If you’re new to driving, you’re probably confused about the different car tires. No worries, you’ll understand all there is to know in a short while.
While there are several types of car tires, we can usually classify them into all-season, winter and summer tires.
Let’s break it down.
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Here’s the short answer to what tires are on your car:
The tires that come will probably be all-season tires. However, new cars come with OEM tires, which stand for “Original Equipment Manufacturer” tires, which the car maker produces themselves to cut costs.
There are many types of car tires and most tires on the road are a combination of two or more. However, your tire type heavily depends on the type of car you drive.
Where Do You Find the Brand Name on a Tire?
Brand names are usually engraved or embossed on the sidewall of the tire.
Other than the brand names, tires may also have model names written on them. An example is Michelin tires’ Pilot Sport.
So no worries about buying the wrong brand of your choice because brands proudly claim ownership of their products.
How Can I Know What Type of Tire I Have?
There are several ways of identifying the tires on your vehicle, especially the tread patterns.
Most manufacturers write the name of the tire type of the product and also include symbols to indicate the terrain they designed it for to make identification easier.
These tires have deeper tread patterns than summer tires, but they’re not as deep as winter tires. All-season, winter and summer tires are all made from different material types.
You should also know that not even “all-season” tires are perfect for all seasons. However, they can easily adapt to different seasons than summer or winter tires.
As stated earlier, there are many types of tires and most of them are combinations of two or more types. You can know a lot about the type of tire you have from its characteristics.
If you own a truck or an SUV, your tires are probably designed for off-road driving. They could be mud tires with tractor-like tread patterns on them. The massive tread patterns on the tires help you navigate through any unpleasant terrain.
However, mud tires are not comfortable on normal roads and should only be used for off-road driving.
If you own a truck and don’t do off-road driving much, you’re better off with all-terrain tires. They’re much more highway friendly.
Low-profile tires have their aspect ratios lower than 50 percent. This means their sidewall heights are less than half of the tire width. They’re mostly found in compact cars and they enable easier handling.
If you have racing tires, you can recognize them by their shallow tread patterns. This makes it easier for them to drift. So it’s great for race car drivers but terrible for every other person.
It’s even illegal to drive with racing tires on highways.
Run-Flat and Self-Sealing Tires
These are special tires. What makes them outstanding is they can get punctured on the road and you wouldn’t have to stop.
Run-flat tires can keep going because their sidewalls are reinforced. This means they don’t require air to keep going. Still, if there’s a puncture, you can’t drive at full capacity.
This also means you can drive without spare tires.
Self-sealing tires can also keep you on the road. They’re coated with a sealing material on the inside. This helps seal punctures and prevents the air from escaping.
You’d know if your car came with run-flats from the factory. Just read your manual.
You’d also get a lot of information regarding the tires you have based on the inscriptions on it. Let’s learn how to read and understand them.
How Do I Know My Tires Are the Right Quality?
Thanks to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there’s a standard that tire manufacturers must follow.
The Uniform Tire Quality Grading (UTQG) ensures that they test and rate tires based on government standards.
All tire manufacturers that sell their products in the United States are required to display their UTQG ratings on their tires. With ratings on every tire, you can easily determine quality.
Understanding the ratings is quite easy if you know what they mean.
The performance ratings are for tread wear, traction and temperature. Tread wear ratings show how fast the tire would wear out. Worn-out tires usually lose their grip on slippery roads.
The lowest rating for tread wear is 100. This means a tire with a 300 rating will last thrice as long as one with 100.
Traction ratings are in the form of AA, A, B and C, with AA being the highest rating.
Heat is a major enemy for tires, that’s why tires should be able to disperse heat. Temperature ratings are A, B and C, with A being the most acceptable rating. Tires with “A” temperature ratings disperse heat easily.
They’ll be better for the summer.
How Do I Read the Numbers on the Tire?
All car tires have inscriptions of letters and numbers. They seem like very complicated text, if you do not know what they mean. Keep reading, we’ve explained it all.
Other than the brand name, the next thing that stands out is the text revealing the tire width. It not only reveals the width, but the sidewall height and wheel size.
An example of such a code is “P215/65R15”.
The code is simpler to understand than you think. The “P” on the tire implies it’s a passenger car tire, while the “215” is the tire width in millimeters.
Remember the sidewall of a tire? The “65” means its height is 65% of the tire width. That would mean the side wall is about 139 millimeters high. It is also known as the aspect ratio.
If the aspect ratio is less than 50%, we know it’s a low-profile tire. The “R” means the manufacturer radially constructed the tire. This has to do with the tire structure.
The last number “15” means the inner diameter of the tire is 15 inches. It helps determine the wheel size.
These dimensions would give you hints on what type of tire you have. However, the most defining factors are much easier to understand.
All-season tires along with winter tires have an M+S marking on them. These letters mean mud plus snow and they show that they’ll do great in either circumstance.
However, as we’ve established earlier, all-season tires aren’t the “remedy to cure all ills”. That’s why winter tires are more equipped for snow travel. On winter tires, next to the M+S marking, you’d usually see a mountainous symbol as well.
Summer tires have neither of these markings. Also, ideal summer tires should have “A” as their temperature rating. We advise you don’t use summer tires for winter travel and vice versa.
What Exactly Is the DOT Tire Identification Number (TIN)?
This is the Department of Transportation Tire Identification number. It requires less work to just call it the DOT number.
It’s a combination of confusing numbers and letters. The most important numbers to you are the last four digits. The TIN text often appears after the letters “DOT” so don’t mix it up.
It comes in this form; DOT AF WD9E 1818.
The first two characters after the “DOT” are the manufacturer’s signature. Onward, the last four digits show the week and year of production. Using the above example, the tire was produced in the 18th week of 2018, in May.
The characters in between are there to help with tracking in case of a recall.
Also, even though your tire appears to be in great shape, ensure you replace them after at most, six years. Simply compute six years from the week showed on the DOT number. Our example tire shouldn’t exceed May 2024.
What If the Text and Numbers Are Worn Off?
First, worn off text signifies substandard or ancient tires. Know that even expired tires usually still have clearly written text on them.
So, if an expired tire still has its text, any tire with faded text isn’t roadworthy. If the text is faded, discard it.
Besides the text fading off, the side walls may also have cracks on them. While you can repair minor cracks, it isn’t advisable if it appears simultaneously with faded text on the tires.
If the tires are new and have no text on them, you shouldn’t consider buying them at all. They are substandard tires.
The text on tires, including the UTQG ratings and DOT number, are mandatory to have. This means tire companies have no choice but to display them. It also means it’s illegal to drive without them.
Can Auto Repair Shops Always See What Tires You Have?
Unless you have tires with faded text, auto repair shops can tell what tires you have. They can easily identify tire brands faster than you can.
Your trusted mechanic will usually recommend high-quality tires for you. Still, it isn’t advisable to not know much about tires. That’s why we suggest you learn all you can about tires and replacement.
With the above information, it’s clear that you should never randomly replace your tires.
In fact, brands like Mercedes-Benz and BMW have replacement tires that are manufactured specifically for their vehicles. This means you’d need to get OEM tires when replacing your old ones.
No matter the car you drive, do your research before buying any new tires.