When it comes to car performance, the tire is the most overlooked but potentially the most important part of the puzzle. Your tires will predict how well it handles, how well it will perform at speed, or in the rain or snow. Unfortunately, not all tires are made equal. You can’t have a tire that can simultaneously provide you with maximum performance, grip, sound minimization, and off-road capabilities. This is why it is worth spending the time to find out what is the best tire for you with the budget that you have. Making a few simple choices may improve the quality of your ride significantly as well as save you money in the long-run.
What you need to know about tires
New tires are required to be made up to the most recent standards, with a high level of quality control. They have the best technology to reduce road noise while also increasing performance. You can also see a new tire a mile aware compared to one that has been used. Used tires can be hard to judge.
You can get information from the previous user about how many miles it has done as well as using markings on the tire to see how old it is. You can also look at the tire visually to see if there are any obvious markings or embellishments. The issue is that you cannot see what has happened inside the tire. One big impact may cause a tire to become unstable and could lead to a puncture or blowout anytime without you knowing about it.
If possible, try to opt for a new tire even if it is a cheaper one rather than a used tire when looking to replace yours. The risk is often too high when purchasing old tires to make it worth saving.
How long do tires last?
The average all-purpose tire will last around 3-5 years with moderate use that equates about 20,000 to 30,000 miles. Winter tires will last twice as long as this as long as they are stored correctly. Summer tires are often made from a softer material than all-purpose or winter tires and therefore, will not last as long. They may do around 20,000 miles over three years before needing replacing.
Different types of tire – what makes them unique
To ensure the best performance from your car and safety above everything else, it is important to get the best tires for your vehicle. Tires wear and need to be replaced more often than most other parts of your car, so making sure that you have the right tires for the job and that they are properly looked after is key.
Summer tires are made for when you are driving in high temperatures and where there may be a risk of high humidity. The main risk if you live in an area that has high temperatures during the summer is that the tires will get too hot and start to lose their properties. A soft tire can become dangerous.
In addition, high temperatures and soft tires can affect your fuel economy and increase how fast it wears out. Summer tires also need to be able to handle some level of water on the road. Hot summers often come with torrential rain as the humidity is released. You may have seen performance cars with summer tires that have almost no tread or grip. This is designed to improve their surface area on tarmacked roads that are not likely to get wet.
When raving, you will see performance cars take a pitstop to change their tires if it starts raining. This is to ensure that the tire can displace the rain on the road and not aquaplane over it. In a similar vein, you need to check that your summer tires always have at least 1mm of tread, which is usually enforced by law. As standard most tires come with 2.5mm of tread. As the summer months pass into winter, summer tires become far less useful. The properties that make them a wise choice when it is hot are limiting and even dangerous in the snow.
Winter Tires – useful in difficult weather conditions
Winter tires are not needed by law but are very useful. As temperatures start dropping, it is a good idea to invest in winter tires to ensure your safety in adverse weather conditions. This is especially true if you live somewhere where snow and ice are more likely than not. Being caught out in a blizzard with standard or summer tires could put you in a very difficult situation. Winter tires are designed to remain somewhat pliable when the temperatures get below zero.
Tires becoming too hard could result in brittleness, which could lead to a blowout on impact. Winter tires also have a deeper tread than all-purpose or summer tires to give more grip in slippery conditions. These grooves are also designed to help disperse water and stop the car from aquaplaning when snow turns into water.
If you need a tire with even more tread, then look for markings M + S. These tires are made for mud and snow if you live somewhere more rural where this may be needed. These tires have even more tread than standard winter tires, which dig into slippery surfaces.
All-Season tires – a tire for all the year
All-season or all-weather tires are made as an in-between that can be used all year round. They are able to cope well in both higher temperatures and don’t heat up in the summer but have more tread and ability to cope with lower temperatures than a summer tire. If you live in a region with mild summers and winters, then these could be a good option and come with the added benefit that you don’t need to change them every six months between seasons.
The issue is that these tires will not be able to handle extremes on either side of the spectrum. If the summer days get too hot, the tires will begin to compromise. Winter is especially difficult as even though there is some tread, all-season tires can get out of their depth quickly in the snow.
They will be better than summer tires, though, and maybe enough if there is only an inch or two of snow. Overall you won’t get any of the increased performance that comes with a specialized tire such as superior braking, grip, and fuel economy, but this may be worth it depending on your situation.
The final category of a tire is the all-terrain tire. These generally come in three different levels depending on the type of driving that you will be doing.
All-terrain tires are the most common option and serve as a tire that can be used for day-to-day driving around town and on the highway but can also handle some off-road needs. These are often the standard tire that is put on an SUV or truck due to their ability to handle most situations.
Mud-terrain tires are made for real off-road driving. They have very large treads that are ideal for pulling you through mud, gravel, and even large bodies of water. Mud-terrain tires also have reinforced sidewalls that are designed to handle the impact of rocks or other hard obstacles you may have to navigate.
You can also get tires that are able to run even while flat. These are made differently to other tires and have a sidewall that is reinforced to handle the pressure of the vehicle if it gets a puncture. There are also additional support rings to help keep the tire able to move the vehicle forward.
Finally, there are street-terrain tires – these are made for very low-grade off-roading such as cobbled or gravel tracks. They are slightly more durable than normal winter tires and are useful if you need to drive anywhere that is not tarmacked.
How to know when a tire needs replacing
For a comprehensive guide on how to tell if a tire needs replacing, the RAC has a very good guide here. To cover the basics, there are a few things that you should look for to see if you are due a new set of tires. The first is the amount of tread a tire still has. This is called the tread depth, and by law, if it reaches a certain limit, the tire needs to be changed. A simple way to check this is to take a coin and insert it into the tread. Around half of a small coin should not be visible if the tread is still roadworthy. An older tire will also give your car a poorer ride and will affect the fuel economy, so making sure that your tires are up to scratch is good for your wallet too.