Tires are among the most expensive items on a car (Here’s what they can cost to replace.), and they’re not easy to purchase. Here’s what your tires do, why they matter, when to change them, and what matters when shopping for new ones. Answers to these questions come courtesy of Brandon Sturgis, Product Category Manager – Original Equipment Tires at Michelin.
What are some basic tips on how to pick the best tire?
When it comes to road safety, tires are one of the most important components of your vehicle. Your brakes stop the wheels from turning, but it’s the grip of the tires that actually brings your car to a stop and maintain traction on the road, so taking the time to do your research and choosing the right tire is important.
When shopping for car tires, consider these three things: safety, value and finding the right fit for your vehicle.
- Safety: Not all tires are created equal. When we talk about tire “safety,” we refer to the tire’s ability as it relates to grip and handling, braking and stopping distance. Most tires perform well in everyday situations, but difficult conditions will reveal their differences. Choose tires that can perform well in the worst types of weather or roads you encounter. The difference can be huge.
- Value: Like most things, when it comes to tires, you get what you pay for. Making a compromise now might lead to spending more later. Why? Because durable tires that last longer and are more fuel efficient can help you save in the long run. Get more efficient tires now, replace them much later! (And forget about shopping for tires for a while.)
- Find Your Fit: Like a shoe, a tire needs to fit you perfectly. Take any car and try a different set of tires, and you’ll see that you end up with an entirely different driving experience. Consider your driving style and choose a tire that’s right for you. Do you like a comfortable drive or precision handling to take that corner like a pro? These are the unseen nuances in tire technology, which is why it’s important to do your research.
What do those numbers and letters on the sidewall mean?
Every sidewall has its own unique information that is divided into three main sections:
- Tire specs: This describes the fundamental characteristics of your tire, like size, construction, speed rating and more.
- Department of Transportation Safety Code: This includes information that assures you that your tire adheres to all Department of Transportation (DOT) safety standards. It also includes information about when and where your tire was manufactured.
- UTQG Code: The Uniform Tire Quality Grading (UTQG) was established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to test tires following government prescribed test methods and then grade each tire on three main components: treadwear, traction and temperature.
For a complete guide on how to read and interpret these numbers, visit Michelin’s “Reading a Tire Sidewall” step-by-step guide.
How often/how many miles should tires be changed?
Because the lifespan and mileage of a tire depends of a combination of factors – including its design, the driver’s habits, the climate, the road conditions and proper tire maintenance – there is no exact way to determine how long a tire will last.
As a rule of thumb, Michelin recommends keeping the five-year and ten-year milestones in mind when it comes to tire replacement. After five years, tires should be thoroughly inspected at least once a year to ensure proper and safe condition. If the tires haven’t been replaced 10 years after their date of manufacture, Michelin recommends replacing them with new tires as a precaution, even if they appear to be in usable condition and have not worn down to the tread wear indicator. This applies to spare tires as well.
In general, the more you can properly maintain your tires throughout its life, the better. Simple maintenance checks like checking tire pressure and getting your tires rotated regularly will go a long way towards increasing your tires’ longevity.
Are there any advancements in tire tech (materials, tread, etc.) that users should be on the lookout for when shopping for new tires?
At Michelin, we’re constantly testing tires on every imaginable surface in just about every condition possible, always looking for new ways to improve our tires and enhance our customer experience. We spend countless hours of research and development at Michelin Laurens Proving Ground so we can meet the needs of our consumers as they face varying conditions in their daily commutes and travels.
One exciting innovation unveiled by Michelin in recent years is seen in our Premier A/S tire with something we call EverGrip technology. Particularly beneficial for wet-weather driving, EverGrip technology combines a unique high-traction rubber compound with a revolutionary tread design featuring expanding rain grooves, which allows the tire to maintain traction in wet weather, even as the tire wears.
How often should the “tread test” be performed?
The amount of tread on your tire is paramount for maintaining traction on the road. Once every month, or before you embark upon long road trips, you should check your tires for wear and damage problems. One easy way to check for wear is by using the penny test to check your tread depth. It only takes a minute:
- Take a penny and hold Abe’s body between your thumb and forefinger.
- Select a point on your tire where tread appears the lowest and place Lincoln’s head into one of the grooves.
- If any part of Abe Lincoln’s head is covered by the tread, you’re driving with the legal and safe amount of tread. Conversely, if you see all of Abe’s head, your car’s ability to grip the road in adverse conditions is greatly reduced and it’s time to get new tires.