Tips and FAQs on Buying New Tires

What you need to know to get good tires at a good price.

Some of these things will be important to you.
There are lots of markings on every tire. Matt Wright

It's time for new tires. You're a smart consumer, so you want to be sure you get the most tire for your money. The emergence of a number of quality tire manufacturers in the'90s has broadened the market on tires and kept the prices low while quality and innovation continue to improve. These days there are more tire choices than miracle weight loss programs but with a little refresher course on tires, you can trim away the fat and get yourself a set of fairly-priced, safe and durable tires for your car, truck or SUV.

All Those Numbers and Letters

The side of your tire may look like an ancient hieroglyphic text to you. Don't sweat it. About.com is your personal Rosetta Stone to help you figure out what it all means, and whether it matters to you in your decision.

Each of the markings stamped into the side of a tire have a meaning. Some of them will be important to you, some won't. You're probably not worried about the speed rating of the tires for your Prius, but your Porsche 997 Turbo needs go-fat rubber on the road. On the flip side, treadwear ratings are important to your hybrid, since they affect gas mileage and the effect your tires have on the environment.

The Breakdown
As technology has advanced, the tire companies agreed upon a uniform system of describing every aspect of each tire. Lucky for us, they all follow the same formula (except for race car tires which are not legal for street use.) The following categories are squeezed onto the side of every tire you can buy.

 

  • Vehicle Application
  • Tire Width
  • Aspect Ratio
  • Radial Designation
  • Wheel Diameter
  • Load Index
  • Speed Rating
  • The Official DOT Stuff
  • Ply Construction
  • Load and Pressure Limits
  • Treadwear and Traction Ratings
  • Date of Manufacture

Click Here for an enlarged view of the placement of all these markings.

Which Ones Matter?
Obviously there is a lot of information to be gleaned from all of those tire codes, but like most things, you don't need that much info!

You might be wondering which ratings matter to you. Read the facts and decide for yourself. The answer will be very different for each driver. If you're not sure about what to do, the best move is to use the information provided by your car or truck's manufacturer found in the owner's manual. Unfortunately, as cars age, the tire specs on the tires available on the market will change. The codes you're trying to match from your owner's manual information might not even be available anymore. Don't worry if you start to have trouble finding a perfect match to the tire. A qualified tire retailer can tell you the current equivalents of all of the values referred to on the tire's sidewall.Once you've gotten this far, you're in the know when it comes to buying new tires. That's why we call it empowerment, it's all about you!

Don't forget, you also have to make a decision about snow tires!