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Where the rubber meets the road

How to choose the right tires for your vehicle

Tips on choosing the right replacement tires for your vehicle—a look at tire size, speed rating, performance, handling and safety.

When it’s time for a tire change, many drivers go with the OE (original equipment) tires that came with their car or truck. But for increased safety and performance, it’s better to base your choice on things like the local climate, personal driving style and speed rating. After all, there’s a lot riding on your vehicle’s four tires, most importantly, the safety of you and your passengers.

The penny test

How do you know when to replace tires? Here’s how to check tire tread: stick a penny (Lincoln’s head facing down) into the tread groove. If the top of his head is visible, it’s probably time to replace.

Tip: Stay on top of things. Check for tread wear at least once every two months.

Summer, Winter or All-season

There are different tires for different seasons. Summer tires provide excellent grip and handling on both wet and dry roads. Winter or snow tires provide better grip on ice and snow. All-season tires provide excellent handling, winter or summer. By far, all-season tires are the most popular, as they can stay on the vehicle year round.

Tip: Unless you live in an extremely hot or cold climate, all-season tires are probably your best bet. Look for an S (112 mph) or T (118 mph) speed rating.1 If looking to finance your purchase, Synchrony Car CareTM has a network of merchant partners who provide attractive offers.

Performance characteristics

How a tire performs on the road is also important. Performance is a catchall term for things like braking, acceleration and grip or traction. All three types—summer, winter, and all-season—are also available as high-performance tires that enhance high-speed handling and stability.

Tip: High-performance tires tend to wear faster than standard tires. Consider them only if they fit your driving style. 

Speed rating

A tire's speed rating (see chart below) is an indication of how well it will handle at a particular test speed.

B - Up to 31 mph

C - Up to 37 mph

D - Up to 40 mph

E - Up to 43 mph

F - Up to 50 mph

G - Up to 56 mph

J - Up to 62 mph

K - Up to 68 mph

L - Up to 75 mph

M - Up to 81 mph

N - Up to 87 mph

P - Up to 94 mph

Q - Up to 100 mph

R - Up to 106 mph

S - Up to 112 mph

T - Up to 118 mph

U - Up to 124 mph

H - Up to 130 mph

V - Up to 149 mph

W - Up to 168 mph

Y - Up to 186 mph

Z - 149 mph and over

 

The higher the speed rating, the better the handling will be. Generally, high-performance cars use H (130 mph) or V (149 mph) ratings, while passenger vehicles use S (112 mph) and T (118 mph) ratings. 

One thing to remember: Never mix and match tires with different speed ratings on your vehicle. This can cause serious problems with the handling of your vehicle.2

Tip: As with high-performance tires, consider high-speed tires only if they fit your driving style.  Synchrony Car CareTM can help facilitate your purchase through one of their multiple merchant partners.

What the sidewalls say

You can learn a lot about a tire by looking at the measurement numbers on its sidewall. They include tire width, aspect ratio, radial design, tire diameter, tire load rating and tire speed rating.

Here's a typical example:

Width

Aspect Ratio

Radial design

Diameter

Load rating

Speed Rating

185 mm

75

R

14

82

S

Tip: High-performance tires are wider than all-season tires and have a lower aspect ratio, which looks good on your vehicle, but can result in a stiffer ride.   

Plus sizing

Plus sizing is when you replace both the wheels and tires at the same time—going with larger diameter alloy wheels and low profile tires to boost performance, handling and the overall look of the vehicle. Use an online tire size calculator to determine the optimum wheel and tire size for your vehicle.

Tip: If your budget won’t allow you to replace the wheels, you can still improve handling by choosing a tire with a shorter sidewall (profile).3

The bottom line is safety

Whether replacing auto tires or truck tires, the number one criteria should always be safety. You can compare safety ratings from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration of most tire brands at safercar.gov  Here’s a link:

www.safercar.gov/Vehicle+Shoppers/Tires+Rating

Learn more:

www.edmunds.com/how-to/how-to-choose-tires-and-wheels.html
www.consumerreports.org/cro/tires/buying-guide.htm

Sources:

1www.consumerreports.org/cro/tires/buying-guide.htm
2www.discounttire.com/dtcs/infoSpeedRating.do
3www.edmunds.com/how-to/how-to-choose-tires-and-wheels.html

Additional Sources:

www.goodyear.eu/home_en/all-about-tires/tire-guide/choosing-the-right-tire
www.safercar.gov/Vehicle+Shoppers/Tires+Rating
www.discounttire.com/dtcs/infoTireTypes.do
www.discounttire.com/dtcs/infoTireTypes.do

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