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Choosing the Right Tires for Your Vehicle: A Comprehensive Guide | Mullinax Ford Blog

Choosing the Right Tires for Your Vehicle: A Comprehensive Guide | Mullinax Ford Blog

Posted at Wed, Jul 5, 2023 8:30 AM

Drivers rely on their tires every time they get behind the wheel. But we rarely think of them until we need to replace one or more of them.

“The right tires, ones that are the right size and type, are essential to your safety, your comfort and your vehicle’s performance,” said Dervin Carty, Quick Lane® manager at Mullinax of Central Florida in Apopka. Tire installation, as well as rotation and balancing and flat-tire repairs, are frequent reasons for a Quick Lane visit.

“Understanding your vehicle and driving needs can help you choose the right tires, which saves you time and money as well.”

To determine which tires you need, he suggested starting with the basics.

Tire Details

Know your tire size.

First, look at the string of numbers and letters on the side of the tires currently on your vehicle.

Say you drive a Hyundai Elantra. 

Typical original equipment tire sizes include 195/65R15, 205/55R16 and 225/45R17 tires. 

You may see a P at the front. That designates a passenger car. The first number is the tire width in millimeters. The next is the aspect ratio, which refers to the size of sidewall (sometimes called profile). The bigger the number, the higher the sidewall/profile. There’s some math involved, so trust us when we say that 65 in the first example means the sidewall is 65 percent as high as the tire is wide.

The letter that comes next is the construction type – these examples are radials, which is industry standard for most contemporary car tires.

The final number is the wheel diameter in inches.

Some tires, particularly those for trucks or performance vehicles, also include numbers for the load rating and a speed rating.

Besides P, tires are also designated LT for light trucks (these also work for SUVs); ST for special trailer tires and T for temporary tires. LT tires are designed for additional load capacities. ST tires have thicker sidewalls for larger vertical loads.

Understand the types of tires and their uses.

The most common tire types are:

  • All-season.

These tires, which usually come standard on cars. provide traction and stability all year-round and are designed for passenger comfort and longtime use. 

  • Performance all-season: Performance tires for passenger vehicles are designed to provide improved handling and higher speed ratings.
  • Ultra-high performance: In this category, drivers have a choice of all-season or three-season. The all-season tires sacrifice some traction in wet and dry conditions to provide better performance in snowy situations. Three-season tires grip better in et and dry situations but have little capability in snow and ice. These tires may wear faster than others and have a harsher ride.
  • All-season truck tires: Built to accommodate heavy loads, these tires are usually preferred for trucks and many SUVs.
  • All-terrain truck tires: These tires are larger than passenger tires and are intended for heavy-duty situations such as heavy loads or off-roading. They are suitable for paved roads as well and also provide adequate traction in snow. Many Ford F-150 drivers prefer all-terrain tires.
  • Winter/snow tires: These tires provide exceptional traction, braking and cornering in icy and snowy conditions.
  • Performance winter/snow tires: These tires come in four sizes to accommodate vehicles that use UHP tires in other seasons.
  • Truck winter/snow tires: These are manufactured especially for pickups and SUVs and are considered the best winter tires for those vehicles.

Know your driving environment and style.

Where do you drive? And what do you expect your vehicle and tires to do for you?

Passenger cars need tires that provide good handling, stability and traction on paved roads, both wet and dry. Most car drivers use their vehicles for commuting, running errands and occasional trips on the highway, so a comfortable ride is imperative. 

Car tires tend to be made of a soft rubber compound and have shallow tread patterns that reduce road noise and improve fuel efficiency.

Truck tires are heavier and are designed to handle heavy loads, off-road driving, trailer towing or other uses. Heavier and more durable than car tires, they have a deeper tread pattern that provides better traction on rough roads or loose surfaces. Tougher rubber also makes truck tires more durable and able to withstand the stress of heavy loads.

Either passenger or light-truck tires may work for your SUV, though the choice often depends on vehicle weight, how you use the vehicle – for instance, off-roading – and whether it’s all-wheel, four-wheel or two-wheel drive.

Understand what to ask at the tire store.

Tires are an investment in safety for you and your family, so be prepared to ask your tire retailer about the product and your needs before buying new tires.

“The Quick Lane® team welcomes questions” Dervin said. “We want to make sure you have the best tires for your vehicle, at the best price, so you can enjoy driving for as long as possible.”

Here are a few things to discuss:

  • Are my current tires the best ones for my vehicle?

If they are original equipment, they probably are – but remember that your location, driving style and other factors could mean you need something different.

  • Which tires would accommodate my driving habits and budget?

Tell your tire sales professional how and where you drive and ask about options that fit your needs. Also, staying within budget is important, but not at the cost of installing tires that are not right for your vehicle.

  • What about warranties?

Warranties vary, but be sure to scrutinize:

  • Length of coverage. 
  • Workmanship and materials – the tire as well as the quality of installation and any repairs should be covered.
  • Maintenance – flat repairs, regular inspections for wear, rotations and balancing should be free.
  • Road hazard coverage – what happens if you hit a pothole and the tire is damaged beyond repair?
  • Geography – if the warranty good at all locations. If not, which ones honor it?

Finally, drivers ask a lot of the same questions about tires when they come through the Quick Lane®, Dervin said. Here’s what he tells them:

  • When should I replace my tires?

Don’t wait until they’re worn out. You can do the penny test or look online for other ways to determine how much tread you still have on your tires. Anything less than 2/32 of an inch is considered legally bald.

  • Should I replace all four at the same time?

It’s usually a good idea, yes.

  • What can I do to maintain my tires?
    • Check your air pressure regularly and maintain proper inflation.
    • Have tires rotated and balanced regularly to avoid uneven wear.
    • Inspect your tires – look for bulges, cracks, tire wear, objects lodged in the treads or other issues that could cause problems.
    • Don’t mix and match different tires. Doing so can lead to uneven wear.
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