Get your tires right, and it’s something you never really notice. Get them wrong, and you can hobble your car’s performance and its safety in a variety of scenarios.
You generally only have to buy new tires every 3-4 years, so no one really takes the time to become an expert or feel like they truly know what they’re doing. Here’s where we come in at Crumpler’s Automotive: we can help you pick them out every single time, and give our professional opinion on what’s best for you. That being said, we also want to share with you how to choose tires so you can make informed decisions and not feel blindly led.
Categories of Tires
There are three broad categories of tires: all-season, summer tires, and winter tires. Most of us in NC buy all-season tires because it’s easy: they’re less expensive and we can simply use one set all year.
All-season tires give a well-rounded performance, but keep in mind that they’re not going to be the top of the line with handling on wet surfaces or snow. Winter tires, however, have great traction in the snow, but only fair braking on clear roads.
Here’s the bottom line: no single tire type is going to be outstanding in all conditions. This is again why we buy the all-season type here in NC.
This handy information is always with your car. Check out the owner’s manual or placard in the driver’s side door jamb. Now, let’s break down an example, since it may look like a foreign language to many.
For example: P215/60R16 94T
“P215/60R16”: this is the tire’s size measurements as far as width and diameter. The “94” is the load index: how much weight each tire can support. “T” is the speed rating: max speed in relation to load index.
You’ll have to do some research to match the speed rating at times with the type of tire for the surface that you need.
All-Season: Come in S and T speed ratings. Known for all-weather grip and longer mileage. Usual for mainstream cars and SUVs.
Performance All-Season: Come in H and V speed ratings. Those are usually for cars that have enthusiast appeal and upgraded wheels. These have better cornering grip than S and T. But they usually don’t last as long as All-Season.
Ultra High-Performance All-Season: ZR, W- and Y-speed ratings. Sports Cars and Performance Sedans can trend towards these.
All-Season All-Terrain Truck: Larger sizes and designed for hauling and towing of light-duty pickups and SUVs. More aggressive tread pattern to aid in off-road traction. Most have an A/T or All Terrain in the model name.
Winter and Snow: Easily identifiable because they have a mountain and snowflake symbol on the sidewall of the tire. Another key indicator is that these treads have lots of slits. A consumer should always buy winter tires in sets of 4 to optimize handling and ensure best braking.
Tires are flexible containers of compressed air. The air container supports the vehicle’s load and propels it forward, backward, side-to-side, as well as stops the vehicle and cushions the load.
Tires are built from the inside out and have somewhere between 19 and 25 components. One of the most important parts is the inner liner. It gives the tire shape and holds air. Fabric belts wrap around the inner liner, and a bead fastens the bottom of these belts and holds the tire to the wheel. On top of the fabric belts are steel belts. They give stability and make the tread pattern as flat as possible. Flatter tread means more contact with the road. The tire tread is on top of all the belts, and there is different tread for different types of tires. The sidewall gives the tire it’s stiffness and ride characteristics. A taller softer sidewall absorbs more bumps, and a shorter, stiffer one proves better at cornering and sharper steering responses. That alphanumeric code on the sidewall describes the dimensions, as we stated earlier. Most tires start with a P. If they start with an LT, this conveys light truck.
After you select the right tires, now you’re down to maintenance. Rotate those tires. It’s essential to prevent uneven wear over time. Unrotated tires cause road noise to increase, lower fuel economy, and decreased wet-weather traction. These tires will have to be replaced sooner because they weren’t cared for.
Tire Rotation Guidelines
Front drive vehicles: Rotate the front tires to the rear in a straight line and cross the back tires to the front.
Rear drive vehicles: Rotate the back in straight line to the front and cross the front tires to the back.
All and four-wheel drive vehicles: Rotation pattern is a simple X. The left front and right rear swap and vice versa.
Load capacity decreases as you lose air pressure. Regardless of temperatures, tires lose between 1 and 2 pounds per square in (PSI) per month. Also, every 10-degree drop in temperature will cause the tire to lose another pound of pressure. Underinflated tires will affect fuel economy, traction, and increase wear.
The above is broad information on tires and tire selection/maintenance. If you have questions or concerns, please give us a call! We’re always here for you to assist you in any way we can. And especially in this realm–tires are our business! (910) 483-2958.
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