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5 important things to consider when shopping for new tires

Although picking out new tires can be a daunting endeavor, there are two important pieces of information you can identify that will greatly ease the process. First, you must recognize exactly what it is that you need most from your tires. This means that before you even begin to establish a list of criterion that make up the perfect tire for you, you must be aware of exactly what kind of road issues and driving conditions your tires will be faced with. Be it varying road surfaces, a majority of city driving, high speed driving or other high performance requirements, identifying this need is a definite necessity. Second, you must find a reputable or trustworthy source to purchase your tires from. If you have had a bad experience at a particular shop, you are better off trying a new one than returning to the old one and giving them repeat business. If you suspect that a tire dealer may be placing his bottom line ahead of your best interests then you should feel free to shop around and find a dealer you can trust with your business and your road safety.  You can also try to shop online, which should save you some money. Once you know exactly what you need from your tires and where you will be purchasing them, you are ready to begin evaluating new tires for a possible purchase.

The following are the 5 most important items things to consider once you are ready to pick out the perfect tires for your vehicle

Many tire purchasers fail to consider weather requirements when evaluating new tires, even when they live in regions with severe weather cycles. All tires are certainly not created equal in terms of performance under varying weather conditions. Unless you live in the driest of climates, you should consider tires that were designed to perform in the rain. If your area gets anything resembling a significant amount of snowfall, your new tires should be able to perform under these conditions, or you will likely not be able to drive with any control or traction once the snow starts arriving. Tires come in many forms including dry weather, rain performance and multi-season performance. Make sure your tires are fully capable of handling all the weather conditions they will be used in or you may suffer serious losses in performance, stability and safety.

All tires have different life expectancies. Sometimes this lifespan is expressed in miles, sometimes in years, but this information is always readily available. It must be considered that tires built for a longer lifespan typically offer a slightly rougher ride, while shorter lifespan tires often are either built for extreme performance or offer superior smoothness of ride. It is important to determine the correct balance of lifespan vs. performance to suit your needs and your budget.

Speed rating: Not all tires can safely travel at the same speeds. All tires are graded with a letter rating that signifies how fast they can safely travel for extended period of time. Those ratings breakdown as follows:

Q= 99 mph
S= 112 mph
T= 118 mph
U= 124 mph
H= 130 mph
V= up to 149 mph
Z= 149 mph and above
W= 168 mph
Y= 186 mph

Keep in mind that although it can be tempting to splurge and purchase a tire with a high speed rating, this is rarely a necessary purchase. Additionally, the higher the speed rating the tire has, the lower the tread life generally is. Unless you plan to spend significant and extended amounts of time at a very high speed, you should consider buying a lower speed rated tire. The difference in road performance will be negligible, but the price savings may be major.

Ride Noise: This is where an experienced tire salesman can be very helpful to you. It is next to impossible to determine the amount of road noise a tire will make simply by looking at the treads. Still, tread designs are nearly 100% responsible for ride noise. Often times tire designers put style over ride sound and trade a flashy design for a noisy ride. Many drivers are surprised to hear their brand new tires making loud whirring noises during highway driving because road noise is usually not mentioned at the point of sale or in the list of the tires performance attributes. Be sure to do as much research as possible to determine which tires are the quietest for your vehicle if road noise is high on your priority list.

Ride Quality: This is mostly determined by an easy to identify visual cue. When evaluating tires for your next purchase, look at the distance between the top of the wheel and the top of the tire. Typically, the shorter this distance is, the better performing the tires will be. Unfortunately, there exists a definite trade-off between performance and quality of ride. Tires that handle better and are able to spin faster are also usually much stiffer and less forgiving on bumpy surfaces. If a smooth ride is very important to you, be sure that you do not purchase tires with a very short distance between wheel and tire (low profile). Low profile tires are also much more susceptible to damage (they also make your wheels more susceptible) and are typically much more expensive. Despite the inherent faults of low profile tires, many consumers do prefer them due to their aesthetic qualities and their vastly improved handling capabilities. Although tire profile is not the sole factor that determines ride quality, it is one of the single greatest factors. Try to find the best compromise you can between looks and performance, and smoothness of ride and tire and wheel protection.

Now that you have a strong checklist to work off of, you should be much better prepared the next time your car becomes due for a new set of tires. This list is not comprehensive, but these 5 criterions are definitely among the top factors that any tire purchaser should seriously consider.

This article was written by Jefferson Spooner on behalf of Ken Jones.