Among all the basic maintenance tasks that come with owning an automobile, the purchase of tires is perhaps the most expensive. When it is time to replace tires, a quick peek through an advertisement or a cursory Google search reveals a somewhat daunting task. There are an incredible number of manufacturers, warranties, and installation prices as well as tire types and sizes to consider. A reputable dealer will be able to help you through the specifics, but some knowledge of tires beforehand will aid in the process.
Start with a Peek at the Tires
Before heading to the tire store, take a look at the tires themselves. The sidewall of the tire will offer information that will assist you in your decision. A series of numbers and letters on the sidewall will give an indication as to the tire’s construction, width and tire diameter. You can also learn information concerning the tire’s load and speed ratings by consulting the chart located inside the driver door of the car. Depending on the type of driving you do and the kind of conditions you drive in, these parameters can be adjusted for optimal performance. Here’s where the help of a trained tire professional is critical.
What Type Are You?
Generally speaking, there are three types of tires from which a buyer can choose. These types are summer, all-season and winter/snow tires. Additionally, owners of pickups and SUVs may be looking for a specialized all-terrain tire to allow them to operate off-road.
Of the seasonal tires, summer tires will provide more precise handling and a quieter ride in temperate climates. They are designated mostly for higher performance vehicles and are not recommended for use in winter conditions or colder temperatures. Conversely, winter/snow tires are designed specifically for negotiating snow, slush, ice and cold temperatures and are not recommended for year-round use. All season tires are an excellent choice for many drivers, especially in areas with mild winters. Tread life of these tires tends to be a little longer, making them a popular option. If all-terrain tires are your choice, be advised. While your ability to head off-road will be enhanced, be prepared to experience more noise from your tires while on the road.
Cheaper Is Not Always Better
As you begin your search for tires, a wide range in tire cost will immediately become evident. Bear in mind that a higher priced tire is usually designed to last longer and may represent the best overall value. If tire life is extended by 10,000 miles, the break-even point of your investment is only $50. Any miles beyond 10,000 and it’s almost like you are making money.
One at a Time or All at Once?
For best performance, replacing all four tires at once is the best recommendation. However, in the event of a single tire being damaged beyond repair, do your best to replace that tire with one as similar in style to the remaining three as you can. Any time tires are purchased, it is important that the tires be balanced to ensure that they roll true. This is also an excellent opportunity to have the alignment of the vehicle checked to ensure even tread wear.
Often neglected, it is important to remember that the only thing separating you from the road is your tires. Choosing the right tires for your car and keeping them properly maintained will offer you miles of safe and worry-free driving.
If you’re facing upcoming winter weather, see our post about snow tires for additional help.