The ultimate tire guide for beginners

Choose the right tire and the car will love you back more than you love it.

However, we are more confused than ever, with all the complex jargons thrown at us we want to change the rubber.

These are the 4 parameters you should consider when buying a new set of rubber for your car:

  1. Type of Tire
  2. Tire size
  3. Thread pattern
  4. Compound type (soft/hard)

1. Type of Tire

A common challenge when buying tires is understanding the different types of tires, and which one will work best for you. The easiest way to group tires is to start with the type of your vehicle. After determining which tire types are possibilities for your vehicle, you can determine which type is best for you based on your driving needs 

a) Highway tires

They have all-season tread patterns and are designed to handle the heavier loads of a truck or SUV. They are engineered to be very comfortable on the pavement. Most highway tires have durable compounds and tread patterns that resist uneven wear to deliver long lasting tread life. They generally feature siping for enhanced all-season traction.

b) All-terrain

A/T tires generally have a more aggressive tread pattern than highway or trail tires. They have larger tread blocks and more voids, which provide traction in off-road driving conditions. A/T tires often feature the Severe Weather Service symbol. They are designed to handle gravel, sand, and light mud. Most all-terrain tires achieve this off-road traction with little to no on-road discomfort. They provide highway stability and comfort, in addition to the off-road thrills. Many people enjoy all-terrain tires because they have a more aggressive look with little or minimal sacrifice in noise, comfort, or longevity.

c) Mud-terrain

M/T tires feature extremely aggressive tread patterns with very large tread blocks and more voids. This allows the tires to get more traction in soft terrains, such as deep mud and sand. They often have aggressive sidewall features that enhance traction in soft terrain while giving the tire an even more rugged appearance. Often, the sidewalls will be reinforced to resist punctures, abrasions, and tears that commonly occur when driving off-road. Mud-terrain tires are generally less comfortable on roads, and tend to be noisier than the less aggressive tire options. They are best for vehicles that see regular off-road driving, off-road enthusiasts, or those looking for an off-road appearance.

d) All season Tires 

The all-season touring tire is designed to deliver good comfort and handling on the highway, as well as reliable all-season traction. It will generally feature a symmetrical tread pattern and circumferential grooves for wet weather grip.

e)Touring tires 

Also called Grand touring tires are designed to deliver a comfortable ride and reliable all-season traction, with the addition of more responsive handling. They generally have a higher speed rating than all-season touring tires, and often feature an asymmetrical tread pattern.

f) Performance tires 

They generally have larger circumferential and lateral grooves, for wet weather traction. They also typically feature fairly dense siping and silica enriched tread compounds, for better grip regardless of the weather. They have higher speed ratings than touring tires.

g) Winter Tires –

Winter tires are designed for the best possible traction in harsh winter conditions below 45 degrees. Winter tires come in a wide variety of uses, and are made for an even wider variety of vehicles. Winter tires feature heavy siping and deep circumferential grooves that work to expel snow and slush buildup from the contact patch.

2. Tire size:

a) How to read a tire?

eg: 265/55 R 17

265 – is the width of the tread on the tyre (not the width of the entire tire)

55 (%) – is the height of the sidewall represented as a percentage of the tread width.
R (Radial) – Radial Tire

17 (inches) – Is the rim diameter of the wheel on which this tyre is designed to fit which an be upgraded by an inch or two.

b) Rim size

You have to choose a tyre size designed for exactly the size of rim you plan to mount the tyre on. Larger rims will effectively reduce the sidewall height (making the tyre lower profile) and therefore minimize sidewall flex when cornering, adding to the “on rails” feel, however, this will obviously have an adverse effect on ride quality and comfort.

Go wider if:

  • You frequently corner at very high speeds.
  • You want shorter braking distances.
  • You consider looks as important as performance.
  • Your car produces a lot of power.
  • Your car model is notorious for having inadequately-sized stock tyres.
  • Your car understeers a bit

Do not go wider if:

  • You don’t want to disturb your fuel economy.
  • You want to keep your steering light.
  • You often drive during peak hours within city limits.

c) Sidewall Height or Profile:

After selecting your rim size and your tread width, the objective is to choose a sidewall profile that keeps the overall diameter of the new tyres as close to original as possible. Use this calculator to judge changes in size. Generally a difference in the range of 3-4% is considered acceptable

3. Thread type

 a) Conventional Tread

It is the most commonly found type. It is neither (uni)directional nor asymmetric and therefore can be run in either direction or mounted on the rim either way.

b) Uni-Directional

These tyres are designed to be most effective when rotating in the specified direction. There will always be a marking on the sidewall of these tyres stating the direction of rotation with an arrow. The tyres with the tread pattern in some sort of “A” or “V” configuration are usually uni-directional. They work more efficiently when rotating in the specified direction primarily in terms of water channelling and controlling tyre noise.

c) Asymmetric

These tyres are designed to have an outside/road facing sidewall and a inside/car facing sidewall. There will always be a notation on the sidewall stating which side is to be road-facing / outside. The advantage to asymmetrical tyres is, for example, the outside shoulder of the tyre tread can be designed with a different pattern and compound of rubber to aid high speed cornering (where a lot of the the load is transferred to the road facing side of the tyre on the outside of the curve) while the rest of the tyre can be designed with a harder compound for better tread-wear, or a different tread pattern for better wet weather performance etc. 

4. Rubber Compound
The rubber compound used to manufacture the tyre is probably the most important factor in determining a tyre’s traction and tread-wear characteristics. Generally, the quality (“softness”) of the rubber is proportional to the amount of traction you will get and the speed rating of the tyre, and inversely proportional to the tread-life of the tyre. Therefore the higher the speed rating of a tyre, the better the grippy-ness of the tyre is likely to be. Also, the way the tyre is marketed is an indicator – the “ultra-sport” will usually have a grippier compound than the “sport” or the “comfort” tyres from the same manufacturer. The compound also plays a part in the behaviour of a tyre in little ways, for example, some tyres will screech and wail when approaching the limits of traction, whereas others might just let out the faintest chirp and then begin to slide.

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