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What You Need to Know About a Car Tire’s Features

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What you should look for in car tires depends on how and where you drive. Here’s a guide to features of a car tire, along with what you need to know about each one in order to select a tire that’s right for your car.

Tire Size: Choose the Size That Fits Your Car

All car tires follow a uniform sizing method, and the size of every car tire is printed on its side. If you look at the side of a tire, you’ll see a series of numbers and letters. For example, you might see P 195/55R15 95H on your tire.

The numbers and one letter on your tire might vary, but they’ll still follow this pattern so long as you have a P-Metric tire (which conforms to various standards in the United States). Each of these numbers and letters stands for a specific measurement or feature, but some are more important than the others.

As you start out in your search for new tires, specifically focus on the middle sequence of numbers. That’s the 195/55R15 in this example. As the sequence proceeds from left to right, it shows the:

  • Width of the tire (which is 195 millimeters in this example)
  • Aspect ratio (which is 55 percent in the example)
  • Construction (which is R for radial in the example and on most passenger vehicles)
  • Wheel diameter (which is 15 inches in the example)

The width and diameter are the most important numbers because these dictate what size rims the tire can go on. A tire is only compatible with a rim that’s the same size, so these tires would require a rim that’s made for tires that are 55 millimeters wide and have a diameter of 15 inches.

Thus, you should limit your search for tires to only those that fit your car’s rims. The owner’s manual for your car will show what rims you have and what other size rims are compatible with the car. If you want to change tire sizes, you can purchase tires and rims in a different size that’s compatible.

Tire Capabilities: Select the Rating That’s Right for Your Use

The final two figures on a tire’s size refer to its capabilities (95H in our example). The number is the load rating, and the letter is the speed rating.

For the vast majority of drivers, the load rating and speed rating of almost all passenger tires are perfectly sufficient. Most load ratings are more than enough for even a carload of people, and speed ratings often exceed the posted speed limit.

If you have a heavy-duty pickup truck and haul large loads of debris or construction materials, however, you might need a higher load rating than what basic tires offer. For example, you might need a load index of 100 or higher. A load index of 100 is able to support 1,764 pounds.

Alternatively, you might need a higher speed index if you drive on private tracks. If you take a car on a private track and exceed 130 miles per hour, for instance, you might want a speed rating of V, W, or Y. These ratings are suitable to 149, 168, and 186 miles per hour, respectively.

Tread: Pick the Pattern That’s Made for the Driving Conditions

Tread is the surface of the tire that actually contacts the pavement, and tires come with different types of treads. For example, winter tires and off-roading tires have treads that are designed to maintain grip in slippery conditions. All-season tires have more streamlined tread patterns that improve fuel efficiency.

Pick whatever tread pattern best suits the driving conditions that you’re normally in. Better fuel efficiency is good if you don’t need extra traction, but you shouldn’t sacrifice traction if you do need it. No amount of fuel efficiency increase will be helpful if your car slides off the road.

If you need tires for your car, contact Evans Tire & Service Centers.

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