Tire Buying Guides
The Most Important Part of Your Vehicle...
Modern vehicle tires come in all sizes and are marvels of engineering and chemistry, which makes them much more than a means to prevent your rims from contacting the road. The problem is finding cheap tires for sale. Tires have to cope with enormous forces, and in practical terms, they represent the difference between avoiding a crash, and ending up in a ditch because you couldn’t stop in time, or steer around an obstacle safely.
Moreover, modern safety systems like ABS brakes, traction and stability control depend on the traction of your tires to work at all, which means that if your tires are in a poor condition, or if you have the wrong tires fitted, you lose all of the benefits and advantages that modern safety systems offer. So if you have to replace your tires soon, read on, and we’ll explain everything you need to know about tires (most importantly, why you should never buy used tires).
All season tires
Although all-season tires are designed to provide good tread life, a relatively comfortable and quiet ride, and acceptable fuel economy, even the best all-season tires do not offer the best qualities of either summer or winter tires.
Because they have to perform well in a wide variety of conditions that can vary from hot, dry paving to occasional light snow falls, the compound used in this type of tire must resist hardening in low temperatures while at the same time remaining pliable enough to provide adequate traction in cold, wet conditions.
Similarly, the rubber compound must meet the demands of dry, hot-weather conditions in that the compound must be resilient enough to provide adequate traction without reducing tread life too much.
The result of this trade-off is that while all-season tires offer an acceptable compromise between traction in light winter conditions and traction and durability in hot weather, all season tires can never perform as well as pure winter or hot weather tires.
Winter tires are required equipment in climates where regular snow-falls, black ice, and long spells of sub-zero temperatures are the norm during winter. Good quality winter tires are constructed entirely differently from hot weather tires; this fact, and the rubber compounds found in this class of tire combine to produce tires that provide almost the same level of traction in icy conditions that hot weather tires provide on dry pavement.
Best snow tires are always marked with a “snowflake” symbol on the sidewall, and most brands are available in studded or non-studded versions.
- Studded winter tires have steel studs embedded into the tread to improve traction on ice
- Non-studded winter tires can be used in deep snow where there is no underlying ice.
Note that winter tires are not available with low profiles due to the dangers posed to low profile tire /rim combinations by hidden potholes or chunks of ice.
Off-road tires are available in many shapes, sizes, and tread patterns, and as their name suggests, they are best suited for off road driving conditions. While some types of off-road tires can be used on-road, they generally provide insufficient traction, are noisy, and don’t last very long. Moreover, off road conditions require different treads and compounds for different conditions; below are some details on the different types of off road tires available today:
Mud tires usually have large tread blocks that extend past the tires’ shoulders to improve traction in deep mud. Tread blocks are typically are separated by wide and deep grooves to prevent mud from clinging to the tread, and rotation of the tire is generally sufficient to fling off mud that accumulates in the grooves.
This type of tire is often used in rock crawling because of the tire’s ability to deform to assume the shape of a rock on the one hand, and the tread’s ability to grip uneven surfaces, especially at the shoulders of the tire, on the other.
Sand tires typically have smaller tread blocks that are separated by many narrow grooves, known as “sipes”. As a rule of thumb, the more sipes a sand tire has, the better it grips loose surfaces, but one drawback of too many sipes is that wet sand can clog up the grooves, thus reducing traction.
The size and arrangement of tread blocks on all-terrain tires falls somewhere between those typically found on mud and sand tires. In practice, this means that this type of tire easily clogs up in mud, and does not grip loose surfaces very well. However, all-terrain tires have a distinct advantage over other types of off-road tires in that they can be used on hard, paved roads, although they tend to be noisy, and cannot cope with high cornering and braking forces very well. In addition, the durability of all-terrain tires is seriously affected if they are used on paved roads.
Cross ply tires
Cross ply tires are so named because the reinforcing plies are built into the tire at right angles to the plane of the tire, as opposed to the radial arrangement of the plies in radial tires. This arrangement gives the sidewalls superior strength but at the cost of flexibility, which results in an uncomfortable ride. However, the superior strength of the sidewalls makes cross ply tires highly resistant to damage from sharp rocks or other objects that could easily destroy other types of tires.
Cross ply tires are typically fitted to relatively narrow split rims because the extreme rigidity of the sidewalls makes it very difficult, if not impossible to mount these tires onto one-piece rims.
Tires in this class typically have asymmetrical tread patterns, low profiles, and relatively soft compounds to meet the demands of high-speed driving conditions. An asymmetrical tread pattern effectively places more rubber on the road at the outside shoulder of the tire to counteract the high cornering forces that go with high speed driving, while the low profile limits flexing and deformation to improve steering and braking response.
In addition, performance tires are directional, meaning that they are designed to rotate only in one direction at high speed, and can therefore not be rotated in the same way that other tire types can. To rotate high performance tyres to a different side of the vehicle, the tires must be dismounted from their rims, switched around, and remounted to maintain their direction of rotation.
Also note that high performance tires work best when they have reached a certain temperature, which varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, as well as between speed ratings.
As their name suggests, racing tires are designed to meet the demands of motor racing conditions. Racing tires are typically not provided with tread patterns in order to increase the effective contact area between the tire and the track surface. However, while the combination of an absence of tread patterns and soft compounds work together to provide superior traction, the downside is that racing tires have extremely limited useful lives, which can be as short as a single racing event, and sometimes not even that.
New Tires vs. Used Tires
While there are many tire dealers who specialize in selling thousands of used tires every day, their claim that used tires “are as good as new” is largely based on false premises, and should therefore be treated with great deal of circumspection. If you must go looking for used tires for sale for financial reasons, tread lightly.
Many, if not most, used tire dealers claim that there is no such thing as a used tire, since new tires become “used” once you leave the tire shop. This may be true in its strictest sense, but the major flaw in this argument is this: when you leave the tire shop with a set of new tires, you maintain those tires by keeping a close watch on their inflation pressure, you don’t overload them, you keep your wheels aligned, you rotate them regularly, and you generally don’t abuse them by driving at speeds that exceed their speed rating.
The invisible threat
Used tire dealers have absolutely no way of knowing if the previous owner of a set of tires had been as diligent in maintaining the tires he is set on selling to you. The real truth is that most types of serious and potentially dangerous damage to tires involve damage to the internal structure of the tire, and are therefore not readily apparent, no matter how thoroughly a tire is inspected or how much tread it has left.
No used tire dealer can judge the condition of a tire merely by looking at it, which makes the warranties they often issue in respect of their used tires rather pointless. Warranties are of absolutely no use to you when you end up in a ditch, or worse, under a truck because the (warranted) used tires you bought a couple of days ago failed, and caused a catastrophic loss of control of your vehicle.
New tires on the other hand, are registered to the original buyer in case there should be recall on that particular brand of tires, but the biggest advantage in fitting only new tires is the fact that you know the tires had not been abused, and are therefore unlikely to fail.
Beware of old tires!
Of course, new tires can (and do) fail as well, but then again, used tire dealers are likely to point out to a prospective buyer that the used tires he is looking at have reached, or are way past their sell-by date. All tires are subject to degradation over time, which is why all tires are provided with DOT (Department of Transport) codes that indicate a tires’ age. Typical damage caused by ageing is a hardening of the compound, which can cause the tread to separate from the casing- sometimes with dire consequences.
The bottom line is that you just don’t know what you are getting when you buy used tires, which considering the important role tires play in getting you from point A to point B safely, is akin to driving while being blindfolded. You may survive the trip, or you may not, so do you really want to take that risk?
Understanding Tire Sizes
Even a casual glance at the sidewall of any tire will reveal a bewildering array of letters, symbols, codes, and other information that might confuse those that are not initiates of the language tire manufacturers use to convey important details about their products. So how does one interpret the information on a tire correctly, and especially when it comes to the size of a tire? Here's an easy to understand method how to read tires sizes?
Regardless of the brand or type of tire, all tires made and sold in the USA must have the size of the tire clearly molded into the sidewall, as described in the article.
Tire maintenance is arguably the aspect of regular car maintenance that gets overlooked the most; an oversight that often comes at the cost of premature tire wear, decreased fuel economy, and even reduced brake and steering responses that have the potential to cause crashes. Fortunately though, regular tire maintenance doesn’t cost much, and it only takes a few minutes once a week. Here is how to maintain your tires-
By inspecting your tires for sign of bulging, cuts, incorrect inflation, or uneven wear regularly allows you to pick up, and correct faults and defects before they become major issues. For instance, uneven wear patterns could indicate problems with worn/damaged shock absorbers, worn suspension and steering parts, worn /damaged wheel bearings, misaligned axles, or even some types of body deformation caused by impacts with pot holes and other obstacles.
While most tires have tread wear indicators built into the tread, it is not a good idea to use tires until the tread wears down to the indicator. At this point, a tire tread is not able to drain water from wet road surfaces effectively, which can cause a phenomenon known as aquaplaning. When this happens, the tire runs on top of the water film, instead of cutting through it to maintain contact with the road. Aquaplaning causes a total loss of traction, and hence a total loss of control.
In almost all jurisdictions in the USA, the minimum tread depth on any tire fitted to a passenger vehicle is 2/32 of an inch (1.6 mm) of tread across the entire width of the tire tread. However, this minimum varies between states; some states have no clear minimums, and two states have no tread wear minimum, so be sure to check out the minimum tread depth for your state to ensure that your tires always meet the minimum requirements.
While there are various ways to use American coins to measure tread depth, we do not recommend this method. The better option is to buy (and use) a proper tread depth gauge to measure tread depths accurately.
While all passenger vehicles sold in the USA must be fitted with a Tire Pressure Monitoring System, these systems are notoriously inaccurate; in fact, your tires may be under-inflated by as much as 25% before the TPMS will sound an alarm.
Incorrect tire pressure is the leading cause of premature tire wear, but worse, both under-, and over inflation cause reduced braking and steering responses. Many handling and control problems on most cars can be corrected simply by inflating the tires to the recommended pressure, which information is either in the user manual, or on a sticker under the hood or inside the driver door jamb.
However, DO NOT inflate tires to the pressure indicated on the sidewall - this pressure is the maximum pressure a tire can be inflated to when the vehicle is loaded to its maximum legal limit. During normal use this pressure can seriously affect handling, steering, and braking, so stick to the tire pressure recommended by the manufacturer of your vehicle for normal driving conditions.
Good quality digital tire pressure gauges can be had from almost all auto parts shops for a few dollars; get one, and use it to check your tire pressures at least once a week (how to check tire pressure) not only to extend the life of your tires, and also to ensure that your tires always perform as their manufacturer intended them to perform.
By rotating the tires on your vehicle at every oil change, you allow all the tires to share the load equally. Here's an in-depth look on how to rotate tires. For instance, if you a have FWD vehicle, the tires on the driving axle do a disproportionate amount of work since they have to deal with driving, braking, and cornering forces. By way of contrast, the rear tires only deal with cornering and reduced braking forces, meaning that the front tires wear out much faster.
Regular rotation shares these loads, meaning that you can add many thousands of miles to the life of a set of tires.
No matter what type or brand tires you have, you will experience a very uncomfortable ride if those tires are not properly balanced. Typical symptoms of unbalanced front tyres are vibrations on the steering wheel at some road speeds, and a vibration that can affect the whole vehicle if the rear wheels are out of balance.
These vibrations can vary from slight, to violent enough to damage steering and suspension components. In extreme cases, the deviation from the plane of rotation can damage the tread to the point where the tire becomes unusable.
Remember the Spare Tire
If you have a full-sized spare tire, bear in mind that it forms a part of the set of tires you have, and as such, it must not only be kept in perfect condition and properly inflated - it must be included in your tire rotation schedule as well. It's also beneficial in case you're (unsuccessfully) trying to fix a flat tire.
There is little point in having a perfectly good tire in the trunk and not using it to lighten the load on the other tires- making the spare tire share the load extends the life of all your tires. Moreover, on some AWD vehicles the difference in the circumference between a new spare tire and that of a partially worn tire is enough to cause damage to some drive train components, and to influence safety systems like traction, and stability control.