tires on car on road

Where the Rubber Meets the Road: A Primer on How to Choose Tires

The tires on the car go round and round, round and round, round and round (and round and round and round – you get the point). At some point, all this round and round motion will chisel down the traction on your tires.

At that point, your car doesn’t have as good of a grip on the road and things can pierce your tires more easily.

But if it’s time to replace your tires- you may be wondering about how to choose tires. Don’t worry, we’ve got your guide below.

Read Your Manual

First and foremost, you need to figure out what kind of tires the manufacturers want you to buy. You’ll find this information, as well as rotation frequency and other helpful tips in your owners manual.

Too often people leave their manual in the glove box and never look at it, even though it’s the key to everything in their car. Don’t be one of those people. In the manual, you’ll find everything from how often you need an oil change to the kind of gas you should pump.

Get it out and read it when you’re done reading the rest of this guide.

Pick the Right Drive Type

Generally, there are two kinds of drive types, all wheel tires, and front wheel drive. The difference lies in where the car uses the bulk of its power when it steers.

All-wheel drive cars are better for locations that have inclement weather, like snow. All-wheel drive cars (abbreviated AWD) don’t get stuck as often when the roads aren’t cleared.

If you have front wheel drive tires and try to drive in more than a few inches of snow, you’ve probably experienced tire spinning. That’s when your wheels are moving, but the car isn’t going anywhere.

A bonus tip to get out of that chilly, unmoving situation? Take your rubber car mats out of your car and place them under and the back of your tires. It’ll give you some grip, especially if your spinning wheels have made a nice little snow indent that you now have to get out of.

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– All that said, you can buy tires specifically made for all wheel drive cars and front wheel drive cars.

Front wheel drive car tires have a little more grip or pattern on the front ones if you’re getting all-weather or snow tires.

Make sure you buy the right type of drive tires. You also want to buy four tires at once, whenever possible. If you don’t, the older tires will wear more quickly and the uneven heights will mess up your alignment.

Pick Your Tire Size

Tires come with their own language when it comes to size. If you go out and look at your car tires right now, you’ll see numbers and letters that look something like, P234/434P4. Then following it will be another number.

Here’s what those numbers mean. The first one usually means the tire’s width, in centimeters. The second number is its diameter, how big it is around the middle.

The last number is called a load index. It tells you how much weight each tire can support. Then, the number that follows the load index and starts with a T is the speed rating.

If you have a high weight load, you can usually go faster in a smaller car. But remember you’re adding all four of these tire numbers together to equal the max load and speed index.

If you don’t want the same type of tires you have now, you still need to know the sizes. Most cars can take two, maybe three variations in size (and you’ll find this information in your manual).

When you’re shopping for tires, you’ll need these numbers, so make sure you write the whole succession down. You may also choose to search by your car type and model.

So instead of searching “tires P234/etc” you could search “tires for 2004 Honda Civic”.

By far the easiest way to find out what tires are available in your size are to call the place you’ll have install the tires. Even if you don’t buy them there. They have a database that’s more exact than the tire information you’ll find on the internet.

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They’ll give you this information for free, as long as you ask and act nicely.

Choose Your Tire Weather Type

As we’ve already alluded to, you can get different tires for different types of weather. The most common tire weather types are all-season or all-weather tires.

These are built to be the best of all worlds when it comes to traction. They have some patterns built for rain grip and others for snow.

It’s more common to find all-season tires on new cars, because of their newer wheel types. However, since these are all-year-round tires, you’ll have to buy them more often.

As opposed to if you bought seasonal tires. People where there is a lot of snow usually have two sets of tires. The summer or all-season tires and then their snow tires.

When winter starts to really show up, they take their car and their snow tire set and have them switched out. While your at it, why not have them install some black rims

It’s up to you if you want to buy two sets of tires. Yes, it’s more expensive, but the two sets will last longer than if you only had one, so it’s a bit of a toss-up.

How to Choose Tires for Your Car

After reading all this, you should know what you’re looking for when you go tire shopping. You need to make sure they’re the right size, type of drive and can hold up the weather in your state.

Once you’ve found a set of tires that check off all these boxes, try to find four at once. It’s possible to replace your two front tires and your two back ones separately to break up the cost, but it’s not as good for your car.

Do you have other car related questions other than how to choose tires? Learn more with these resources.