Selecting the right tires for your car

Info Guru,

Rate This Article:

3.4 / 5.0
pile of tires
If it's times to replace worn-out tires, make sure you choose the right tires for your car.
  • Share
  • Tweet

Understand the terminology and choose the right car tires

Selecting the right tires for your car, van, SUV, or truck can seem like a difficult task if you have no automotive background and no one to help you. Talking to a salesperson can be intimidating if you don't understand the terminology surrounding car and truck tires.


Selecting car tires includes considerations of category, size, quality grading, fuel efficiency, and other factors.


Race cars, older models and vintage cars often require specific wheels and tires. Mustang tires, Camaro tires and other specific items can be found at speciality retailers.


Category of Tire


When choosing the right tires for your car, you should know what category of tire will serve you best.


One of the first questions retailers may ask when helping you in the process of selecting car tires is, 'What type of tires are you looking for?' They are referring to categories such as all-season tires, winter tires, etc.," says Ron Margadonna, senior technical product manager for Michelin North America. Margadonna recommendeds you ask yourself the following questions to determine the best category of tire for you:


  • What are the best conditions I drive in?
  • What are the worst conditions I drive in?
  • What is most important to me as far as performance? Wet traction or dry corners?
  • How do I use my vehicle? Commuting, recreation, road trips?


Tell the retail salesperson your answers to these questions. That will determine the category of tire that you should select for your vehicle.



Tire Size


If you want to choose the right tires for your car, you must also know the correct tire size. But what do all those funny numbers mean? For instance, look at this one: P215/60R16. The P indicates a "Passenger" vehicle. The next number is the width of the tire in millimeters. In the above example, the tire is 215 millimeters, or about 8 1/2 inches.


The number after the slash represents the ratio of the sidewall's height to the tread's width. So on this particular tire, the measurement from rim to tread is 60 percent of the 215 millimeters, or 129 millimeters (about 5 inches).


The R stands for "Radial." While this is the most common type of tire construction, you could possibly find others. You may want to consider less common tires for special needs when selecting car tires.


The last number expresses the rim diameter in inches. For more information, consult's Tire Size Guide.


To find the original tire size installed on your vehicle, check the owner's manual. You can also check the sides of your tires. (You'll need to do this anyway if you or a previous owner ever switched to a different tire size.) Write down the tire size, and you can contact multiple retailers for pricing without visiting their stores in person. Knowing the tire size can also save you time when you visit a retailer to actually buy the right tires for your car.

Quality Grading


Quality grading may come up in a conversation with a tire salesperson at an auto parts retailer. If you want to select the right tires for your car, you will want to understand what the grades mean. The quality grading comes from the manufacturer and evaluates performance as it relates to tread, traction, and temperature.


Tread is graded with a number; the higher the number, the better the performance. The traction is graded by letters, AA being the highest and C the lowest. This traction rating conveys how well the tires stop on wet surfaces. The temperature grade (A the highest and C the lowest) deals with the tire's response to heat.


Other Factors


Margadonna also suggested these questions to further narrow your options and find the right tires for your car:


  • What type of vehicle do I drive?
  • What is my desired price range?
  • What factor is most important to me? Fuel efficiency, performance, safety, life of the tire?


He rated the top five qualities in this order:


  1. Wet and dry braking (safety)
  2. Longevity (the tire's wear life)
  3. Fuel efficiency
  4. Handling
  5. Comfort of the ride


However, Margadonna said, "Based on the needs of various drivers, these qualities will alter from driver to driver, and it is therefore hard to put a value on each one." Once you have determined your priorities, selecting car tires won't seem like such a daunting task.



National Tire Corporation, Understanding Your Tires

Rate this Article

Click on the stars below to rate this article from 1 to 5

  • Share
  • Tweet