Different Types of Tires: Explained
It can be overwhelming to shop for tires. There’s a lot to understand, from sizes to tread patterns to choosing a brand. One question asked by many is around the type of tire to choose: are all-season tires good enough, or is it worth changing to winter-specialised ones? Is a run-flat tire a good investment?
We’ve compiled some tire-buying advice, to help you decide which type of tire is right for you, and to help you learn what to look for when buying each kind. Once you know what kind of tire you need, Tirescanner can both provide the tires, and connect you with a garage near you to provide the installation service, both at the very best prices.
All-season tires are, as the name suggests, suitable for most non-extreme weather conditions. They put safety and traction at the forefront. They will serve you well in most ordinary weather conditions, but will be outperformed by their specialist counterparts in very hot and dry, or cold, icy and snowy conditions. However, unless you live—or regularly travel—somewhere that requires a specialized tire, good all-season ones will fit your needs.
For high performance all-season tires, check out the Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3 and Yokohoma AVID Ascend.
In dry conditions, summer tires provide better handling, particularly at high speeds, than all-season ones, but will not cope with anything more extreme than some moderate rain. Most everyday drivers do not have a need for the performance level of summer tires: on compact passenger cars or most SUVs, you won’t make the most of the higher performance capabilities. If you have a sport or racing car and value the ability to drive faster, quieter and tackle corners more sharply, then summer tires could be a worthwhile investment despite the extra cost and inconvenience of changing the tires each year.
For a great, high-performance summer tire, try the Bridgestone Potenza RE-11. For a model with a run-flat option and noise-shield technology, check out the Dunlop Sport Maxx RT.
Winter tires are designed to withstand harsh winter conditions, such as very low temperatures, ice and snow. If the winter temperatures consistently drop below 45°F where you live, then a set of winter tires is a sensible investment to ensure that you are safe when driving in the colder months. This temperature is also a useful guideline for when to change your tires over: you should switch to your winter tires when the temperature is consistently below 45°F, and remove them when it is consistently warmer than this.
Winter tires won’t perform well in warmer conditions, so use all-season or summer tires when the weather doesn’t require the traction and malleability of a winter tire. During the warmer months, storing your winter tires in a cool, dry location, ideally in black storage bags, will reduce the risk of cracking and help them to last longer. Critically, you should change all four tires to winter ones—not just the driving wheels, as some urban myths state. Changing only two could cause your back wheels to spin out on sharp turns, and seriously compromise your grip on the road. Always change all four tires at once.
What To Look For
A good winter tire has a deeper tread pattern to cope with low-traction situations like ice and snow, and a compound designed to help the material remain malleable at colder temperatures, enabling it to grip the ground better in harsh weather. All winter tires should have the Three-Peak Mountain Snowflake symbol, which shows that they have passed a standardized traction test. Some all-season tires also carry this symbol, but they won’t perform as well as a dedicated winter tire.
Types of Winter Tires
Within the larger winter tire category, there are three main types: studded, studless and performance. Each of these caters to different driving needs, from city drivers who need something a little sturdier than an all-season tire, to those hoping to do some off-road driving across ice and tight-packed snow.
Studded winter tires are for use in only the most extreme conditions. They have metal studs literally embedded into the tread, which dig into ice as you drive on it to stop the car from sliding. The traction on studded tires is better than anything else, so if you need to drive over ice or through extremely snowy conditions, they may be a good choice. However, they damage road surfaces if driven in normal weather, so they should only be used in extreme conditions. Because of this, they are actually banned in some stated, and only allowed at certain times of year in others, so check the rules in your state and any you wish to travel to before you buy a set of studded tires.
For hardy studded tires, try the Firestone Winterforce.
Designed for use when the winter is at its worst, studless winter tires have the maximum amount of snow and ice traction possible without the metal studs. They have enough grip to carry you through snow, but are also suitable for use in cold but dry conditions. Studless tires do not perform as well in milder weather, so only use them if you will be spending a lot of time driving on very cold, icy or snowy roads.
For a good quality studless tire that will get you through most winter conditions, check out the Michelin X-ice Xi3 or Blizzak WS-80
Performance winter tires have a higher speed rating than their studless counterparts, with the tread depth to get you through some snow or ice. They don’t have the same bite in snow as studless tires, but they beat an all-season tire in cold and snowy weather. If you aren’t driving particularly long distances, but need something hardy enough to get you home if you’re caught in snow, a performance tire could be your best option.
For a high-quality performance winter tire, try the Michelin Pilot Alpin PA4.
Run-flat tires are designed to allow you to continue driving for a limited time after a puncture. They have thicker sidewalls, which can safely carry the weight of a vehicle for a while. This means that, in the event of a puncture, you can continue driving to the next safe place to stop, rather than having to change a tire on the side of the road, which can be dangerous.
Run-flat tires are a safer option than conventional ones, and give you the convenience of mobility for a while where you would otherwise be stuck. Run-flat tires also eliminate the need for a spare, since the extra mobility allows you to get to a garage. This gives you more space in your vehicle and reduces the car’s weight, increasing your fuel economy.
While it is certainly possible to switch to run-flat tires on a vehicle originally fitted with conventional ones, there are some configuration issues to consider. Firstly, you’ll need to ensure that your car has a tire pressure monitoring system (TMPS). This is the system that will inform you when a leak or puncture has occurred, since you may not immediately notice if you are driving on run-flat tires. This is extremely important, as you can only drive a limited distance and speed on run-flat tires, so you’ll need to get somewhere safe as soon as possible. Importantly, you should never mix run-flat tires with conventional ones—if you’re changing to run-flat tires, then use run-flats on all four wheels.
If you are switching to conventional tires on a car that previously had run-flats fitted, the car will not have a spare tire or changing equipment. You’ll need to ensure that you get yourself these.
For an all-season run-flat tire, allowing you to drive up to 50 miles at up to 50mph after a puncture or pressure loss, try the Bridgestone DriveGuard.
Find the Right Tires for You
Shopping for tires can be overwhelming, but Tirescanner is here to help. Use the search tool on our homepage, or get in touch with our customer service team, to find the right tires for your needs at the best prices going.
More Great Resources
- How to Know When Your Tires Need Replacing
- A Guide to Tirescanner’s Mobile Installation Service
- Why You Should Never Buy Cheap Tires