Choosing the Right Tire: Where Do You Drive?

When choosing the right tire for your car, be sure to consider where you do most of your driving. Much may depend on your general area — city vs. country as well as snow belt vs. sunbelt. Other factors to weigh include the tire type and the impact of water (rain) on these tires.

Tire Basics

Nearly all tires made today for cars and trucks are all-season radial tires. Michelin pioneered the technology in 1946, replacing the bias-ply tires of that era. Radial tires like the Michelin Energy Saver A/S last longer, contribute to better fuel economy and provide a more comfortable ride.

Many of today’s radial tires are stamped as “all-season,” meaning that they’re suitable for year-round use in some locations. But all-season tires don’t provide the same level of grip on snow that winter tires, also known as snow tires, provide.

Driving in the snow
Driving in the snow

Winter Tire Advantages

If you live in an area where the temperature frequently drops below freezing and is accompanied by snow, ice, and slush, you will need to switch to winter tires on all four wheels from late fall to early spring. That’s because the tread material used in all-season tires stiffens in cold weather, resulting in reduced traction. You should always use winter tires on all four wheels to ensure uniform handling and optimum control.

Winter tires use special tread compounds to maintain flexibility in chilly weather. Winter tires also have deeper tread and unique tread patterns to eject snow and slush and evacuate water. Continental Viking Contact 7 is a popular tire to consider for your car.

Driving on dry surface
Driving on dry surface

On the Road

If your driving is comprised mostly of long trips – as in commuting back and forth to work – then fuel economy is probably important to you. Even in times of lower fuel prices, the last thing you want to do is waste energy and money.

Low rolling resistance tires are commonly found on cars like the Toyota Prius, a hybrid prized for its fuel efficiency and “green” credentials. Manufacturers choose such tires because they employ different compounds and shallower tread blocks, helping to reduce resistance, an impediment to fuel economy.

The flip side, though, is that wet traction is also reduced. If you live in a dry area, such as Arizona, low-rolling-resistance tires are a good choice, but they may not be the best idea in areas where your commute regularly means driving in the rain. The Continental PureContact is one example of a fuel-efficient tire.

Tire Maintenance Tips

Regardless of your tire choice, you’ll lose many of the benefits provided if you neglect to maintain them. This means checking the tire pressure at least once per month and keeping the tires inflated to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended pressure levels.

Lastly, you should also rotate your tires regularly. Check your owner’s manual for the recommended intervals. Properly maintained tires are extremely important – after all, they’re the only thing that separates your vehicle from the road.