So the Abe Lincoln penny-test told you your tread is wearing
thin and its time to buy a new set of tires, huh? Do you run out and buy the
first tire style your eyes fall upon -- 35-inch off-road tires for your 1995
Honda Prelude? Of course not! Buying a new set of tires, however, should not be
as complicated as buying a new car.
Michelin puts it nicely: "Because so much is riding on
your tires." (That was not meant to be a plug for Michelin tires.) You don't
want to buy the wrong tire for your driving needs; you don't want to buy the
cheap off-brand that may deteriorate before your eyes. And you don't want to
end up on the other side of the spectrum, either -- like buying all-season
tires when you merely commute in urban areas of Southern California.
All-season means all-season. If you live anywhere where there aren't four
distinct seasons, don't spend the extra money. If you drive in snow only a
handful of times per year, snow tires are probably a wasteful investment
(that's why snow chains were invented!).
All-season and touring tires
are the most widely used and the most practical for most luxury cars, sedans,
coupes and minivans. Sometimes drivers, especially coupe owners, feel the need
to buy performance tires. Be aware that the steering response and impressive
appearance of performance tires often outweigh their comfort and tread life.
Don't let me forget about all you SUV and "big truck" owners. I know
some of you think monster off-road tires look tough, but ask yourself this:
"How often am I going to be traveling on rough terrain?" If the answer is
"never" or "rarely," you might want to reconsider. Buy from the street/sport
truck or highway categories. (Highway tires are designed for full-size pickups
or passenger vans.)
Whatever style you choose, make sure the tires you
purchase have good grades. Think back to your school days. A is the best grade
(AA on the traction scale), and C is the lowest possible denominator. Tire
Quality Grading System markings always should be molded on the tire sidewalls.
Brands? That is where you are on your own; there are Goodyear, BF
Goodrich, Bridgestone, Michelin, Pirelli, Kelly-Springfield, Dunlop and more
than 100 other manufacturers to choose from. And don't forget to shop around
for the best price too, but I'm sure you knew that already.
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