The thought of replacing tires on the car is not something most people look forward to, but doing so could save the lives of the driver and others. Tires are a vehicle’s most important safety feature. When steering, braking or using the gas pedal, the actions are transmitted to the road through the tires. Not only will well-selected and maintained tires contribute to safety, they will also increase fuel economy, create better handling and stopping in all road conditions and provide greater comfort and ride quality.
Here are 5 tips for buying tires:
1. Do not buy the cheapest tires.
There is more to the price of the tires than the original purchase price. The cheaper tires tend to wear out sooner and need to be replaced more often than more expensive tires.
2. Know what type of tire you need.
Knowing what type of tire you need is an important question. According to Uniroyal Tires the answer will depend on your vehicle and driving conditions.
- For comfort and handling: Touring tires help provide excellent dependability on wet and dry pavement. They offer a balance of smooth and quiet ride with performance handling.
- For pick-up trucks or SUVs: Light truck tires help provide durability and traction in adverse off-road conditions. On the flip side, SUV tires are ideal for on-road, comfort-tuned SUV applications.
- For commercial vehicles: Commercial light truck tires are designed to handle driving through dirt, mud and everyday wear and tear from commercial applications.
3. Get the right size tire for your vehicle.
The starting point in selecting tires is the tire placard (sticker) that can be found attached to the vehicle’s driver’s side doorjamb, glove box door, or fuel door. It tells you what size tires you need. You can also get this essential information in the vehicle's owner's manual and on the tire itself. Here is a graphic of a tire sidewall with definitions of what the numbers mean:
- Tire Width: The three-digit number refers to the overall width of the tire in millimeters.
- Aspect Ratio: The relationship between the tire height and width. In this example, the tire height is approximately 60% of the tire width.
- Radial: The letter "R" indicates a radial construction of the carcass plies.
- Wheel Diameter: The number indicates that this tire fits on a wheel with a 16-inch diameter.
- Load Index: The load index can range from 0 to 279 and indicates how much weight the tire is certified to carry at maximum inflation pressure.
- Speed Rating: The speed rating tells you the top speed at which the tire can operate.
- Mud & Snow: The letters M and S indicate that this tire meets the Rubber Manufacturer's Association's standards for a mud and snow tire. All-season tires carry this mark.
(Source: Tire Buying Guide)
4. When looking at tires, ask about the tire rating.
The Uniform Tire Quality Grading (UTQG) is a tool established by the U. S. Government to help consumers compare tires based on tread wear, traction and temperature resistance.
This information can be found on the tire sidewall, or on its label.
- Tread wear: Tires are graded on rate in which they wear under controlled conditions. A tire with a 400 grade will wear twice as long as one with a 200 grade. You should only compare tread wear grades within a manufacturer's product line, and not between different tire brands.
- Traction: Tires are graded on their ability to stop on a straight, wet surface. It doesn't account for traction through turns. Traction grades include AA, A, B and C. Grade AA is the highest grade available, and C is the minimum required grade, according to federal safety standards.
- Temperature Tires are graded on their resistance to the generation of heat. Temperature grades include A, B and C. Grade A is rated best, meaning it's the most resistant to heat and, therefore, has a longer life expectancy.
(Source: Consumer's Checkbook - Time to Re-Tire)
5. Buy a full, matching set.
Tire shoppers may be tempted to just replace the tire that is most worn. This is not a good decision. Modern suspension technology is designed to work best with a matching set of tires. By replacing all four at once, you will be able to maintain your tires better, evaluate and repair suspension problems before they become major, and achieve the highest degree of safety and predictable handling. (Source: CNN.com)
Consumer Reports.org also provides very helpful information in its tire buying guide video, Choosing the Right Tires.
New Tire Safety Features
Tire companies are constantly coming up with new ways to make tires that achieve better safety, handling, fuel economy and longevity. Here are just a few examples of what is currently on the market:
- Michelin introduced a concept called the Tweel Airless Tire. This uses rubber tread supported by small, flexible spokes extending outward from the center of the wheel. It has no air inside, just flat rubber connected to flexible spokes. Michelin believes that more pliant spokes result in a more comfortable ride with improved handling, and that airless tires eliminate the risk of a blowout, and under-inflation or over-inflation problems.
- A Czech company, Coda Development, has pioneered a system called the self-inflating tire (SIT). This keeps the tire pressure constantly at its proper level with a valve that takes in outside air and forces into the rubber. Once at optimal pressure, the valve shuts off the intake of air and circulates it inside the tire. Since improperly inflated tires can lead to blowouts and even rollovers in some circumstances, CODA believes this technology, which always keeps the tires inflated to the right level, could mean big advances in safety.
- Self-supporting tires (SSTs), also know as run-flat tires, have heavily reinforced sidewalls that support the tire in the event of a tire puncture. One system from Michelin uses a semi-rigid insert inside the rubber to support the car in the event of a blowout. Michelin says that this allows you to keep driving for about 100 miles after all the air is gone from the tire.
- Tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) continuously check the pressure in the tires of a vehicle and report that information to the driver. If you own a car built after 2007, you have a tire pressure monitor system at work. Most of these systems measure the pressure directly, but some infer pressure from observing factors like the rotational speed of the tires.
"Since tires play the single largest role in determining how your vehicle will handle in an emergency situation, taking time to do a little research upfront when buying new tires may insure that you buy the right tires for your vehicle and your needs," says Lee County Personal Injury Attorney, Randall Spivey of Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A.
Fort Myers Tire Failures Attorney, Randall L. Spivey is a Board Certified Trial Attorney – the highest recognition for competence bestowed by the Florida Bar and a distinction earned by just one (1%) percent of Florida attorneys. He has handled over 2,000 personal injury and wrongful death cases throughout Florida. For a free and confidential consultation to discuss your legal rights, contact the Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A., in Lee County at 239.337.7483 or toll free at 1.888.477.4839,or by email to Randall@SpiveyLaw.com. Visit SpiveyLaw.com for more information. You can contact Spivey Law Firm, Personal Injury Attorneys, P.A.in Charlotte County at 941.764.7748 and in Collier County 239.793.7748.