Understanding Your Tires for a Better/Safer Ride
By Bob Abram, Product Planning Manager, Yokohama Tire Corporation
Daily life is filled with endless choices: regular or diet, credit or debit, paper or plastic? Not all the choices are of major-league importance, but others could have a profound effect, so it’s important to make the right choice. A good example is tires: There are lots of types to choose from, but getting the correct one is vital because it impacts your vehicle’s handling, comfort, fuel efficiency and safety.
For many, tires are kind of like auto insurance: not top-of-mind, until the need arises. Makes sense: tires certainly look simple – black and round – but the truth is, they are highly engineered technical wonders designed to work in concert with a vehicle’s braking and steering systems. Tire science has come a long way, creating tires that last longer and are more fuel efficient. For example, at Yokohama our engineers developed a technology that blends orange oil with rubber to create a special compound that enhances traction and fuel economy with longer tread wear life.
Tires take a daily pounding over all sorts of surfaces and in all kinds of weather conditions, yet they continue to perform with incredible effectiveness. We change our clothes to match the weather outside, when it’s 25 or 95 degrees. Choosing the right materials makes all the difference. Tires have to work in extremes as well, but without a change of materials. We also wear different clothes if we are going on a date or mowing the grass. Tires have to work the same if we are commuting at 10 mph or enjoying a spirited drive in the mountains.
Tires are the only part of a vehicle that actually touches the road, but most people don’t even know what type of tires are on their car. One reason is there are so many types of tires. There are about 3,500 sizes and types from dozens of manufacturers, and that can cause confusion for anybody. But the more information consumers collect and understand, the better prepared they will be for the vast selection that awaits them.
Basically, having the wrong tire on a vehicle is akin to wearing shoes that don’t fit – they don’t work well and may be harmful. Cornering, acceleration, wet road traction, tire wear, fuel economy, ride and styling can be modified by changing tires. However, choosing the wrong wheels and tires can result in a disappointment with handling, ride and tread wear. In short, knowing what types of tires are available is important because it can save money and fuel, vastly improve a vehicle’s ride and handling, and can be essential for your safety.
A tire generally delivers both mileage and performance, but not both equally. Tires using a harder rubber compound will last longer and boost gas mileage, but could deliver less traction and more noise, while softer tread compound tires handle well but wear more quickly.
The first step to selecting the right tires is to consider how they will be used. Consumers should think about how far and fast they typically drive, the weather and road conditions they encounter, how they want the vehicle to perform and look, how much money they want to spend, how long they plan on keeping the vehicle, and the weight and type of vehicle the tires will be mounted on.
Here are some basic definitions on different types of tires to help you pick the best tire for your vehicle:
- All-Season Tire: As stated: a tire designed for all four seasons. They can potentially eliminate the need for snow tires in some moderate winter areas.
- High-Performance Tire: Tires designed for responsive handling at higher speeds.
- Light Truck Tire: Tires designed for sport utility vehicles, pickup trucks, recreational vehicles and some small commercial vehicles.
- Radial Tire: Radial describes the way the tire is constructed. These tires are on most passenger cars as well as light trucks.
- Touring Performance Tire: A tire providing the ride comfort of a standard passenger car tire, yet possessing some high-performance tire characteristics.
Replacing tires and buying auto insurance are not as exciting as getting tickets to a great concert or sporting event, but the more you know beforehand, the better your chance of making the right choice and getting exactly what you need.