Are you looking to replace your old tires with the new ones? I believe you have realized by now that such a task is not that simple. Even though car tires today last longer in general, as opposed to a few years ago, the real tire tread life still heavily depends on the tire type itself, your car type, and how you drive. Road conditions and weather may also contribute to the overall mileage of your tires. For those reasons, choosing the best tires for your car requires more consideration than anybody would think. Rest assured, I’ll help guide you along the important steps.
Types of Tires
You’ll be surprised to find out how many types of tires there are actually. Consumer Reports lists at least 8 tire types. I’m going to narrow it down to 4 since some of the tire types have a few things in common. So, the first is all-season tires. They vary in a whole lot of sizes to accommodate different types of cars, from the small ones to the lightweight SUVs. The benefits of these particular tires are they’re entirely applicable in any seasons and have longer tread life span. The shortcomings, however, they are less responsive, compared to performance tires. Performance tires are kind of the upgraded version of all-season tires. They are relatively good for year-round driving but still allow for better handling, especially in wet conditions. Their speed ratings are higher too.
Next, we have all-terrain tires. They are more suited for SUV and pickup truck since these types of vehicles have more likeliness to pass on some unfriendly roads. Some of these tires are created with more rugged tread which is reliable enough to be used on snowy roads. The last tire type is the winter tires. As you can tell by the name, these tires are engineered to provide a good traction against snow. They are not supposed to be used on clear roads. You will find that the tread wear out faster if you insist.
Reading a Tire Sidewall
Your tire has more information carved on its sidewall than you may think. To be able to understand such info is crucial as you can get a clue of how the replacement tire should be. First, you will notice a script like NNN/NNLNN [space] NNL. The first three numbers tell you the millimeter cross-section width, whereas the next two numbers are the sidewall height ratio to the mentioned width. The single letter refers to the type of tire construction; is it radial ply or bias ply? The last two numbers show the rim’s diameter. After the space, the first two numbers refer to the tire’s load index while the last letter implies the speed rating. Look at the picture below :
Tire Maintenance Tips
No matter how good your new tires are, if you never bother maintaining it, don’t expect it to ever last long. Here are some quick and easy tire maintenance tips you can do:
- Do a monthly check over the air pressure. Make sure the tires are in cold condition when you check them. The ideal air pressure is as what’s written on the fuel-filler door not on the tire sidewall.
- The easiest way to tell when your tires need to be replaced is by searching for cracks on their sidewall.
- Observe the treadwear. If it’s not even across the tire surface, then it means there is something wrong. Either the tire is not properly aligned or the air pressure is too low or high. Make sure you fix it.
Tire prices vary mainly with the types of the tires. Even after that, they still differ further depending on their size and the warranty that comes with them. Below are the average prices for all tire types:
- All-season tires: $80-$150 each
- Performance tires: $100-$1,400 each
- All-terrain tires: $150-250 each
- Winter tires: $60-$550 each
Most all-season tires are usually backed with 2-5 years treadwear warranty or 40,000-100,000 miles. Meanwhile, performance tires commonly offer warranty for 40,000-70,000 miles. The most expensive of such tires, however, do not have any treadwear warranty. The only warranty that you can claim is if you find a defect from the manufacturer.
How to Choose the Best Tires
So now you’re ready to make the decision on your truly best tires. If it’s so, then I’m sure you can make use of the following rules of thumbs of mine.
- Sizes: Note that the ideal tire size for your car is already laid out in your owner’s manual book. If you’ve lost it somehow, you can still check it out on the car door jamb. It is, however, not mandatory. You can still experiment as you want.
- Age: Never think that all new tires are fresh from the open. You can figure out when a tire is manufactured by looking on its sidewall; the last four number to on the third line. The first two numbers tell you the week, while the last two refer to the year.
- Types: Personally, I think all-season tires are the best. Sure they don’t handle high speed driving very nicely and they’re lack of traction on snowy roads but they’re usable all-year round and affordable too.
- Related services: It sure is nice to get a discount when you buy a new tire but don’t get fooled. Most discounts offered on car tires are too small to be excited about, thus, it’ll do you more good to just look for free related services. These are like tire installation, alignment, even some difficult jobs like brake tuning.
Top 5 Tire Brands Reviews
First things first, it is worth noting that Falken Tires is owned by the Japanese Sumitomo. It’s like Sumitomo’s branch office which focuses its marketing on the west. Now even though it’s a subsidiary company, Falken does offer wide range of tie types from ultra high performance tires to standard all-season tires. What I love about them is not only do they look nice and sporty but also they provide a good traction over almost any type of road. The thing I’m not very fond of, however, is the fact that they are kind of pricey for tires manufactured by a company competing on the mid-level market. The majority of these tires are sold for over $100 each, unless you get a nice discount sale. Aside from that, it is nice to find that most of them are backed with limited treadwear warranty. You can learn more about Falken’s warranty policy on the company’s official website.
It has been well over 10 years since the Japanese Toyo Tires entered the highly competitive tire market in USA and as far as I concern, they have been doing really well. As a matter of fact, based on the independent research by Treadpot, their tires have been rated number one for the best value for money for eight years in a row. This company only offers a few types of tires, unlike Falken. Specifically, they only sell all-season tires for family cars, SUVs, light trucks, pickups, and minivans. The Extensa series, in particular, are highly favored among car and minivan owners. They may not have the appealing tread design as that of Falken’s tires but in terms of overall performance on both dry and wet roads, they triumph over the competition. Another plus point that’s worth noting is they are reasonably priced. You sure can end up with worse tires for the same price they are sold.
For a budget tire manufacturer, Nexen Tires does a good job at making affordable all-season car tires that perform well, regardless the road conditions. However, you should know that they are not comparable to tires from top brands like Continental and Yokohama. They are just on a different class. Now if you ask me which tire from Nexen that’s considered the best, I would choose none other than the N-5000. The tread design might not be pretty but it serves a good function. The tread block on the center of the tire is made to be larger than its counterparts to allow for better impact absorption. The result is you can drive comfortably even on relatively high speed. This tire also handles turning points really well, thanks to the strong shoulder. The directional groove is made to be wider and deeper than typical tires, providing enough drainage to pass through slippery wet road without problem.
Being the company that owns Falken, naturally Sumitomo Tires also provide almost any types of tires you need. The most popular of their lineups is the max performance tire, HTR Z III. Clearly, this tire is made for high end sedans as well as several sporty cars like Porsche. Its asymmetric tread design provides outstanding stability in high speed driving. Drainage and wet traction are addressed properly using four wide grooves. To minimize slippage even more, the straight grooves are reinforced with long lateral grooves that lead water away from the center. However, understand that HTR Z III by Sumitomo is a summer tire. It may still be able to grip wet roads but it’s not supposed to handle snowy roads. For all year-round performance, you’d better go with Sumitomo’s HTR A. It still has the sporty look of an ultra high performance tire but provides better traction over frozen roads.
Kumho Tires is a Korean-based company but it made it stateside near the end of the 90s. They make tires for passenger cars and light trucks, including SUVs and pickups. Their offering is quite various too, from the basic all-season tires to ultra high performance tires for luxury cars. Despite being affordable, their tires are manufactured with advanced technology and precision engineering. If you’ve decided to go with Kumho, I’d suggest to start looking from their LX Platinum series. These models receive good reviews from all over the world, thanks to the good traction and low noise. Unfortunately, their warranty policy is pretty confusing. The requirement for a customer to claim the tire warranty is not laid out in easy to understand language.