Where the rubber meets the road! –
10 great tips for buying tyres (Part 1)
Question: What is the only part of your vehicle that actually touches the ground?
Answer: Ideally, your tyres.
Most of us don’t give much thought to our tyres until it’s too late — that is, until they fail.
There are plenty of reasons to give your tyres a little bit of attention now, before you find yourself on the side of the road at midnight.
A well-selected and maintained tyre can contribute greatly to your safety, increased fuel economy, better handling and stopping in all road conditions as well as providing greater comfort and ride quality.
Walking into a tyre showroom can be an overwhelming experience with literally hundreds of tyre brands available, in a wide range of styles, construction, composition and price. To make the selection process easier and more effective we’ve put together these great tips for buying tyres:
1. Make sure that you actually need new tyres. Perform a quick visual inspection. If you see excessive tread wear, cracked sidewalls, or any discoloration or bulging, it’s probably time for a new set.
If your tyres are more than 10 years old, consider replacing them even if they look OK — rubber deteriorates with exposure to oxygen.
2. Make sure that your vehicle is in good shape. Inspect your tyres for signs of uneven wear, which might indicate alignment or suspension issues. Check for signs like more wear on the inside or outside of the tyre vs. an even wear pattern across the entire width of the tread.
If you put a new set of tyres on a misaligned vehicle, or one with bad shocks, you’re throwing money away. The new tyres will wear quickly and unevenly, and you’ll need another set in a hurry.
Most tyre centers will inspect your current set of tyres, and give you an assessment of your vehicle’s condition before you buy. If you have a trusted mechanic, bring your vehicle in for an inspection before heading out to the tyre center — an impartial opinion from an expert who isn’t trying to sell you something is always desirable.
3. Check your owners manual and information placarded. The manufacturer of your vehicle has made a recommendation about the size and type of tyres which work best with your vehicle, that information is found in the owner’s manual and on the information placarded.
The information placarded on your vehicle is required by law, and is permanently attached to your door edge, door post, glove compartment door or inside your boot lid. It may have been painted over on some older vehicles, but it’s there.
If you don’t have an owners manual, most manufacturers will sell you a replacement at a reasonable cost — ask your dealer, or search on the manufacturer’s Web site.
4. Decipher the tyre code. Perhaps the most confusing part of tyre buying is figuring out what those numbers on the sidewall of the tyre mean. They are part of a simple standardized code that is required by federal law in order to describe tyres, and to identify them in case of a recall.
Here’s a simple guide:
Example of tyre sidewall markings — P215/65R 15 95H M+S
• First up is a letter or letters, indicating the tyre’s purpose: “P” for passenger vehicles or “LT” for light trucks are the most likely letters you’ll see.
• Next is a three-digit number. This is the tyre’s width (in millimeters) from sidewall edge to sidewall edge.
• Then, a two-digit number which is the tyre’s aspect ratio, or the ratio of height to width. The smaller the number, the shorter the sidewall.
• Next, a letter, probably “R,” which indicates radial construction. Almost every tyre you encounter will be a radial nowadays, unless you’re buying tyres for a classic vehicle.
• Then, another two-digit number, which is the diameter of the wheel that the tyre is intended to fit.
• Next, an optional two- or three-digit number. This is the tyre’s load index number, and its inclusion is not required by law. The load index number corresponds with the tyre’s load-vehiclerying capacity. A site for discount tyres has posted a handy chart with the load index numbers and loads. Simply put, don’t install a tyre with a lower load index number than your manufacturer recommends.
• Next, a letter. This is the tyre’s speed rating. Follow your manufacturer’s recommendation. You should only need to upgrade to a higher speed rating if you have modified your vehicle for track use, or if you are heading to Germany to drive on the Autobahn.
• Next, some more letters, usually “M+S” or “M/S.” This stands for mud and snow, and applies to most radial tyres.
There are more numbers and letters, most of which you don’t really need to worry about unless your tyres are subject to a recall. They refer to the tyre’s place and date of manufacture, the maximum inflation pressure, maximum load rating, composition, materials, tread wear, traction and temperature grades.
Diving deeply into these ratings will yield a trove of information – most of which differs from manufacturer to manufacturer. Unless you are obsessive about your tyres, you will probably be OK trusting in your tyre guy’s interpretation of the small print.
A good tyre center will be able to talk you through these codes, and will know which tyres are a good fit for your vehicle. You will have to choose between extended tread life and better handling.
Be sure to ask a lot of questions, get answers, and have your tyre guy point out the features on the tyres and the code that indicates the feature on the sidewall.
If you don’t have a regular tyre supplier, or need someone you can trust, give us a call at Jims Mobile Tyres and we’ll bring our tyreshop to you.