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Tire buying guide – important factors to consider

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Posted: Friday, April 30th 2010

Buying new tiresBuying new tires can seem like an overwhelming responsibility.  This is partly due to the infrequency in which we shop for tires.  It’s compounded by new developments in tire technology.  Furthermore, each time we buy new tires, we may be shopping for a different vehicle.  It’s like starting over each time we start the tire buying process.  This article presents the foundation of the most important factors to consider when purchasing new tires.

When to buy

How do you know when it’s time for new tires?  Sometimes a simple visual inspection will indicate if your tires have exhausted their useful life.  Additionally, you may want to look for trouble signs such as uneven tire wear.  There are some general guidelines regarding the depth of your tire treads that can be a benchmark for determining if you need tires.  A simple measurement is to stick a penny into your tire tread (face up).  If you can see Lincoln’s entire head, it’s definitely time for new tires.  If only one of your tires is bad, it’s best to replace two at a time.  For safer handling, dealers typically suggest placing these on the back axle.

Weather

Perhaps the most fundamental consideration is the climate in which you will be driving.  Tires are manufactured for optimal performance based on certain driving conditions.  In the Northeast, we see a significant amount of snowfall.  So when shopping for tires, you should determine if they will be used for individual seasons or all year.  In either case, you should ensure that the tires are fully capable of handling all of the weather conditions they will be used in or you may experience losses in performance, stability, and safety.

Size

Before you head out to your tire dealer, you should know your proper tire size based on your vehicle manufacturer’s specifications. This information is available in the owner’s manual as well as on the informational sticker inside the driver’s door. Additionally, most major tire dealers will be able to verify this information by make and model.

Tire life

Believe it or not, tires have different life expectancies.  Typically this is measured in miles and should be readily available information.  Tires with a shorter lifespan are often manufactured for superior performance or an ultra smooth ride.  Depending on your specific tire needs and budget, it’s important to determine the proper balance of performance and life expectancy.

Speed rating

Every tire is given a letter rating that indicates the speed they can safely travel for an extended period of time.  Depending on your individual driving needs, you should select the tires that are best suited for you.  Please refer back to our tire speed rating article for a detailed analysis.

Ride noise

All tires produce a certain amount of noise.  Some generate more than others.  Tread designs are usually the cause for ride noise.  Since this is something you will not notice until you drive your vehicle on the highway, you should do some research ahead of time.  If road noise is a high priority for you, read customer reviews and comments for honest feedback.

Style and ride quality

While the specific size of your tires is determined by the type of vehicle, wheels and tires come in a variety of styles and designs.  This enables you to personalize the look of your vehicle.  Whether you desire a rugged, sporty, retro, modern, or elegant look, there is a tire package for you.  It’s important to note that different tire styles will vary in performance.   For example, low profile tires offer a sporty look and improved handling capabilities, but are more prone to damage, produce a rougher ride, have a shorter tread life, and are typically more expensive.  It’s critical to find the best compromise between looks and performance.  The Tire Pros will continue to post article and reviews on various tire manufacturers and styles.

Shopping for tires does not have to be a feared task.  With the right preparation and knowledge, you’ll be able to efficiently find the ideal tires for your vehicle.  As always, we encourage your feedback, suggestions, and questions.

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