Buying tires isn’t like going to the grocery store, and choosing the right tires is a lot more important than the kind of soup you buy (and a lot more expensive). Use these tips so you can make the right decision and purchase the best set of tires for your vehicle and your driving style.
You can find the size of your tires on the side of your tire, in your user manual, and sometimes on the inside of the driver-side door (or you can ask the experts when you head in to buy). Tire size is written in a series of letters and numbers, such as P255/55R17.
The first letter indicates the kind of vehicle the tire is intended for. Here are some of the most common letters you find in tire sizes:
After the letter is a number, these numbers specify width, in millimeters, between the two sidewalls. In our example above the width between the two sidewalls is 255. The second number, in this example 55 is the aspect ratio. The number is a percentage, and the higher the percentage, the larger the sidewall of the tire. The last number, 17 in this case, is the diameter of wheel that the tire fits on.
Driving Style & Conditions
Once you’ve determined the size of the tires you need, it’s time to decide which tire is ideal for your driving style. Are you looking for tires for your muscle car? Look for tires with a higher speed rating. Do you need tires for a daily commuter? Look for tires that can make it through all the miles you put on, maintain safe tread depth, and give you a quiet ride. Do your research and give the tire shop you contact all the information about your car and driving styles. If you drive in wet, snowy, and icy conditions, ask the experts to recommend a tire with a proven record on winter roads.
Sometimes the right set of tires is two set of tires. All-season tires, the most common tires on our cars, are designed for rain, heat, cold and snow. They give you a good all-around tire for those conditions, but the “take” is that they are not specially equipped for winter. Snow tires are specially constructed with a softer compound and tread pattern designed specifically for gaining additional traction. If you have to routinely head out in the winter weather, snow tires give you an added advantage (along with these safe winter driving practices). If you want the advantages of both tires but don’t want to have to deal with mounting and unmounting the tires twice a year, buy a second set of tires and rims so you can easily have the right tires when you need it.