The first thing to note when considering how to select car tyres, is whether or not your current tyres are up to the job. Your tyres may be failing for a variety of reasons, and if you do not rectify the problem, it could persist with new tyres.
Checking your existing tyres.
One thing that you should check is that you’ve been putting the correct PSI of air pressure in them. Too high and the tyres will wear in the middle, too low and the outsides will become worn.
Another thing to check is the tracking of the steering and alignment of the wheels. If your front wheels are not aligned correctly, they will become worn on either or both sides. Also, the steering wheel may pull to one side when driving on a straight, flat road.
When you look over your tyres, look for places where the tyres have become worn and check them with a Tyre Depth Gauge. You are looking for whether or not they’re within the legal limit (1.5mm), or within danger of falling below that limit soon. You can also check your tyre pressure two days in a row, to see if there’s a slow puncture on any of them.
How to select new car tyres.
After you’ve rectified any fault that would cause the tyres to become worn – or you’ve managed to find a fitter that will thoroughly check tyre pressures and alignment on fitting new ones; the next thing to look at is the type of tyre you will need.
Let’s look at some of the types of tyres we can buy:
These tyres are designed specifically for use in the summer, so in Australia; with mild winters and hot summers, this may be the best option for seasonal tyre types. These tyres perform optimally in above freezing temperatures. They stay rigid on the road at all times.
These tyres are ideal for snowy and ice covered roads. Which is a very rare occurrence in Australia so they’re not really applicable unless you are travelling abroad and shipping your own car. The tread pattern is designed to grip the road in any conditions, but obviously they are not optimal in warm temperatures. When using in warm whether, the tread will become worn more quickly.
All weather tyres.
These are a good mix of both winter and summer tyres. They will perform reasonably well in both weather types. These might be a good option if you do regularly venture abroad with your own car. But for the vast majority of Australians, summer tyres are the best option.
Off-road tyres and light truck tyres with a large tread depth that will grip well in off-road and muddy conditions. Like winter tyres; they will become worn very quickly if used on normal road conditions. When driving on a normal tarmac road surface; they will produce a low, persistent whining sound. If you live in rural areas, they may be the best option. If you live somewhere with good roads you should avoid using them,otherwise; they will become worn very quickly.
Manufacturer’s standard tyres.
These are the tyres that your car manufacturer has deemed to be the best option for your small car. It can be a good idea in some circumstances to stick to the recommended tyres as car companies spend millions testing these things. These will sometimes be the optimal tyre for your car, because the manufacturer has considered power output, breaking and suspension type. However, sometimes manufacturers do scrimp when it comes to tyres.
Sometimes, there’s an optimal tyre that’s not fitted as standard to your vehicle. It may be that a third-party manufactures higher-quality tyres or a set that specifically suits your driving style, as well as any modifications you may have carried out.
Now for some things you must always consider while learning how to buy tyres.
Weighing up grip vs. longevity.
Generally, the softer the rubber; the better the grip on normal road surfaces. However, the softer the rubber; the more quickly it’s likely to become worn.
Selecting a tyre is always a compromise; for everything a tyre is good at; it will be poor at something else. High-performance tyres are generally quite soft and will become worn more-quickly. Most people do not need the performance boost they offer, so you need to think about whether or not it’s really worth it. Despite what tyre manufacturers may promise, no tyre can do absolutely everything well. The laws of physics still apply to higher-performance, and higher-priced tyres.
Unless you need to fit larger, off-road tyres, it’s a bad idea to fit tyres of a different size than the ones that came with your vehicle.
The tyres that the manufacturer has fitted are that size for a reason. Speed rating and load rating is also important. And should be the same unless you’ve carried out significant changes to your vehicle’s drive-train, engine and weight.
The correct tyre pressure.
When checking your tyre pressures periodically, after fitting; you will need to look for a placard somewhere on your vehicle that will give you the correct pressure for both front and rear tyres. Every vehicle off the production line since 1973 contains this information somewhere. It can be in a number of different places. It could be on the inside of the fuel filler cap, the glove box lid, or under the dashboard. Checking your vehicle’s manual will give its location.
It’s recommended that you use a fitter.
As previously mentioned, they will often check the wheel alignment and tyre pressures as part of the service of fitting new tyres. But they will also check for the correct amount of torque on the wheel nuts, using a torque wrench. A good torque wrench is expensive to buy and calibrate, and a wheel alignment kit is not really accessible for the DIY mechanic. So realistically the only thing the home mechanic can really check is the tyre pressure.
The information written on the tyre is important to its performance.
On a tyre you will typically see the following:
- Manufacturer name
- Section width
- Load index
- Aspect Ratio
- Rim diameter
- Speed rating
This information should be checked to ensure it fits with the ratings recommended by your vehicle manufacturer.
We hope you’ve enjoyed reading this guide on how to select car tyres and it’s provided useful information to help you with your decision. Remember that expensive does not always mean better. Every tyre type is a trade-off.