So the Abe Lincoln penny-test told you your tread is wearing thin and its time to buy a new set of tires, huh?
Do you run out and buy the first tire style your eyes fall upon — 35-inch off-road tires for your 1995 Honda Prelude? Of course not! Buying a new set of tires, however, should not be as complicated as buying a new car.
Michelin puts it nicely: “Because so much is riding on your tires.” (That was not meant to be a plug for Michelin tires.) You don’t want to buy the wrong tire for your driving needs; you don’t want to buy the cheap off-brand that may deteriorate before your eyes. And you don’t want to end up on the other side of the spectrum, either — like buying all-season tires when you merely commute in urban areas of Southern California.
All-season means all-season. If you live anywhere where there aren’t four distinct seasons, don’t spend the extra money. If you drive in snow only a handful of times per year, snow tires are probably a wasteful investment (that’s why snow chains were invented!).
All-season and touring tires are the most widely used and the most practical for most luxury cars, sedans, coupes and minivans. Sometimes drivers, especially coupe owners, feel the need to buy performance tires. Be aware that the steering response and impressive appearance of performance tires often outweigh their comfort and tread life.
Don’t let me forget about all you SUV and “big truck” owners. I know some of you think monster off-road tires look tough, but ask yourself this: “How often am I going to be traveling on rough terrain?” If the answer is “never” or “rarely,” you might want to reconsider. Buy from the street/sport truck or highway categories. (Highway tires are designed for full-size pickups or passenger vans.)
Whatever style you choose, make sure the tires you purchase have good grades. Think back to your school days. A is the best grade (AA on the traction scale), and C is the lowest possible denominator. Tire Quality Grading System markings always should be molded on the tire sidewalls.
Brands? That is where you are on your own; there are Goodyear, BF Goodrich, Bridgestone, Michelin, Pirelli, Kelly-Springfield, Dunlop and more than 100 other manufacturers to choose from. And don’t forget to shop around for the best price too, but I’m sure you knew that already.
Written by Jon Hindman
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