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Your Corner Wrench: Choosing the right tires for your car

Driving.ca logo Driving.ca 2018-05-15 Brian Turner
Tire shopping can be daunting. It's much more than just what you drive, and what's your tire size.© Supplied, iStock.com via Getty Images Tire shopping can be daunting. It's much more than just what you drive, and what's your tire size.

If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed shopping for some new tires, you’re not alone. With the number of different tire makers out there, compounded by the ever-growing variety of different types, it’s no wonder many people are confused when trying to decide.

Research

For the average driver who purchases tires once every few years or so, becoming a smart shopper is hard from experience alone. If you have any pity to spare, save some for tire company designers – they toil in relative anonymity, striving to put better products on our vehicles, only to end up with something that looks, well, like a tire, sold to people who seldom think about tires and are loathe to spend money on them.

I had a chance recently to review an industry insider document from a well-established tire company detailing their marketing efforts to consumers for some new designs. Like most of these shamelessly self-serving missives, it was full of fluff, but it did unintentionally provide some useful tips for drivers on the hunt for just the right set of boots for their car.

For most shoppers, the questions they’re asked are usually short and few. Tire size and the type of vehicle are often the only things asked before a retailer looks up various tires to prepare a price quote. What’s more important is where and how you drive, how long you plan on keeping your current ride, and what type of budget you’re working with.

For example, you may be driving the meanest 4X4 on the block, but if 99 per cent of your travels are on paved roads, buying an aggressive off-road tire can be the worst mistake you can make. Or, if you’re driving a sports car and you want tires that last longer than one or two seasons, getting a soft and sticky performance tire isn’t the way to go, as they wear out quickly.

Or, you may even find yourself on gravel or broken roads regularly and don’t want to collect a few pounds of pebbles each time. In that case, keep in mind certain tread designs seem to attract stones like moths to a flame. Or, you could be dropping your car at the end of its lease in a month or so, and don’t want to invest in a premium tire.

Another example to consider is with light-truck tires. You may like the strength and tread endurance of an LT-rated tire with its sronger sidewalls, but these often provide a much stiffer ride than conventional, P-rated tires. Keep in mind that on a vehicle originally equipped with P-rated rubber, moving up to an LT-rated won’t increase the cargo or towing capacity so much as an ounce.

So, when you’re at the tire shop, make sure you’ve done your research and take the time to have a good discussion to cover all the bases.

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