The pneumatic tire is one of the greatest inventions of all time and one that made faster, fuel-efficient, comfortable rides possible. Did you know that were it not for headaches, this invention would not have materialized? Yeah. You heard that right. The Scot-born veterinary doctor had had enough of headaches triggered by the noise from the pavement when his 10-year-old son rode a tricycle and decided to do something to make it quieter.
Today, there are many types of tires for cars depending on use, road, and weather conditions. The latest inventions are run-flat tires that go on even after a puncture and the airless versions, which are expected to go commercial in 2024. We have compiled a comprehensive guide to help you see beyond the sales pitches at the tire shop and choose tires that suit your conditions.
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1. All-season Tires
All-season tires are designed to provide traction, excellent handling, and performance in wet and dry conditions all year long, and you will find them fitted in most cars in the United States. Suitable for the average driver, this type of tire features moderate tread depths and is engineered with special compounds to give them an extended tread life compared to summer tires with shallower tread depths.
Although they give a good performance in warmer weather, they offer less traction than summer tires, sacrificing some cornering, braking, and steering capabilities. This trade-off provides longer tread life and some good traction in light winter conditions. They offer:
- Best performance in dry weather
- Average performance in wet and snowy conditions
- Ride comfort
- Average tread life and fuel efficiency
- Deep sipes
All-season tires can be mounted in many car models depending on load capacities, sizes, and speed ratings in most vehicles, from pickup trucks, sedans, and minivans. Remember to use them in average climatic conditions because extreme conditions require a different type of tire.
2. Summer Tires
There is a thin line between summer tires and performance tires, only that the former is designed to provide better driving capabilities in hot months. They are made of hard rubber, which softens to provide traction under hot temperatures. You can differentiate them from winter tires which often have the (m + s) sign on the side.
Features of summer tires include:
- No ripping
- Solid contact patches
- Wide enough to provide hydroplaning resistance
- Can survive in temperatures over 45° Fahrenheit
If you were wondering whether you can use summer tires all year long, you can if you live in an area where temperatures don’t go below 40° and never gets a true winter. Using them in lower temperatures is bad because the rubber compounds harden, making the tires skid on snow and ice.
3. Touring Tires
Touring tires are every passenger’s dream because they are designed to create a comfortable ride and offer reliable traction in most weather conditions. They offer more sensitive handling and higher speed ratings compared to all-season tires.
Touring tires are manufactured to offer a solid, inconspicuous foundation for most forms of road travel which means they are practicality oriented. Here are some features:
- Asymmetrical tread patterns
- Significant mileage potential
- Reasonable traction
- Low rolling resistance
Sedan and performance sports vehicles typically use touring tires because they offer better handling capabilities than what the tires from the manufacturer can offer. Their use is not limited to any particular model because you can fit them in most vehicle types. Some sedan owners even modify their vehicles and fit touring tires for better performance.
However, note that touring tires focus more on performance than comfort, and you need to observe the road conditions and your driving skills to decide the best type for you.
4. Track and Racing Tires
Track tires are so unique that you will never see them fitted on a car on the highway or the street because they are made for use on the racing track only. A cross between a performance tire and a summer tire, racing tires have a wide footprint that makes for better handling, acceleration, braking, and traction performance.
Track and competition tire features vary widely depending on the race and the conditions under which the race occurs. General features include:
- More expensive than regular tires
- Made of high-tech compounds and pavement reinforcements including Aramid and Kevlar
- High-speed race tires are lighter and often filled with nitrogen compounds or low moisture air
- Have a safety tubeless spare tire inside the main tire in case of a blowup
- Dirt racing tires have grooved tread patterns
- Often need changing every 50 to 160 miles
This category of tires will vary widely in size, shape, tread, and material depending on the type of race, such as dirt, drag, or track.
5. Performance Tires
Forget bout wasting money on turbochargers, suspension kits, nitrous oxides, and engine modifications. All you need is a good pair of sticky top-flight tires for increased performance and handling, especially on wet roads.
Performance tires are an improved version of the touring tires, albeit larger with lateral grooves. They offer better traction, longevity, and fuel efficiency. No matter how wet or dry the weather is, these wheels, made of silica-rich mixed compounds and dense sipes, will get you home at a higher but comfortable speed than touring tires.
Features of performance tires:
- Manufactured for summer’s dry and wet conditions use
- Offer enhanced performance, but you have to compromise on tire lifespan, gas mileage, and road noise
- Offer reduced stopping distances and tight cornering abilities
- Suitable for racing, sports, exotic and coupes cars
Truck and SUV Tires
Trucks and SUVs have more demanding roles due to their versatility. Their tire specifications have to be different from the ordinary vehicles to fulfill the versatile tasks these vehicles perform. Everyone is familiar with trucks, but the term SUV can be confusing depending on where you come from.
An SUV is a large vehicle that combines the luxuries of a passenger car with off-roading capabilities. Manufacturers are reaping big time from these vehicles, which can carry your entire family comfortably off-road thanks to their large carrying capacity, four-wheel drive, and of course, special tires.
You can fit the following tires on your truck or SUV:
1. Highway Tires
Highway tires are all season and come with the symbol (m + s) on the side. They can bear heavy car weight plus loads on trucks and SUVs while making the ride comfortable. Strictly meant for commuting, they have long mileage warranties and offer comfortable rides and predictable handling of trucks or SUVs.
Highway tires are composed of durable rubber, cloth, and other compounds to ensure they don’t burst under heavy load and wear evenly. Key features include:
- Multiple sipes
- Better traction and adhesion properties
- Uneven wear resistance to guarantee longer tread life
- Improved braking and cornering
You should only use highway tires on paved roads in warm weather because they have serious drawbacks off-road and during winter.
2. Sport Truck Tires
Sport tires are suitable for the growing market of luxury sports cars, although they also work well on high-performance, light trucks. Car owners love them because of their high performance, excellent handling, and sporty look.
They are also easy to spot on the road because they feature bigger rims with relatively low profiles or aspect ratios up to 55%. They often have numbers depicting the relation between tire width and height in percentages.
Benefits of sport truck tires include:
- Excellent on-road grip due to wider contact patch area
- Better fuel efficiency since they are designed for paved roads
- Nice look since they are designed with appealing patterns to decorate flashy sports cars
- Improved performance in areas like handling, cornering, and braking because of wider tread area and stiffer sidewalls
However, sports tires are prone to damage on rough roads because they were not designed for off-road use. Designed with softer raw materials for improved grip and traction, they wear out fast. The last flaw is that sports tires offer less shock absorption because of the stiff and short sidewalls.
3. Mud-terrain Tires
Mud-terrain tires have much larger tread blocks with more voids than all-terrain tires, a competitive feature that increases traction on softer grounds. All-terrain tires are designed to provide a smooth driving experience on the road and off-road, but mud tires are uniquely fashioned for off-road use only. Mud tires are just the thing if you need to get a thrill on all terrains ranging from uneven sand dunes to muddy and rocky gravel.
Benefits of mud tires include:
- Better traction on any treacherous road
- Puncture resistance-have a reinforced outer surface to endure punishment from chips, cuts, and sharp rocks
- 3-ply sidewalls for added durability and performance on low PSI
The only drawbacks of mud tires are poor handling and loud noise on paved roads due to the pronounced and void tread patterns.
4. Trail Tires or All-Purpose
All-purpose trail tires are slightly rugged than a typical highway tire because they are designed for more difficult off-road trails. They feature fewer sipes compared to the highway truck tires. All-purpose thread patterns with overlapping blocks provide a moderate off-road grip on loose surfaces. Simply put, trail tires are a lightweight version of all-terrain tires.
5. All-terrain Tires
All-terrain tires typically have a more pronounced tread pattern compared to highway tires, have the severe weather symbol on the side, and are designed to run on light soil, sand and gravel. They provide the smooth comfort of highway tires and the off-road thrill you may crave so much. All-terrain tires are suitable for SUVs, pickup, and light trucks.
- Open-tread design with versatile interlocking tread to provide excellent grip on mud and rocks, especially when off-roading
- All year use-consists of voids and thread blocs to provide excellent traction on-road and off-road all year
- Reinforced wall to increase carrying capacity in different road conditions
All-terrain drawbacks include poor fuel economy than highway tires, shorter tread life due to softer rubber, and louder noise than pure on-road tires.
6. Ribbed Tires
Ribbed tires are probably the easiest to spot in a pile due to the straight lines with or without slight channels running parallel to each other along the circumference. They are manufactured for trucks and SUVs with an extended highway mileage to improve stability when carrying heavy loads.
The ribs run parallel to the vehicle’s direction to minimize rolling resistance while increasing fuel efficiency. Advantages of the ribbed profile include;
- Less skidding
- Less noise production
- Superior water drainage property
- Superb driving stability
The ribbed tires are only good for driving on tarmacked roads during summer and in slightly wet conditions. Most of them are not interchangeable and will remain on the same side of the car. Due to excellent directional stability, they are mostly used for steering wheels on buses and trucks.
Special Types of Tires
Special tires don’t fit in all categories above. They serve unique purposes on specific machines, thus earning a spot in this special section. You can grab some to help you navigate through snow and ice on extreme winter roads, or perhaps you need temporary spare tires, lawnmower, trailer, or ATV tires.
1. Winter Tires
If you noticed, all the tires mentioned above are almost useless in winter conditions, with temperatures dipping below 45 degrees. As the name suggests, winter tires are designed to provide better grip and traction in extreme conditions like heavy snow and black ice. They come in different shapes and sizes depending on particular vehicle models.
Winter tires consist of soft treads made from natural or synthetic rubber that remains soft and pliable in icy weather creating better traction on slippery roads. Deep tracks and perimeter grooves allow them to eject snow and prevent slush from building up on the contact patches. They include studded and non-studded winter tires.
Winter tires offer improved grip and better braking properties on slick winter roads. However, they are fragile due to the softer rubber and can damage the roads during warmer conditions because of metal studs.
2. Temporary Spare Tires
Temporary spare tires are popular with spare wheels and are often funny because they don’t resemble usual tires like donut spares. Sometimes, they are smaller, lighter, and thinner than regular tires.
Because of these shortcomings, you should only use them temporarily before you get to the nearest auto repair shop. Temporary spare tires can only handle speeds up to 50 mph and require higher air pressure levels than typical tires. You can get a spare tire resembling the rest of the tires if you are lucky.
3. Trailer Tires
Trailers are heavy-duty carrying machines and need more durable tires. We have two types, namely radial-ply, which are more suited to more stable highway driving. Bias-ply trailer tires can bear heavier loads for more extended periods but wear irregularly and provide a rougher ride than the former.
4. ATV or UTV tires
These tires are designed for racing, all-terrain, sand, and mud. They have the following features:
- Excellent traction on rocks, mud, sand, and gravel
- Aggressive tread pattern
- Large voids and moving blocks