The prospect of purchasing new tires can be overwhelming, given the vast array of brands, sizes, and tire types available. It's easy to feel confused or lost in the sea of options. However, fear not, as this guide will equip you with the essential information you need to make an informed decision when choosing the right tires for your vehicle, all while staying within your budget. Before making a purchase, it's important to consider the following questions: What type of tires are suitable for my car? What is the expected lifespan of the tires I'm interested in? What is my budget for purchasing new tires? Should I opt for a direct replacement set, or consider upgrading my tires? If you're already knowledgeable about tires and simply want our top recommendations, we've listed our favorites in each category below. Further down the guide, you'll find additional information about all-season, summer, and winter tires, along with our top alternative picks in each category.
Top Category Selects
More Info Is our top pick unavailable in the size you need? Looking for a fast, easy way to sort through the dozens of alternatives? Then go to PneuPress's Tire Decision Guide. You'll find a list of appropriate alternative choices for you in two minutes or less. The pneupress.ca site is also deep with important consumer data, including tire warranties, treadwear guarantees, and tire-test results.
Alternative Recommendations for All-Season Tires
All Season Nowadays, most vehicles are equipped with all-season tires which are suitable for use throughout the year in all weather conditions, providing a comfortable ride, respectable handling, quiet running, and good grip on wet surfaces, along with some degree of snow capability. However, most all-season tires are not optimal for snow and icy conditions. This is where winter tires come in, also known as snow tires, which provide far superior traction on snowy roads.
All-season tires can be divided into two main sub-categories: high-performance all-season tires and grand touring all-season tires. The former provides better handling and grip on the road, resulting in a more sporty driving experience, at the cost of some traction on snow and icy roads. High-performance all-season tires are designed for more aggressive drivers and sportier cars. The latter, grand touring all-season tires, have a lower profile appearance than standard all-season tires, offering a better ride quality at the expense of some handling ability.
In recent times, a new category of grand touring all-season tires has emerged called "all-weather" tires. These tires offer snow traction that is almost as good as pure winter tires, while performing as well as conventional all-season tires in other aspects. They can be identified by a snowflake-within-a-mountain symbol on the tire's sidewall.
Alternative Recommendations for Summer Tires
Summer Tires Summer tires are specifically designed to provide excellent traction in both dry and wet conditions during moderate or warm weather. They enhance steering response, increase cornering traction, and reduce stopping distances significantly. However, they have a limitation: most summer tires are only suitable for temperatures above 4.4-7 degrees Celsius. When temperatures fall below freezing, the tires can lose grip and become unstable, making them feel as if they are on a wet or icy road. Therefore, it's essential to be aware of this temperature sensitivity and choose accordingly.
Similar to all-season tires, summer tires are available in different varieties. At PneuPress, they are categorized into three main groups, according to their capability: ultra-high performance, max performance, and extreme performance. Summer tires come on cars such as BMW M3, Audi R8, Ferrari 488 GTB, and Lamborghini Huracan.
Alternative Recommendations for Winter Tires
Winter Tires Formerly referred to as "snow tires," winter tires are engineered to deliver maximum traction in snowy and slippery winter conditions. Their unparalleled traction capability in these situations cannot be matched by any other tire category. Even an all-wheel-drive vehicle equipped with all-season tires cannot match the turning or stopping power of a comparable two-wheel-drive vehicle fitted with four winter tires, a fact that our own winter-tire testing has validated. Although winter tires are designed to perform exceptionally well in cold-weather months, they don't handle or wear as well as all-season or summer tires once the weather warms up. Therefore, they should be considered as a secondary set of tires for your vehicle if you reside in an area with annual snowfall. Why choose winter tires? If you live in Canada or in the northern states, we highly recommend investing in a set of winter tires. Their deep treads are specifically designed to deliver a significant traction boost, and they work incredibly well. Driving in snow with winter tires installed will make you feel more secure, safer, and more at ease.
How to Read Your Vehicle's Tire Size and Other Important Information
TIRE SIZE When it comes to replacing worn-out tires, many drivers opt for tires that match the original size and performance capabilities of their vehicle. This is a smart choice as car manufacturers design their vehicles to work best with specific tire sizes and types, and sticking to these recommendations can help maintain the car's performance and safety. Of course, there are instances where upgrading to a different tire size or type may be necessary or desirable, but we'll cover that later.
To make an informed decision about replacing your tires, it's crucial to know your vehicle's tire size and speed rating, as well as consider the tread wear of any potential replacements. This information is usually printed on the sidewalls of your current tires, as well as in your owner's manual, online, and at tire dealers. It's recommended to cross-check these sources to ensure you have the correct information. Here's how to read the most important data on your tire sidewalls:
- Tire Width - the first number indicates the width of the tire at its widest point in millimeters.
- Aspect Ratio - the number after the slash indicates the height of the sidewall as a percentage of the width.
- Radial-Tire Designation - the "R" indicates it's a radial tire.
- Diameter - the final number in the series indicates the diameter of the wheel in inches that the tire must mount to.
- Load Rating with Speed Rating - the alpha-numeric code that follows the tire size indicates the load and speed rating.
- Heaviest Spot on Tire - this information helps the installer position the tire's heaviest point at the opposite end of the valve stem.
- Tread-Wear Rating - listed as a number on the tire sidewall after the word "treadwear," the higher this number, the longer the tire will likely last.
- Traction and Temperature Ratings - two letters that follow the tread-wear rating indicating the tire's traction and temperature resistance.
- Mud-and-Snow or Three-Peak-Mountain Rating - if present, these symbols indicate the tire's performance in mud and snow conditions.
- Vehicle-Specific Marking - some tires have vehicle-specific markings, indicating the tire's intended use on a specific type of vehicle. ie Mercedes: MO1 and MO.
- Tire-Materials List and Manufacturing Information - this information may also be included on the sidewall.
Tread Wear To better estimate the potential life of your tires and compare different options, it's recommended to look at the manufacturers' tread-life warranties. These warranties are often in addition to manufacturing-quality or defect warranties, and can be found online or in the tire maker's marketing materials.
The industry standard is that around 75% of drivers will find that their tires last at least as long as the kilometers listed in the tread life warranty. If your tires wear out before the guaranteed kilometers, you can receive a credit for the percentage of miles you came up short, which can be applied towards the purchase of a new tire. This transaction is typically handled by tire dealers.
Run-Flat Tires Run-flat tires have become increasingly popular, with many automakers fitting them to their cars from the factory. These specialized tires are designed to allow you to continue driving at low speeds for short distances even after a puncture has left them without air, eliminating the need to change a flat tire on the side of the road.
If your vehicle came with run-flat tires, you have several options when it comes time to replace them. You can choose to replace them with another set of run-flat tires, or you can switch to conventional tires and carry a spare. However, it's worth noting that some cars fitted with run-flats may not have a trunk compartment for a spare tire.
Additionally, with the prevalence of tire-pressure monitoring systems in new cars, it is now possible to fit run-flat tires on a car that did not originally come with them. This can provide added peace of mind for drivers who want the security of knowing they can continue driving on a flat tire until they can safely reach a repair facility. It is important to note that run-flat tires do have some downsides. The stiff sidewalls that allow them to be driven without air pressure can make for a harder ride on rough roads, but tire technology has improved over the years and run-flats are now more comfortable than they used to be. Another potential drawback is that the selection of run-flat tires is more limited compared to conventional tires, and they are generally more expensive. As a result, it might be more cost-effective to switch to conventional tires and carry a spare or a mini-spare if your vehicle is compatible.
Another potential drawback is that the selection of run-flat tires is more limited compared to conventional tires, and they are generally more expensive. As a result, it might be more cost-effective to switch to conventional tires and carry a spare or a mini-spare if your vehicle is compatible. Ultimately, the decision to switch to conventional tires or stick with run-flats will depend on your personal preferences and driving needs.
Replacing Tires If you're considering upgrading your tires, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, make sure the new tires are compatible with your vehicle's make and model, and that they fit properly on your wheels. You can consult with a tire professional to ensure that you're making the right choice.
When upgrading tires, you might consider a few different options. For example, you could upgrade to high-performance tires, which typically have better grip and handling than standard tires. If you live in an area with inclement weather, you might consider all-season or winter tires, which are designed to provide better traction in rain, snow, and ice.
Keep in mind that upgrading to different tires may also affect the ride and handling of your vehicle. Be sure to do your research and read reviews from other drivers before making a decision. Finally, upgrading your tires may also require you to upgrade other components of your vehicle, such as the suspension or brakes, to handle the increased performance or different characteristics of the new tires.
Upgrading Tires When upgrading your tires, it's not as simple as just replacing them. You have a few options to choose from. You can opt for a higher-performance tire of the same size as your current set, such as a high-performance all-season tire instead of a standard all-season. However, finding one that fits exactly can be challenging. Alternatively, you can select a set of wider, lower-profile summer or high-performance all-season tires, but this can be more complicated. You need to ensure that the tires won't rub against the suspension or body parts, which can be a safety concern. It's recommended that you consult with a tire expert, such as PneuPress.ca, or an online forum for your specific car make and model.
Some vehicles come from the factory with different tire sizes, so going for a larger-diameter wheel may be an option. However, fitting lower-profile rubber will typically require a larger-diameter wheel. The overall size of your tires, including the outside diameter, affects everything from your vehicle's suspension and ground clearance to its gearing, so it's important to maintain a constant outside diameter. You can use a size guide to determine how a switch to a lower-profile tire would affect the wheel diameter.
Opting for wider, lower-profile higher-performance tires can result in a rougher ride, faster wear and tear, increased noise, and a possible impact on the steering, potentially requiring more corrections while driving on the highway. Low-profile tires may also be more susceptible to damage from potholes. Consider all of these factors before making a decision, as you'll likely need to purchase a new set of wheels and the tires themselves will likely be more expensive.