When You Need New Tires
Eventually, all tires need to be replaced as the tread wears. It's recommended you check your tires' air pressure once a month, during this time it would also be a good idea to check for signs of irregular tire wears. When you check your tires make sure all the tread is wearing evenly across the tire. If one side or the center of the tread is visibly wearing faster, this may either indicate that air pressure is incorrect, tires need balancing, alignment is out, or front end are worn or damaged.
At times tires would need to be replaced because it is damaged beyond repair. For example, if the puncture is in the sidewall or the tire was driven on when it was flat.
In order for a tire dealer or auto repair shop to determine if the tire can be repair, they will need to remove the tire from the wheel and inspect it for damage, both inside and outside.
Understanding Tire Sizes and Types
Once you have determined that you need new tires, you need to know the correct size and which type of tires to look for.
The tire size for your vehicle can usually be found on a sticker in the driver's doorframe, or on the engine firewall commonly referred to as your vehicles placard. It may also be found in your owner's manual. Sometimes there will be several sizes offered for a vehicle. If this is the case the vehicle placard will be the best place to go to, since it has the most accurate information. You may also determine a tire's size by reading the series of numbers and letters on its sidewall but if you did not buy the vehicle new then it would be best to refer back to the vehicle placard.
Understanding what the numbers mean
The number series on a tires sidewall indicate several things. To determine what they mean let’s go through an example.
Let's say your tire's sidewall reads: P205/60R16 89H.
• The letter(s) in the beginning stands for the type of tire - in this case “P” stands for passenger. If you drive a truck or van, the sidewall code would begin with "LT" for light truck.
• The "205" in this example represents the tire width, or 205mm measured from sidewall to sidewall.
• "60" shows the tire's aspect ratio, or the height of the tire's sidewall compared to its width. In this case, 60 means the height is equal to 60% of the tire's width.
• "R" simply means the tire's construction is radial, and the plies run radially from bead to bead.
• "16" is the wheel's diameter - in this case, the width of the wheel from one end to the other is 16 inches.
• "89" shows the tire's load rating, and "H" shows its speed rating. Both these ratings correspond to actual numbers in charts established for the tire industry. In this case, a load index of 89 means the tire can support 580kg at maximum air pressure, and an H speed rating means the tires can travel at a maximum speed of 130 mph. Load index and speed rating charts can be found below.
Next, you need to determine the correct type of tire for your vehicle. There are many to choose from, including summer, all-season and winter tires, as well as high performance, performance, touring, etc.
Your new tires, first and foremost, must meet your driving needs. Think about the best and worst conditions in which you'll be driving. Do you live in an area where winters bring snow, ice and prolonged temperatures below 10 degrees? If so, you may want to consider installing winter tires during winter months.
Does your area see heavy rain, where you'll be driving on wet pavement a lot? If so, make sure you choose a tire that has good wet handling capabilities.
As far as ride comfort, do you prefer a soft, cushioned ride, or would you rather have a stiffer tire with crisp handling for sportier driving? Touring tires provide a softer ride compared to performance tires or ultra-high performance tires, which are designed for sports cars or drivers that are a little more demanding when it comes to vehicle performance.
The more specific information you can tell your tire dealer, the better off he or she will be in helping you select the best set of tires for your vehicle. This includes sharing your preferences for road noise, fuel economy and the number of miles you'll be able to drive on the tires. Tire dealers are experienced in choosing tires for just about any type of driver, and they're also well versed in customer feedback about most of the tires they stock.