can be a sign of a mechanical issue, such as worn breaks or suspension parts. An unevenly worn tire can also mean that the car needs to be aligned so the new tires and existing suspension parts are not worn down prematurely.
Do I need one or two set of tires?
If you have to drive through all kinds of weather (including our famous Wisconsin thunderstorms and winter snow storms), two sets of tires may make more sense for long-term driving—especially if your car does not handle well in the snow. All-season tires are manufactured for all sorts of summer and winter conditions; however, a set of tires designed for every condition does not perform as well as tires built specifically for snow and ice. Snow tires are manufactured with a compound specifically tested for driving through snowy conditions.
Are there any tire deals going on? How much is the total cost?
Before you purchase, ask if there are any deals on tires that meet your specific criteria. Tire manufacturers often offer rebates and sales on select sets of tires. If you do purchase tires with a rebate offer, be clear on deadlines for submitting paperwork and what needs to be submitted.
The cost of the tires is not the final price; tires need to be mounted on your set of rims and balanced. Balancing the tires minimizes shaking at highway speeds and ensures even tire tread wear (assuming all parts are aligned and in working order). Ask your tire shop or mechanic for a total cost so you can drive away on your new set of tires with all the information you need.