Gary’s Tire Buying Guide
Leaving the house no longer requires 5 different layers of thermal underwear, jackets, boots, scarves and hats. The snow is quickly melting, and the open road begins calling us once again. Over the past few months, we’ve been driving on winter tires. While winter tires and their common black steel rim counterparts work fine in the winter, summer tires exist for a reason. When it comes time for better dry grip and longer lasting treads, it’s time to switch to summer tires. Shopping for winter tires is easy, the most grip you can get for your buck is the clear choice. Summer tires offer a bit more complexity and choices, so Gary’s is here with our handy tire buying guide!
Buying Tires – Before You Start
Before you go throwing rubber on your wheels, you have a few things to consider first. What type of vehicle you drive and how you drive it can determine your need for tires. Many vehicles have tires designed for them, so check to see what your vehicle’s OE tire is first. What tires new vehicles come with isn’t just random, research goes into choosing and developing the perfect tire for your vehicle. Maybe your vehicle comes with a good set tires, but maybe you’re looking for something sportier, better on gas, or longer lasting. When it comes time to really start shopping, knowing how to read a tire can really help.
This guide will primarily deal with buying new tires. While used tires are often available, there is a much higher safety risk when buying used. Used tires can lack the same quality, tread life, and construction that a new would have. For your safety, Gary’s recommends that when you shop for tires, you shop new.
Reading A Tire
When you look at the sidewall (the part of the tire that faces outwards) of your tire, you can see all kinds of information. Often you’ll see a letter followed by a series of numbers as well as brand and model names. To get a better understanding, here’s a sample tire:
- The first letter denotes what type of tire this is. P means passenger vehicle, and LT means the tire is suited for light truck use. No letter here means the tire is Euro-metric. P-metric and Euro-metric tires are similar (as long as the measurements are the same) and can be used on the same axle or in a set of 4, so don’t worry if you don’t see a letter here.
- This number is the tires width in millimetres. 225 means the tread of the tire (what contacts the road) is 225 millimetres wide.
- The number after the slash is the tire’s aspect ratio of the sidewall (the part you read) to the tread (the part that touches the road). A lower number here will result in a lower profile tire often used in racing, and a higher number here will likely be a thick off-road tire.
- Tires are more than just rubber, inside each tire are tiny steel (or other durable synthetic materials) cords to add rigidity and durability. How those steel cords are aligned can greatly affect your handling. “R” stands for radial tires, which have these cords running at a 90° angle to the road, or across the tread. Bias-ply tires have the cords running at angles to the road.
- This number is one of the most important for getting the right fit. In this case, 18 refers to an 18 inch wheel.
- The last two pieces of information can be slightly confusing. This number refers to the tires load index, or how much weight the tire can support. While the number says 97, that actually means the tire can support 1,609 pounds. Make sure you get the appropriate load index rating for your vehicle when shopping for new tires.
- Following the odd naming practice, the last letter is your tires speed rating, on a scale of A (slow) to Z (high). Only in this scale, H is between U and V, just to make it interesting. In this case, the T means the tire can safely travel at up to 190 km/h without fail.
Now that you know how to read a tire, it’s time to consider what kind of driving you’ll be doing. Depending on your driving, the type of tire you’ll need will vary widely.
Performance Tires: These tires will be wider, have a smaller aspect ratio, typically be radial, often fit a larger rim, have a lower load index, and have a speed rating above T. When looking at performance tires, it’s important to note that these tires may wear out before others, given their design and functionality for high performance.
Eco Tires: The biggest conflict in modern vehicles is whether to prioritize performance or fuel economy. While performance tires grip the road at the expense of fuel economy, eco focused tires reduce rolling resistance to improve fuel economy. These tires will be narrower, with a larger aspect ratio, built with radial belts, be built for smaller to medium rims, have a higher load index, and have a much lower speed rating.
Off-road Tires: If you plan on leaving the road, it’s a good idea to have the proper tire. Off-road tires will be larger all around (width, aspect ratio), are typically radial, able to fit on smaller rims, with a high load index but low speed rating.
Once you’ve found your perfect tires, it’ll be time to have them installed. Putting a tire on a rim isn’t something that can be done at home. When it comes time to get your new tires installed, book service with the expert at your local Gary’s Automotive.
Count on the Gary’s Automotive Tire Buying Guide for expert service and advice today! Share any tire buying advice you have in the comments below!