Although many tires manufactured today will give you 50,000 miles or more before needing replacement, chances are good that you’ll be buying new tires at least once during the lifetime of your car. With thousands of models from dozens of makers in stock, how do you choose the best tire for your vehicle and for the climate in which you live?
Dependable and suitable for almost any road and weather condition, all-season tires are the standard choice for most cars sold in the U.S. For those of us who live in areas with dramatic weather swings, this might be the only tire that we can leave on year-round because they can handle dry, wet, mud, and snow-covered roads.
All-season tires offer drivers good year-round traction in rainy and light snowy seasons, long tread life, and a comfortable ride. You sacrifice the precise handling and grip delivered by performance tires, but they are a good option for moderate climates and driving conditions. All-seasons are available in many models and sizes to accommodate a wide variety of car and trucks.
Winter/snow tires are designed to give you superior grip in snow and extremely cold temperatures below 44 degrees Fahrenheit. These narrow tires feature plentiful grooves that help the tread cut through snow to improve traction. A softer rubber construction keeps the tire from hardening when the temperatures plummet, giving a more reliable grip in rain and snow. The tread on snow tires wears faster than on all-seasons, but the peace of mind that comes with maximal traction while navigating hills and turns and fast braking when driving through sleet, ice, and snow makes these tires essential in many states.
Summer tires offer the best road-hugging traction during hot and humid weather, thanks to the flexible rubber compounds used, the orbital grooves, and complex directional tread patterns. The shallow tread on these tires provides good performance on wet surfaces by shedding water and resisting hydroplaning. Summer tires:
Once limited to exotic sports cars, today performance tires are available for almost every type of car, truck, and SUV. You’ll also find them designed for specific weather conditions, such as snow and cold, and even in off-road models. Designed for “enthusiastic” drivers with an eye for style, the shallow and wide tread on performance tires, stiff sidewalls, and soft rubber give them a higher speed rating than standard all-season tires.
Drivers choose high-performance tires because they offer better handling, cornering, and stability at high speeds, along with more responsive braking and excellent traction. While the ride is rougher and the wear faster on these tires, the trade-off is the ability to react quickly and stop on a dime.
Able to power through snow, mud, sand, rock, and gravel, off-road tires feature the most aggressive tread design available to take on the most challenging off-road conditions. The large lugs and deep voids allow these tires to bite through difficult terrain for maximum traction. The puncture-resistant construction and reinforced sidewalls stand up to the abuse that off-roading promises, although the ride is bumpy and noisy.
Like off-road tires, all-terrain tires are usually found on trucks and SUVs. They offer the superior grip and open-tread design of an off-road tire, coupled with the handling and traction capabilities of a road tire. These tires perform well on any road surface, although the ride is a bit noisier than street tires, and the softer rubber means a shorter tread life.
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