Category Archives: choosing the right tires

Step by step: How to buy the right set of tires


tire that needs to be inspected for small holeBuying tires may not be the most glamorous job, but it’s important for your safety and your pocketbook. After all, tires are your first line of defense between you and the road—and a way to save money because they last a long time and you don’t get in an accident. Use these steps to find the right set of tires for you and your car, and move on to more fun activities (like a road trip!).

Look at your current tires.

One of the simplest ways to narrow your options for your new tires is to think about the current set of tires on your vehicle. Do you like how they ride? Are you satisfied with how long they lasted? Do you think they were very loud when you were driving? Did the tire tread wear evenly and slowly? If you were satisfied in every way with your current tires, then don’t hesitate to buy the same tires for your next set.

If you weren’t happy with your current tires, make a list of what you didn’t like about your current set of tires. Take that list to your tire shop so they can narrow your options or ask your mechanic for recommendations for tires they’ve seen other car owners like.

Note the size of the tire.

You won’t get very far in tire shopping without knowing the size of tires you need. You can find the size of the tire on your current set, in the owner’s manual, or on the inside of the driver’s side door. Make sure you get all the size letters and numbers, usually in a series similar to 235/65R16. There might also be letters, such as P or LT.

What do the letters and numbers on the tire mean? The letter “P” means that the tire is intended for passenger cars. The letters LT is for a light truck. The first numbers (255) are the width, in millimeters, between the two sidewalls. The second number (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) is the diameter of wheel that the tire fits on. There are a few other letters, but those are not as common.

Decide whether you want to purchase one or two sets of tires.

Before you head out for a set of tires, evaluate how well your current set of tires did in the snow. This is Wisconsin, and the roads can get slippery from winter storms and sleet. If you need to head out regularly into nasty snowy weather, consider buying snow tires for winter and another set for when the weather gets nice. Snow tires are constructed with a softer compound and tread pattern designed specifically for getting through winter precipitation; because of this, snow tires can find traction on even the worst winter roads.

If you prefer to buy one set of tires, look for a set of all-season tires that have a proven record in the snow and sun. Tires are the epitome of give and take. All-season tires, the most common type of tires, are designed for rain, heat, cold and snow. These tires are a good all-around tire for those conditions, but the “take” is that they are not specially equipped for winter.

Shop for new tires.

Once you’ve compiled your list of must and must haves, it’s time to go tire shopping. Use your list of “must haves” and your mechanic’s (or preferred tire shop’s) expertise to buy the best set of tires that fit with your list and your budget. For the latter factor, make sure you factor in the cost of mounting and balancing the tires—but don’t just trust any mechanic. Make an appointment with a local shop you trust to mount and balance your tires.


Enjoy your new tires!