There are almost as many variables in picking the right tires for your vehicle as there are in choosing the vehicle itself—including quality of workmanship, price, fuel economy and warranty.
And there are plenty of brands to choose from. Wikipedia lists some 85 tire makers worldwide marketing 230 different brands rolling around the globe on vehicles of every kind.
Fortunately, you do not have to kick all those tires in order to pick the ones that best fit your vehicle and your lifestyle. The answers to these eight questions will help you make an informed tire-buying decision:
1. How can I tell if it’s time to replace my tires?
Try the penny test. Take a penny and insert it into the grooves of your tire. If Lincoln’s hair is covered, then the amount of the tread on the tire is still good. Otherwise, it is definitely time to consider replacing them. Tires that have 2/32” of tread are considered to be “legally bald” and may lead to severely reduced traction, making your vehicle unsafe for the road. Before heading to your local tire dealer, brush up on your knowledge concerning buying your new wheels.
2. How is a tire made?
A tire is constructed from the inside out, starting at the inner liner. There are 20-25 different systems in every tire and up to 200 different materials. Fabric belts are wrapped around the inner liner with steel belts, more fabric belts and other materials layered between the tread surface and inner liner. These layers provide strength, noise suppression and ride quality.
3. Why are some tires more expensive than others?
Beyond the basic cost of raw materials or the fact that large truck tires use more materials than small passenger tires, advances made by design and production teams impact the ultimate price of tires, especially better tires. Changes to manufacturing processes, new materials, rubber chemistry and even rubber mixing technology are all closely guarded secrets. They can all impact tire performance, especially in stopping or turning your vehicle in different weather and driving conditions. Better designs and more expensive materials translate into higher prices.
4. How do tires affect fuel economy?
Make sure you select the tires that deliver optimal fuel efficiency. Experts in the industry contend that drivers can see as much as a 15% to 20% difference in fuel economy, depending on which tires they select. Proper inflation to your manufacturer’s recommended air pressure also is crucial to fuel economy.
5. Are tires categorized by type of vehicle or by driving conditions?
The answer is “both.” The four main types of tires are highway, all-season, traction and winter. If you live in a sunny, warm climate like Tucson that gets some occasional rain but little to no snow or ice, highway or all-season tires are a logical choice for your vehicle. Buying snow-rated tires might make sense if you spend much of the winter here up on Mount Lemmon or the mountains in the far north of the state.
Many weekend warriors and hunters choose all-terrain tires made to handle year-round driving needs on and off the blacktop. All-terrain tires can be a great choice if you travel dirt roads for camping or enjoy weekend adventures or pulling a boat but you still have a long drive on the highway to get home. There are also specialty tires for trucks, Jeeps and other SUVs that are designed for off-roading, gravel and driving in the mud. A knowledgeable tire dealer like our good friends at Jack Furrier Tire, always ask the right questions and know which product is best to recommend for the clients’ needs based on their specific uses and budget.
6. What should I know about the warranty?
There are plenty of well-made tires; however, the details of the different warranties are critical in the long run. Even if the tires have comparable ratings, there are often significant differences in the warranty included by your tire dealer.
Generally, defect rates are extremely low, and if there is a defect in the tire you buy, it will typically be covered by the manufacturer. However, many other features of the warranty are covered by the dealer who sold and installed the tire(s) for you. Here are tips on what to look for in a good warranty:
- Length of coverage.
- Workmanship and materials guarantee. Both the tire and the quality of the installation and repairs should be covered.
- Maintenance guarantee. Flat repairs, regular inspections for wear, tire rotations and rebalancing should be free.
- Road hazard coverage. This means that the value of a tire is covered if you hit debris or a pothole and the tire is damaged beyond repair.
- Geography of coverage. Is the warranty honored at all locations? If not, which ones?
7. Is there a downside to changing out bigger or smaller tires in place of stock tires?
Upsizing or downsizing tires can be a fun way to change your ride’s look…but it could impact their overall performance.
When you change to a taller tire your speedometer will generally read slower than you are actually going because your tire is spinning fewer revolutions per mile. You may also experience more road noise or a difference in the way your vehicle handles. Lowering the profile of your car or truck by using smaller tires will alter both the handling and how much clearance you have; you may have trouble getting over hills you previously were able to clear.
Before you switch out your current wheels, talk to a tire professional about the pros and cons of different tire sizes. An expert will know how to translate the differences in revolution per mile, tire speed, load index and speed rating into what it will mean for your vehicle’s suspension, gearing and bodywork.
8. Can I replace one tire with a completely different model of tire?
It is best to consider replacing tires, at the very least, in pairs. Check your vehicle’s owner manual for tire replacement recommendations. Even small differences in size and type between your four tires can lead to serious consequences, especially if your vehicle is all-wheel drive. Consider this before replacing one tire alone:
- Replacing one tire with a different brand, model, size or tread depth can cause a noticeable pull in the steering wheel or cause other handling issues.
- There are tight tolerances for all-wheel-drive vehicles.
- A large difference in tread depth between tires can damage many parts of your vehicle. It is always a good idea to review your owner’s manual to see if the vehicle manufacturer has specific recommendations on this.
Replacing your tires is not an overwhelming task once you have the knowledge you need. If you are still uncertain which tires would be the best fit for your vehicle or have general tire inquires, call or visit your local Jack Furrier Tire and Auto Care for expert advice. Jack Furrier has been a trusted Southern Arizona brand since 1960. The Furrier pros know what it takes to find the right wheels your vehicle.
Jack Furrier Tire and Auto Care: JackFurrier.com or 520-547-4737.