Your tires are a key safety and performance component of your vehicle. It’s important to know your driving habits and what type of vehicle you drive so you can select the right tires.
For example, if you commute on congested highways and city streets you’ll want quiet, smooth riding, long wearing tires. If you often drive in snow or on rocky terrain you’ll want tires that handle those conditions well.
Whether you’re looking to upgrade your tires or replace them, the first step is determining the size. You can find this information on a sticker on the inside frame of your driver’s side door, the tires themselves or in your vehicle owner’s manual. Once you know the size, research tires by reading reviews and comparing features, such as load and speed ratings, rim diameter, and more.
The type of tires you choose also depends on the driving conditions where you live. For example, if you drive on snowy or icy roads, consider getting winter tires. Or, if you enjoy driving fast, look for performance tires with high-speed ratings. If you want a comfortable ride, go for touring tires or those with low road noise. You’ll also find tires rated for EVs that are specifically designed to be quiet. Each tire size has a number and letter designation on its sidewall, which tells you the main specs.
The load capacity of tires indicates how much weight each tire is designed to carry. A tire’s maximum load is calculated by multiplying its load rating by four (since you’ll have four tires on your vehicle) to determine the total weight the tires can support safely.
When a tire is overloaded it can lead to damage, early wear and even failure of the tire. It’s best to select a tire that meets or exceeds the maximum rating listed on your car’s door placard or owner’s manual.
You can find a tire’s load index and speed rating in an alpha-numeric code that is molded into the sidewall, usually next to the size information. Taking note of these indicators will ensure that your new tires will not only fit your car but also support the weight of your passengers and cargo and the forces applied during emergency maneuvers. The experts at Les Schwab will help you find the right tire for your vehicle’s unique needs and load.
The speed rating of a tire is displayed as a letter or number on the tire’s sidewall, typically after the Load Index. Usually, the speed symbol is also included in parenthesis with the load index (for example, “245/35R20 95W Y”).
The higher your vehicle’s performance rating, the more quickly you can react to changing road conditions. A higher rating indicates less flex in the tire, so it responds quicker to steering wheel input and keeps you on course.
Tires with a T (118 mph or 190 km/h) rating are commonly found on family sedans and minivans, while sports cars and SUVs will benefit from H- or V-rated tires. For everyday commuting, U-rated tires will be plenty fast enough. Those who use their vehicles for off-road driving may want to consider P, Q, or R-rated tires. These are usually specialized tires, such as winter or all-season tires that include a Three Peak Mountain Snowflake (3PMSF) rating.
A tire’s UTQG treadwear rating portrays how many miles you can expect from the tire. However, no tire dealer can tell you exactly how many miles a specific brand of tire will last. This is because a tire’s mileage is affected by outside factors, not only the quality of the rubber and the design of the tread, but also driver habit and road conditions.
When you see a treadwear number such as 300, it means that the tire should last three times as long as a tire with a grade of 100. Treadwear ratings are based on the results of standardized tests. However, manufacturers are allowed to report their own grading numbers, so the actual rating can differ from one manufacturer to the next. Fortunately, proper tire maintenance and responsible driving habits can help maximize the mileage from your tires. Even with these measures in place, no tire will last forever. That’s why it’s important to replace your tires regularly.