The best tires are not ones that are the best by parameters — the best tires are the ones that are best for you. However counterintuitive, oftentimes these are completely different tires.
All new tires come fitted with summer tires, and, let’s be honest, very few people replace them with any other kind right after the purchase. Therefore, if you are considering buying a new set of tires, most likely this is because your old tires are worn out. And, again, most likely, you will be comparing your new tires with your old ones. This is a very important thing to consider, even though very few people think about it.
Tip #1. The size of your tires
The tire sizes permitted for your vehicle are indicated in the owner’s manual. Or, easier still, you can look at the information sticker in the doorjamb next to the driver’s seat or on the inside of the cover of the gas tank flap, where both the dimensions of the tires and the recommended pressure in them at different loads are indicated.
With most cars, such stickers contain more than one permissible tire diameter. The choice is yours but are you ready to replace your wheels along with your tires? If the wheel rims remain the same, with most cars you may change the height and the breadth of the tire profile only a little, ± 5% and ±10mm respectively. If you go beyond that, this is an alteration of the design of the vehicle and, strictly speaking, must be legalized by an appropriate entry in the Transport Vehicle Passport and the Vehicle Registration. In real life, however, the traffic police overlook such minor offences. Still, though, it is safer to stick to the sizes recommended by the car maker.
Tip #2. Wide and narrow, low and high, SUV and passenger
Wide tires ensure a larger contact patch, and, hence, better grip, better acceleration, and better braking. Narrow tires behave in a more stable way in an asphalt rut. The higher the profile, the sturdier the tire is. The lower the profile, the greater is the risk of damaging the tire’s sidewall.
In one and the same size, you may sometimes run across a passenger or an SUV tire. What is the difference? Often, the name of the tire includes the SUV acronym. There are also tires of increased load carrying capacity out there, marked XL. Such tires are more durable, heavier, and are more wear-resistant.
If you have a regular sedan or a hatchback, the SUV or XL tires will ensure a greater safety margin when driving on bumpy roads. And the other way around, if you own an SUV that drives only on good roads, you can save up some money, fitting it with passenger tires. When choosing your tires, make sure that the sum of the permitted loads on a pair of tires exceeds the weight on the heavier loaded axle. The maximum axle loads are indicated on the VIN plate and are located either under the hood or in the doorjamb.
Tire load indexes for passenger cars.
Tip #3. Price/quality ratio
In terms of price/quality ratio, all the tires can be divided into three brackets: the premium brands, the second group, which also belongs to the leaders of the market, yet a little simpler and more affordably priced, and, finally, the products of the companies that are only trying to get a foothold on the market. The first group consists of tires from the classic reputed manufacturers. For example, the world-renowned Continental. The second group are often subsidiary brands, which once were independent but got under the umbrella of the tire making giants. For example, Gislaved, which now belongs to that same Continental company. The third group consists of Asian and Russian manufacturers, whose tires by degrees reach the quality of the second group. If you know your budget, finding your bearings among these three groups will be much easier. What I am recommending is the «happy medium» — the subsidiary brands of the top tire makers: their products do not really fall short of the premium brand quality, and are at the same time relatively inexpensive.
Tip #4. The tread pattern
Totally, there are three types of tread pattern for passenger tires: symmetric, directional, and asymmetric. The first is to be seen more frequently on the most affordable small-sized tires. This type of tires is characterized by relatively high noise emission and average traction. However, you can rotate such tires on your vehicle in any way you want to ensure even wear. You may also turn the inner side out on the wheel rim.
Directional tread pattern better dispels water from the contact patch, and is in most cases quieter than symmetric tread pattern. However, the quietest tires that also ensure excellent handling response are tires with an asymmetric tread pattern. With such tires, all the zones of the tread pattern work with maximum efficiency in various driving modes.
We always recommend avoiding using directional tires. The reason is simple: in this country, the roads are oftentimes less than perfect, and you can never tell when you are going to damage a wheel or two. It is better to install the repaired tire on one of the rear wheels because it is safer that way. Non-directional or asymmetric tires can be installed arbitrarily, regardless of the fitting side, while directional tires are tied to a specific side of the car.
Tip #5. Load and speed indexes
The load and speed indexes must exceed the capabilities of your car. However, excessive safety margin on these parameters will make the tire rigid and heavy, which will compromise the ride comfort and fuel consumption.
The lighter the tire, the better. The Energy Saver technologies are used even in some inexpensive tires, and really help to cut down on the fuel consumption. Thus, choosing from regular tires, opt for the lighter ones because they are better fuel savers.
Tip #6. Your neighbor’s advice
Don’t be fooled by the advertising hype from the manufacturers. Of course, they praise their product — how can it be otherwise? Also, there is no point in listening to your neighbor’s or your fellow colleagues’ advice. What you will hear is the opinion of one person about the pros and cons of tires in some specific size installed on their particular car. You cannot judge a whole brand based on just one specific tire model, whether you like it or not. Because a tire maker produces a line of tires of different models and sizes. Each model will be stronger in some disciplines and weaker in others.
You may listen more or less to what your friends have to say about tread life and resistance to wear of the tire model you are interested in. Such opinions are more or less objective.
Keep in mind that people generally expect more from expensive tires. And if an expensive tire falls just a little bit short of their expectations, they don’t think twice about calling it «junk». Cheap tires, on the other hand, are more often described as «acceptable». In this respect, each car owner has a reference point of their own: somebody who has driven on expensive premium brand tires will hardly fall for a no-name Chinese brand.
One more thingOnline reviews do not always give you the full picture but you can trust the rankings of our magazine, which we publish based on the results on several comprehensive tests. First of all, check the final standings for the parameter that you are interested in most of all.
Tip #7. Place of purchase
You may buy tires at a market, at a dealership, at a shopping mall, or online — the choice is yours. All of these methods have their pros and cons. Buying tires at the market, you run a risk of getting defective tires that were stored in the wrong way. Supermarkets sometimes offer tires at really low prices, and, if you can make absolutely sure that these tires did not lie in storage for decades, it is OK to purchase them. However, the choice of brands and sizes here is really limited. The chances that you will find the model and the size that you need are pretty low.
Purchasing tires online is convenient but you can never be sure that what you see is what you get. You will see the date of manufacture or even the country of origin only when you see the tires at the moment of delivery. But then again, you can always return your purchase. The only thing you will lose will be time that you spent waiting for the delivery. Besides, many online stores insist on advance payment.
Tire advantage of tire dealerships is that you can fully examine the tires before you buy them; and if you do purchase the tires, they will often install them on your car free of charge as a bonus. This is probably the safest and the most convenient option.