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Choosing the right tyres for your car

Finding the right tyres for your car will help you enjoy your driving experience more and keep you safer on the roads.  In most countries in Europe, it’s required by law to replace tyres when the tread depth reaches 1.6mm or less and manufacturers often imprint wear indicators in their tyres which become visible when the tread gets worn out and need replacing.  This is the right time to decide on the needs of your driving style, road conditions and budget in terms of choosing the right tyres for your car.

What tyres do I need?

Tyre markings and what they mean

Tyre markings and what they mean

Before you begin searching for your next set of tyres, you should make sure to know which tyres you have on your car now and the best source of this information is the car manufacturer’s specifications.  These provide details of the recommended tyre size, road speed and high speed required for your vehicle.

If you don’t have that information to hand, tyres also have their dimensions marked on the sidewall.  Since the primary function of tyres is carrying weight, you should buy the tyre with the same load index as the original one. For example, the following letters might be on the side of your tyre:

P205/65 R16 95V
  • P – This indicates that the tyre is for a Passenger vehicle.
  • 205/65 – This indicates the tread width (205mm) and the 65 part is the aspect ratio of the tyre wall to the tread width.
  • R – This indicates the construction of the tyre, in this case Radial.  There are also cross-ply and these types shouldn’t be mixed on the same axel, e.g. left and right front tyres should use the same type and so should the left and right rears.
  • 95 – This shows the Load Index of the tyre, i.e. the maximum safe weight that the tyre is designed to support ranging from 60 to 130.  These correspond to weights of 250kg to 1900kg.
  • V – This indicates the speed rating from letters L to Y which correlates to speeds from 120 to 300 kilometres per hour.

The maximum allowed speed the tyre can handle is designated by the speed index, which should also be matched with the original equipment tyre.  On second hand vehicles there is no guarantee that the tyre on the car matches the manufacturer’s recommendations.  In this case, it’s recommended that a specialist car tyre retailer or the original manufacturer is contacted to confirm which type should be on the vehicle.

Ride quality

One consideration is the type of ride quality you prefer or expect.  Some tyres will make the driving experience smooth and comfortable, while others are require a low-profile which can make the ride harder over rough, bumpy terrain.  The choice in terms of ride quality may be limited by the existing tyre and wheel combination used on your car so it’s often useful to discuss with a car tyre fitter as to the various options for improving comfort and handling.

Tyre Performance Classes

Tyres come in three performance classes which are based on the resistance they can handle and their ability to withstand high speeds:

  • Standard - with load index S,T,(H) and 13″-15″ radius
  • High performance – HP – with load index H,V,(W) and 15″-17″ radius
  • Ultra high performance – UHP – with load index W, Z i ZR and 16″-20″ (and bigger) radius

If you drive a couple thousands of miles a year, mostly in the city, and never over 100mph (160 km/h), standard tyres in mid-price range will suffice.

If you normally travel on motorways, finding the right type of car tyre with an extended tread life will allow you to avoid changing your tyres as often, saving you money and time in the long run.

If you typically drive very fast, you will need to purchase car tyres that will be able to handle the extras stresses and provide the extra needed, in which case high or ultra-high performance tyres are recommended.

Before you decide on a specific type of tyre, make sure to check how these tyres match the typical average weather for your location.  In the UK, rain and wet weather is common, so it is best to find tyres that are well suited to provide good grip in this type of weather and still perform well.  If you know any more useful tips for choosing car tyres, please let us know in the comments below.

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One Response to “Choosing the right tyres for your car”

  1. Great post. Particularly the section about the different meanings for the different dimensions that are on the tyre wall.

    It is very helpful it has helped me a lot.
    Keep it up.

    Jamie Doutt

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