Buying a new car tire is not something that anyone looks forward to. However, as the only point of contact between cars and roads, they are arguably the most important component in the car. Therefore it is important that you choose the right tire.
Here, we explain how to easily buy the best tires for your car.
What do I need to know first before buying a tire?
Before you can buy a new car tire, you need to know the size of the tire installed in your car. This is printed on the outer edge of the tire, in raised letters. Sometimes it’s small and hard to find at a glance, but it will be printed somewhere on the side wall of the tire.
Tire speed ratings are also important, but are often overlooked. Choose a tire with the wrong speed rating and you can cancel your car insurance. This is a single letter that is important to understand. To find out more about tire speed ratings, see our comprehensive tire speed guide.
When shopping for car tires, now you also need to know about tire labels – they are mandatory for all new tires sold in Europe. The car tire label looks similar to that found in white items such as refrigerators.
Don’t worry, the tire labeling scheme is easy to understand after you get used to its three aspects. And that will help you buy safer grippier tires, which will save fuel and make your car quieter.
What is the first time I need to know when buying car tires?
Before you can choose a new car tire, you will need the right measurement for your car’s tires. This information is printed on the tire sidewall.
All information on standardized car tire sizes, so that they are the same for all tires. An example is a tire carrying a letter of size: 205/55 R16 91W.
205: tire width, in mm
55: tire side profile, as a percentage of the width (the smaller number here shows the ‘low profile’ tire)
R16: diameter of the tire fitting wheel, in inches
91: tire load index – tire load capacity (91 = 615kg)
W: tire speed ranking – so you can match the tire’s ability with the top speed of the car (W = 168mph)
What to think about after you buy your tires
After you invest in the right tires, it is equally important for you to ensure that the tires are properly cared for and stored in the right conditions.
Checking your tires regularly is not only important for your safety, but it is also important to make sure your tires are legally correct.
For a quick and informative video on how to check your tires, including site depth, you can catch up with one of our patrol officers Matt Woodbridge as he outlines a quick and easy check that you can do at home.
Which factory should be chosen?
If you have never shop for tires, you might be surprised by the number of tire manufacturers out there. There are many choices of new offshore tires, often sourced from Asia and while many of these do not rate high recommendations from consumer testing organizations, they have a positive effect on the market. Mainstream national and international brands have become very competitive in the face of cheaper offshore products. When you and your family live and are safe on the telephone, choose wisely. Consumer Reports chose Michelin as the best brand, followed by Continental, Goodyear, and Pirelli. Bound for fifth place are Hankook, Cooper, Nokian, and Yokohama.
The place you drive makes a difference
You might have a stone cleaning SUV, but if you drive a car especially on paved roads, choose aggressive tires with large lug and width (the distance between tire blocks) will mean worse fuel mileage and noisy, rougher trips . If you are an urban commuter, look for tires designated as touring or highways or maximizing fuel. The vehicle currently has a lot of weight and has fewer lethal materials than its predecessor. Choosing the wrong tire can be a noisy mistake. Since 2012, tire makers in Europe have been asked to put information labels on all their products to assess traction, noise and fuel efficiency. There has been no news when and whether this label might appear on tires sold in Canada. If you drive regularly on non-paved or off-road roads, you might want to consider a more aggressive tire.
Know your size
Before you pick up the phone to your favorite tire retailer or click on the search window, you need to know the size of the tire. It is printed on the sidewall of the tire and on the label of the vehicle info affixed to the driver’s door or door frame. For passenger vehicles (including minivans, SUVs and light trucks) it will start with the letter “P” followed by three digits, then one or two letters, and finally two digits as in P265 / 65R17. If the tire size listed on your vehicle’s label does not match what is in the vehicle, and you have not bought a new tire, you might want to find out why there are differences before continuing. For refreshment, the first three digits represent the inner width of the tire in mm, the next two numbers are the aspect ratio or height of the tire sidewall as a percentage of the width. So in the example P265 / 65R17, the site is 265 mm wide and the side wall is 65% of that number or 172.25 mm. The last two numbers (17) represent rim diameter in inches.
Any changes you make to one of these sizes will affect the overall circumference of the tire and how the tire fits your vehicle. Remember that unless you replace the wheel rim, you have to match the last two numbers on your old tire with the new one. In other words, you cannot insert a 17-inch tire on a 16-inch or 18-inch rim.
Know your limits
Tires are also valued based on their maximum speed (speed ratings expressed in letters on the sidewall) and load ratings (expressed in numbers). Your vehicle info label will list the speed rating right next to the tire size. You can always increase this rating in your new tire, but you may not place a tire with a rating lower than that recommended by the car maker. For light truck owners who think that increasing load ratings will let them carry or attract heavier loads; think again. The truck’s weight rating is based on axles and axle bearings and no tires, no matter how fat they are, can magically turn the axle into a stronger unit.
How much do you need to change?
If you have rotated the tires regularly (every 12,000 to 15,000 km) and your vehicle does not have a straightening problem, the tire must be worn at the same speed and therefore the answer is four. But, if not, be careful of all-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive vehicles. Wearing two new tires and leaving two half-worn (or worse) rubbers can cause driveline, shaft and transfer case problems (vibration, does not involve AWD smoothly, etc.). And apart from the front wheels, rear wheels, all-wheel or four-wheel drive, if you replace only two tires, the new one belongs behind. It may need more words than we have here to explain the reason, so see this Michelin video for a shorter and more clear explanation.
Save with optional size
After you get into a tire with a variation of 18 inches and bigger, or tire with a low profile sidewall (aspect ratio less than 65) the price rises and the choice decreases. You might be able to choose an optional size that is cheaper and available from more manufacturers. The warning here is to stay within 3 percent of the total circumference of the original tire. You can do a size check by searching the web for “tire size calculators” and on most of these sites if you enter the original size and optional size that you are considering, they will give the overall circumference and percentage difference. It is possible to produce a size that is not produced by the tire maker, so you might need to refer to the national supplier’s website or your retailer for advice. If you choose an optional size, you must replace all four tires.
Expect more mileage than your next set of tires
The trick used by car engineers and designers to hide sounds, and improve handling is to choose soft rubber compounds for original equipment tires. These rubbers generally hold and angle well and run almost silently but in many cases rarely pass 40,000 km. Replacement tires, especially those that have a long wear guarantee (80,000 km and above) are made of materials that are harder and denser for longer use.