Selecting the Right Tires

Since tires affect the performance and personality of your vehicle, all four tires should be as identical as possible or handling problems may arise. If your tires don’t match, it is possible that one end of your vehicle will respond differently, making it harder to control. You must consider the following:

Just One Tire?

If your tires have a lot of remaining tread depth, but you need to replace just one that has been damaged by an accident, road hazard or a vandal, you should replace it with a tire that exactly the same as the others. Choose a replacement tire of the same brand, line, size and speed rating. While there may be a cheaper tire available, it wouldn’t be a bargain this time because it would be different than the other three tires on your vehicle making handling unpredictable.

In Case You Need Two Tires

If two of the tires have a lot of remaining tread, but you need to replace the other two because they were worn out or damaged, you should replace them with a pair of tires that come as close as possible to the same as the existing tires. While identical new tires are desirable, others of the same size and type can also provide satisfactory results. Only consider selecting new tires that are from the same tire grouping as your original tires. Consider installing the new ones on the rear of the vehicle.

While your vehicle is being servisk your technican why one pair of tires have worn faster than the remaining tires. Was it caused by a lack of tire rotation, wheel alignment or loose mechanical parts? Once the problem has been found, it can be corrected before it destroying your new tires. Keep in mind that your ultimate goal is that all of your tires always wear out at the same time so they can be replaced as a matching set.

Do You Need Four Tires?

If all of your tires are wearing out evenly, you have the greatest latitude in tire selection. If you were satisfied with the original tires, simply replace them with the same type. If you want longer treadwear, a smoother ride or more handling, there are tires that will help you accomplish that. Review the different tire category types until you find a category description that describes a tire that fits your desires.

When you know how many tires you will be replacing, determine size and type by answering the following questions below:

What is the right size for my vehicle?

Selecting the correct tire size can get complicated, especially if you decide to deviate from your vehicle’s Original Equipment size.

A tire’s primary priority is that it must be able to carry the weight of your vehicle. No matter how good a tire you choose, if its capabilities are “overworked” just carrying the load, it will have no reserve capacity to help your vehicle respond to quick emergency. When you are in the selection process, make sure that your new tire’s size is designed to carry the weight of your vehicle!

The second consideration is overall tire diameter. Since many of the functions of today’s vehicles are highly computerized, maintaining accurate speed information going into the computer assures accurate instructions coming out. The most important part of the speed equation is your tire’s overall tire diameter.

For cars and vans, staying within a 3% diameter change is perferable. Pick-ups and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) are usually designed to handle up to a 15% oversize tire. Most tire dimensions can be determined. At first a 3% diameter increase or reduction in tire diameter may sound very limiting, in most situations it allows approximately a 3/4″ diameter increase or decrease.

To help with the selection of alternate sizes, a system called “Plus Sizing” was developed. You can use Plus Sizing to take into account the diameters of the available tires and the wheels, and then helps select the appropriate tire width that provide adequate load capacity. Maintaining the tire’s overall diameter helps maintain accurate speed information going into the computer.

What do I need? Summer tires, winter tires, or all-season tires?

When do you drive your vehicle? Only in sunshine, or also through rain and snow? Do you drive your light truck on the pavement, off the road, or are you the one responsible for clearing the land to build the roads? The needs of the different environments require a different tire.

You must ask yourself these questions to determine which performance category you should choose from:

What is the worst driving environment I will encounter?

If you use more than one set of wheels and tires (for example, winter tires in snow and ice and summer tires in summer), you can select tires that exactly meet your diverse needs. If you use only four tires for every situation, you may get good performance under many conditions, but you will compromise your vehicle’s performance when the conditions are at their extreme.

Select your tires so that they match the worst driving condition you expect to encounter. Therefore, when you’re stuck in the snow or in the mud because your tires don’t have the appropriate capabilities, you’ll curse their limited performance in your worst driving condition…and you’ll quickly forget how smooth and quiet they were when conditions were ideal!

What are the typical driving conditions I can expect to encounter?

If you only drive around your neighborhood and a “long trip” is one that’s just down to the corner drug store, any tire will do. But if you drive your vehicle on congested city streets and expressways during rush hour you will be better equipt with more responsive tires. If you drive extensively on the interstates you may want quiet, smooth riding, long wearing tires. Or if you like to drive quickly on twisting roads or through the mountains you will want good handling tires. And if you drive on the track or in autocross events, you will want the best maximun performance tires available.

How To Balance the Requirements of Your Driving Conditions

If your typical driving conditions and your worst conditions are similar, one set of tires will be all you need. If you live at the edge of the snowbelt and infrequently get snow you will want to select an all-season tire. If your SUV is used as the family’s station wagon and driven on the road all of the time, overly aggressive light truck tires aren’t what you will ge looking for.

If you drive through snow all winter and is dissimilar to your typical driving condition (you commute to work on the expressway during the week and spend your weekends at the beach), you will want to consider selecting two sets of tires for your vehicle. Each set will be designed to master the specific environment without compromising your driving satisfaction at the extremes. While purchasing two sets of tires may seem expensive, the tires you’re not using won’t wear while you are using the other set, and combined they’ll provide longer total wear than either set could individually!

Compare Price Versus Value

The price of fuel for our vehicle seems relatively inexpensive while the cost of its tires seems high? When you keep track of your total costs we will find that typical total fuel costs for just 10 to 20 thousand miles of driving actually exceed our tire costs.

When you select new tires and find one that is perfect, although more expensive than another tire that appears to be a close second; consider evaluating your situation by comparing “how much per mile” each tire cost. If you plan to drive your vehicle another 25,000 miles and are considering the “perfect” tires at $125 each, and the other at $119 each; you may be surprised to find out that the cost of the “perfect” set costs just 1.3 cents per mile…while the close set costs 1.2 cents per mile. Will saving the $40 today make up for not having selected the “perfect” tire that you will be driving on for the next several years?

When Should I Replace My Tires?

According to most states’ laws, tires are legally worn out when they have worn down to 2/32″ of remaining tread depth. To help warn drivers that their tires have reached that point, tires sold in North America are required to have molded indicators called “wear bars” across their tread pattern from their outside shoulder to inside shoulder. Wear bars are designed to visually connect the elements of the tire’s tread pattern and warn drivers when their tires no longer meet minimum tread depth requirements.

Common Sense

However, as a tire wears it is important to realize that while its dry traction and handling will improve its ability to perform in rain and snow will diminish. At 2/32″ of remaining tread depth, resistance to hydroplaning in the rain at highway speeds has been significantly reduced and traction in heavy snow has been virtually eliminated.

If rain and wet roads are a concern, you should consider replacing your tires when they reach approximately 4/32″ of remaining tread depth. Since water can’t be compressed, you need enough tread depth to allow it to escape through the tire’s grooves. If the water can’t escape fast enough your vehicle’s tires will be forced to hydroplane (actually float) on top of the water, loosing traction.

If snow covered roads are a concern, you should consider replacing your tires when they reach approximately 6/32″ of remaining tread depth to maintain good mobility. The reason that you need more tread depth in snow is because your tires need to compress the snow in their grooves and release it as they roll. If there isn’t enough tread depth, the “bites” of snow your tires can take on each revolution will be so small that your traction will be reduced. Because tread depth is an important element for snow traction, winter tires start with deeper tread depths than standard all-season or summer tires. Some winter tires even have a series of wear bars molded in their tread pattern indicating approximately 6/32″ remaining tread depth.

This article is the intellectual property of Simmons BOSS CREATIONS. Any reuse of the contents must include the following attribution:

Marcus Simmons, ASE Certified
Phone: (248) 461-6977