Getting it right could save more than just money
How do you go about choosing the best tire for your car? It’s a burning question, and there’s no simple answer. Do you go strictly for a bargain price? Perhaps you have a specific brand preference. Maybe you’re looking for rubber that’s durable enough to deliver lots and lots of mileage?
There are a multitude of parameters and choices, but getting it right could save you a lot more than just money.
An alarming number of motorists will devour a ‘tire shootout’ or some other sort of car magazine ‘mega test’ before confidently strolling into their local tire supplier to buy a set of the winning rubber.
Great idea if they just happen to own precisely the same vehicle with exactly the same sized wheels as used in the test. If not, they could be in for an unpleasant surprise. That’s because every car has unique resonance frequencies in its structure and suspension. Sportier cars, for example, tend to have less sound-proofing than sedans, and this is deliberate to give a better sensation of speed and contact with the road, as well as to save weight. This also means that tire and road noise is less well muffled.
Then you have to qualify that with the size of wheels you are going to mount the tires on. The same tire in a different size and profile will also have a different construction, which alters its own resonance characteristics and therefore the way it interacts with the car it is fitted to.
There are usually vast differences between tires in steering feel, let alone handling and on-the-edge-of-adhesion behaviour. It’s easy to overstep the limit of grip on a wet road, especially in a powerful car. But if you exceed that limit when it’s dry, then you are definitely going too fast. So, if superior control in inclement weather is your major concern, it’s always better to go with a tire with excellent wet grip and braking performance. Just remember, though, that such a tire’s wear rate is faster in predominantly dry road conditions.
Also, a quiet, comfortable tire that works fine in slower-speed urban conditions may be too soft for sustained high-speed highway running. By the same token, a sharp handling, harder tire that works well on smooth pavement may feel harsh on broken and rutted surfaces.
Lastly, never forget that tire makers hate to stand still. So, even if one type is the clear choice today, things might be very different next time you shop as new technologies and innovations come to the fore.