Buying new tires for your car is not as exciting as purchasing a new car or installing a pool in your backyard. It is, however, one of the necessities of being a car owner—that is, if you want to get to your destination safely both during our hot Wisconsin summers and freezing winter blizzards. Tires are what get you there.
So how do you choose that new set of wheels that checks off all your criteria and fits your budget? Here’s four factors to consider and use to buy your next set of tires for your car.
How your present set of tires did
The easiest way to start tire shopping is to look at what you have on your car and think about how satisfied you are with their performance. Think about what you like or don’t like about the tire such as the ride, handling in the rain and snow, noise when driving, etc.
If you can’t think of anything your tires could do better, simplify your next tire buying decision. Buy the same set of tires that are on your present car. If you’re not happy with your present set, contact the pros to help you choose a tire that you’ll want to buy again.
What you want in your new set of tires
To narrow down your options for your next car tire, think about what you need them for. If you need cars for your muscle car, look for tires with a higher speed rating. For a commuter car, look for tires that can provide a nice, quiet ride and maintains tread depth longer. Do your research, and be honest with yourself—and the experts you consult—about your driving style. If you have to venture out in the worst winter conditions, select a tire with a proven record on winter roads (or ask for recommendations for tires that handle well in snow).
Tire sizes are found on your present set of tires, in your owner’s manual, or on the inside of the driver-side door. Look for a series of letters and numbers, such as P255/55R17.
Now for the common question, “what do the letters and numbers on my tire mean?” The first letter indicates what the tire is built for. In our example, the P means that the tire is intended for passenger cars. You may also commonly see the letters LT, which 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.
All season or snow
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. Constructed with a softer compound and tread pattern designed specifically for getting through winter precipitation, snow tires can dig down and find traction on even the roughest roads. If you HAVE to venture out on winter roads because of work or school, snow tires get you there.
Once you’ve gone through these simple questions, ask your friends what has worked for them and read through online reviews for outside opinions. Remember to screen the reviews and look for others who drive in similar conditions. You’re not going to have the same experience as a driver in Florida—driving conditions and weather is different in Wisconsin. Also take into account their driving style. Some drivers are harder on tires than others, and their tires reflect that difference in wear.
You can set a budget for buying tires before your purchase or once you see the general cost of tires for your car. Once you have an idea on how much you’re willing to pay for your next set of tires, discuss your options with the person who works on your car the most: your mechanic. With their recommendations and your list of criteria, you can purchase a set of tires that isn’t as exciting as a new snowmobile, but it’ll be just as much fun to drive.