When shopping for tires, some drivers will pick the cheapest set available. Others will choose the ones made by the brand with the best reputation. It’s less likely that a vehicle owner will spend hours on research to find the best set to suit his or her vehicle needs.
The good news is you don’t have to.
“For most people, it’s simple. If you like what’s on there, replace them with the same tires,” said AAA’s Car Doctor John Paul.
Vehicles usually roll out of the factory with a particular type of tires. Original equipment tires are designed to carry the weight of the car, help it meet fuel economy standards and more. Of course, a new set of those tires isn’t always cheap. Plus, sometimes a driver wants to change something about the way the vehicle drives. Perhaps the driver wants sportier handling or better traction in the rain.
On the sidewall of every tire is an alphanumeric code that can help shoppers identify certain tire characteristics. These codes often include ratings for tread durability, how well it brakes on wet surfaces, the temperature it can withstand and how fast it is designed to run for extended periods of time. Ask about them when shopping for new tires.
One of the most important numbers on the tire is load capacity, or how much weight the tires can support. New tires should always have at least the load capacity rating of the original set. Tires marked M + S are all-season tires that can handle mud and snow. Winter tires are marked with an alpine symbol, which looks like a three-peaked mountain with a snowflake inside it.
“Whichever tires you decide to buy, you should be prepared to put them on before you need them, not when you need them,” Paul said.