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Your Position: Home - Automobiles & Motorcycles - Key Questions to Ask When Ordering Tires and Wheels

Key Questions to Ask When Ordering Tires and Wheels

A Helpful Q&A Guide to Buying Tires

A lot of people choose tires based on the mileage warranty and cost. However, these are only two of many important factors to consider.

There are lots of choices between tires even at the same mileage and price point. It’s important to understand key factors to have the right tire for your driving needs. Things to ask about are: tire size, performance rating, load rating, ply rating, expected mileage and tread design, so you can depend on your tires and feel safe while traveling.

Here are answers to questions people ask the most about how to pick out tires. This info won’t make you a tire expert but will give you the basics when you visit your tire dealer.


Q: Do I Want All-season or Snow Tires?

A: It depends on whether you drive in winter conditions regularly.

Tires are categorized as all-season, summer, traction, winter or highway (for light trucks). Buying a set of highway or all-season tires is a good choice if you live in a sunny, warm climate that gets occasional rain and you aren’t regularly traveling on snow and ice. They perform well in climates where temperatures don’t typically get below 45 degrees. All-season tires are built to handle hot pavement but don’t offer the traction needed for slick, winter roads. If your area gets snow or ice every year, or if you make regular trips over mountain passes in the winter months, you’ll likely need all-season tires for spring, summer and fall driving, and snow tires for more harsh conditions. Get the full lowdown on how they’re different and how to choose winter tires.


Q: Do I Want Performance Tires?

A: Performance tires are designed for better cornering and handling at higher speeds. If these are your priorities, talk to your tire dealer about your options.

Other specialty tires, such as traction tires for pickups and SUVs, are for off-roading, gravel and driving in mud.

Sometimes your demands are simple; you just need a quiet, smooth passenger car tire for freeway driving. All-season or all-terrain tires are made to handle year-round driving needs on and off the blacktop. A good tire dealer will ask you the right questions and know the best product for your needs and budget.


Q: Does Driving Winter Tires in Summer Damage Them?

A: Yes. With more people running studless winter tires, this is a growing issue. Winter tires are made with a special rubber compound that stays softer and more pliable in cold weather for better road grip. As seasonal tires, they aren’t designed to handle the heat. All-season tires are made with a different rubber compound suitable for hot pavement.

If you use winter tires in hot weather they are going to wear out much quicker. It’s important to factor in the long-term cost if you’re thinking about running your winter tires through the warm months. This could reduce their life by years.


Q: Is There Really a Difference Between Higher- and Lower-priced Tires?

A: Definitely.

Tire pricing is typically based on what the tire delivers for comfort, ride quality, noise level, tread durability and traction features. Some tires for specific uses. For instance, light truck mud tires may have a higher price point because they have more rubber on them, which increases the cost to produce them. Prices also reflect the value you can expect from your tire; tread life typically ranges from 30,000 to 80,000 miles. This mileage can vary depending on whether you are looking at passenger car, performance car, light truck or SUV tires.


Q: Who Makes the Best Tires?

A: There are plenty of well-made tires. The biggest differences often come down to the warranty. Most of what you get in a tire warranty is provided by the dealer, not the tire maker. If there’s a defect in the tire you buy, that’s covered by the manufacturer. However, many other warranty features are covered by the dealer that sold and installed your tires.

Tire service warranties vary greatly by dealer and can be worth hundreds of dollars over the life of a tire. A well-built tire is only as good as the warranty backing it, so consider everything that’s in the warranty. Here’s a list of what to look for:

  • Length of coverage. The best warranties extend for the full life of the tire’s tread mileage guarantee, not a set number of years.
  • Workmanship. Both the tire and the quality of installation/repairs should be covered.
  • Free care. Whether flat repairs, regular inspections for wear, tire rotations and rebalancing are free.
  • Road hazard coverage. If you hit debris or a pothole and the tire is damaged beyond repair, is the value of the tire covered?
  • Convenience. How many locations honor the warranty.

Be careful about buying extended tire coverage, like tire certificates, which replace your tires for free if you ruin them. It’s very rare to damage multiple tires beyond repair over the life of the tires. Usually, damage to a tire can be repaired and often it’s a single tire that’s involved. By the time you add up the cost of covering your tires with certificates, you could pay for any tire that gets damaged.

There are other drawbacks as well. Tire replacement certificates often expire after three years. And some aren’t honored if the damage comes from running your tires at the improper inflation.


Q: Can I Change My Tire Size?

A: Swapping out your tires for bigger or smaller ones than what came new on your vehicle is a fun way to change your ride’s look. Understand that it may affect performance. Be aware that when you change to a taller tire, your speedometer will read slower than you’re going because your tire is spinning fewer revolutions per mile (RPM). You may get more road noise and differences in the way your vehicle handles.

In contrast, lowering the profile of your car or truck by using a smaller tire size will alter both handling and how much clearance you have. You may bottom out on hills that you used to clear just fine and it may stiffen the ride.

You can use a tire size calculator to see how different sized tires will affect your RPMs and tire speed, but such tools are only estimates.

Be sure to cover all the unknowns by talking with a tire professional before you change sidewall height or tread width. An expert will know how to translate the difference in RPM, tire speed, load index and speed rating into what it will mean for your vehicle and driving. They’ll also explain how the tires or wheels you have your eye on will or won’t fit with your vehicle’s suspension, gearing and bodywork.

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Q: Is It Ok to Replace One Tire at a Time?

A: It’s best to consider replacing tires in pairs, but read your owner’s manual. Even small size and type differences between your four tires can have big consequences, especially if you own an all-wheel drive (AWD).

Replacing one tire with a different brand, model, size or tread depth can cause a noticeable pull in the steering wheel or other handling issues. There are tight tolerances for AWDs, so they’re at greater risk for such problems.

A big difference in tread depth between tires can damage expensive parts. It is always a good idea to review your owner’s manual to see if the vehicle manufacturer has a point of view on this.


Q: Will Buying Tires Online Save Me Money?

A: It might save you some money if you’re a tire expert and have a place that will mount the tires on your wheels. If not and you don’t, you run the risk of getting the wrong type of tires for your vehicle and driving. Then that Internet bargain can add up to a lot more hassle, time and money than expected.

Another issue is finding a tire dealer that will service your tires by mounting and balancing them on your wheels at a reasonable cost. This can get expensive if you’re changing out summer and winter tires twice a year. Here are some cost and warranty factors to consider when you’re thinking of buying online.

Have other questions than what we’ve covered? See more answers in our Tire FAQ or find your local Les Schwab store to talk to a pro.

There are almost as many variables in picking the right tires for your vehicle as there are in choosing the vehicle itself—including quality of workmanship, price, fuel economy and warranty.

And there are plenty of brands to choose from. Wikipedia lists some 85 tire makers worldwide marketing 230 different brands rolling around the globe on vehicles of every kind.

Fortunately, you do not have to kick all those tires in order to pick the ones that best fit your vehicle and your lifestyle. The answers to these eight questions will help you make an informed tire-buying decision:

1. How can I tell if it’s time to replace my tires?

Try the penny test. Take a penny and insert it into the grooves of your tire. If Lincoln’s hair is covered, then the amount of the tread on the tire is still good. Otherwise, it is definitely time to consider replacing them. Tires that have 2/32” of tread are considered to be “legally bald” and may lead to severely reduced traction, making your vehicle unsafe for the road. Before heading to your local tire dealer, brush up on your knowledge concerning buying your new wheels.

2. How is a tire made?

A tire is constructed from the inside out, starting at the inner liner. There are 20-25 different systems in every tire and up to 200 different materials. Fabric belts are wrapped around the inner liner with steel belts, more fabric belts and other materials layered between the tread surface and inner liner. These layers provide strength, noise suppression and ride quality.

3. Why are some tires more expensive than others?

Beyond the basic cost of raw materials or the fact that large truck tires use more materials than small passenger tires, advances made by design and production teams impact the ultimate price of tires, especially better tires. Changes to manufacturing processes, new materials, rubber chemistry and even rubber mixing technology are all closely guarded secrets. They can all impact tire performance, especially in stopping or turning your vehicle in different weather and driving conditions.   Better designs and more expensive materials translate into higher prices.

4. How do tires affect fuel economy?

Make sure you select the tires that deliver optimal fuel efficiency. Experts in the industry contend that drivers can see as much as a 15% to 20% difference in fuel economy, depending on which tires they select. Proper inflation to your manufacturer’s recommended air pressure also is crucial to fuel economy.

5. Are tires categorized by type of vehicle or by driving conditions?

The answer is “both.” The four main types of tires are highway, all-season, traction and winter. If you live in a sunny, warm climate like Tucson that gets some occasional rain but little to no snow or ice, highway or all-season tires are a logical choice for your vehicle. Buying snow-rated tires might make sense if you spend much of the winter here up on Mount Lemmon or the mountains in the far north of the state.

Many weekend warriors and hunters choose all-terrain tires made to handle year-round driving needs on and off the blacktop. All-terrain tires can be a great choice if you travel dirt roads for camping or enjoy weekend adventures or pulling a boat but you still have a long drive on the highway to get home. There are also specialty tires for trucks, Jeeps and other SUVs that are designed for off-roading, gravel and driving in the mud. A knowledgeable tire dealer like our good friends at Jack Furrier Tire, always ask the right questions and know which product is best to recommend for the clients’ needs based on their specific uses and budget.

6. What should I know about the warranty?

There are plenty of well-made tires; however, the details of the different warranties are critical in the long run. Even if the tires have comparable ratings, there are often significant differences in the warranty included by your tire dealer.

Generally, defect rates are extremely low, and if there is a defect in the tire you buy, it will typically be covered by the manufacturer. However, many other features of the warranty are covered by the dealer who sold and installed the tire(s) for you. Here are tips on what to look for in a good warranty:

  • Length of coverage.
  • Workmanship and materials guarantee. Both the tire and the quality of the installation and repairs should be covered.
  • Maintenance guarantee. Flat repairs, regular inspections for wear, tire rotations and rebalancing should be free.
  • Road hazard coverage. This means that the value of a tire is covered if you hit debris or a pothole and the tire is damaged beyond repair.
  • Geography of coverage. Is the warranty honored at all locations? If not, which ones?

7. Is there a downside to changing out bigger or smaller tires in place of stock tires?

Upsizing or downsizing tires can be a fun way to change your ride’s lookbut it could impact their overall performance.

When you change to a taller tire your speedometer will generally read slower than you are actually going because your tire is spinning fewer revolutions per mile. You may also experience more road noise or a difference in the way your vehicle handles. Lowering the profile of your car or truck by using smaller tires will alter both the handling and how much clearance you have; you may have trouble getting over hills you previously were able to clear.

Before you switch out your current wheels, talk to a tire professional about the pros and cons of different tire sizes. An expert will know how to translate the differences in revolution per mile, tire speed, load index and speed rating into what it will mean for your vehicle’s suspension, gearing and bodywork.

8. Can I replace one tire with a completely different model of tire?

It is best to consider replacing tires, at the very least, in pairs. Check your vehicle’s owner manual for tire replacement recommendations. Even small differences in size and type between your four tires can lead to serious consequences, especially if your vehicle is all-wheel drive. Consider this before replacing one tire alone:

  • Replacing one tire with a different brand, model, size or tread depth can cause a noticeable pull in the steering wheel or cause other handling issues.
  • There are tight tolerances for all-wheel-drive vehicles.
  • A large difference in tread depth between tires can damage many parts of your vehicle. It is always a good idea to review your owner’s manual to see if the vehicle manufacturer has specific recommendations on this.

Replacing your tires is not an overwhelming task once you have the knowledge you need. If you are still uncertain which tires would be the best fit for your vehicle or have general tire inquires, call or visit your local Jack Furrier Tire and Auto Care for expert advice. Jack Furrier has been a trusted Southern Arizona brand since 1960. The Furrier pros know what it takes to find the right wheels your vehicle.

Jack Furrier Tire and Auto Care: JackFurrier.com or 520-547-4737. 

Key Questions to Ask When Ordering Tires and Wheels

8 key questions to ask when buying tires

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