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Tires are the unsung heroes of the automotive world. Depending on the type, a good tire will give you a good grip on tricky surfaces and in bad weather conditions. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to pick the right tires for your vehicle. Some are general, all-season, or all-terrain types while others are specifically designed for certain driving conditions. How do you know which to choose? It all comes down to the conditions and terrain you're most likely to find yourself driving in. Where you live may be an important part of that. Do you have consistent bad weather? Do you want to take your vehicle off-road? Or do you simply have an average, normal daily commute?
Here are the top tire choices that range in use so you can find the right one for your typical driving situation.
The best tire is arguably one that provides the most amount of grip and control in as many conditions as possible. Unfortunately, all-season or all-terrain tires aren't necessarily the best choice. Finding the right tire with the best tread pattern is a balancing act between grip and performance. In other words, the best tire is one that manages to find the right combination of efficiency and traction for everyday driving.
The Antares Ingens A1 is an all-season tire with treads designed to grip road surfaces in many weather conditions. Specifically, the tread uses an alternating design with a striped pattern that grips onto hard surfaces even when they are wet. For rain and light snow, there are open grooves between the treads to allow water and moisture to channel through the tire surface without harming traction and overall performance. This tire will fit any car, truck, or SUV with up to 18-inch wheels depending on the size that you buy.
Budget tires can be a risky purchase since substandard tread compounds and poor designs can decrease traction and performance. Many budget options also have a shorter lifespan, meaning you will be spending more in the long run on replacements. When designed correctly, however, a budget tire like the Douglas All-Season is the perfect option for anyone limited financially from buying better, more expensive options.
The Douglas All-Season tires manage to keep the price down with a simple yet effective trade design. A pattern of angle blades and straight channels wraps around the tire surface to provide excellent grip in all seasons. The central channels funnel any water or snow so friction isn't lost between the tire and the road surface. These channels also help to prevent snow from building up and clinging to the tire while driving in winter conditions. This tire will fit standard 15-inch wheels found on common family cars.
An all-season tire is designed to limit or eliminate the need for replacing your tires each season. Since different times of year will bring different weather and road conditions, these tires need to provide better traction and water-shedding capabilities for the times when the roads turn ugly. Water and snow in particular can interfere with a tire’s grip on the road since there is less friction involved.
The Sumic GT-A uses a unique radial tire pattern to achieve stellar all-season performance on the roads. Central channels divide the width of the tire to allow snow and water to flow and fall from the surface and wet or snowy conditions. The symmetrical four rib pattern provides curved, angled tread blocks to grip the road surface even at high speeds. Combined, the tread design offers enough traction control in normal driving situations while reducing the spaces water and snow can cling to at high speeds. The tire’s surface also uses an advanced, grippy compound to shed water that may linger around in the nooks and crannies of the tread.
Many vehicles are capable of driving in a variety of road and off-road conditions. Cars, trucks, and SUVs equipped with more powerful engines and all-wheel drivetrains will need the right set of tires to match. Since off-road specific tires require changing to maximize everyday performance, an all-terrain tire may be a better choice if you plan on taking your vehicle off of the beaten path. These tires often use larger tread patterns with deeper grooves to dig deep into loose, challenging terrain.
For driving conditions, the tread design of the Goodyear Wrangler uses higher blocks and wider spaces to provide plenty of grip and control. Since off-road surfaces can vary, the tread pattern balances the width of the channels so traction is maximized in loose gravel and sand. The spacing also provides a natural flow route for water and snow in case you encounter bad weather, snow-covered terrain, or natural water sources while off-road. Designed for high speeds up to 112 miles per hour and heavy loads up to 2,000 pounds, this is a good tire for heavier vehicles weighed down by beefy suspension, skid plates, and other parts you may need for challenging road conditions.
The winter season provides a unique challenge for most vehicles. It is the only time where typical roads and highways can literally disappear underneath a blanket of snow. Standard tires with small treads are susceptible to snow buildup and the loss of traction. This inevitably means lower performance and the risk of an accident during the daily commute. Winter specific tires, on the other hand, use tread trade patterns in wider grooves to prevent snow buildup while digging into loose layers.
Since winter tires need to dig deep into the snow for traction, the Cooper Weather-Master utilizes an advanced "snow groove" design to penetrate loose snow as the wheel rolls. Each tread block has a jagged profile that allows sharp surfaces to cling to the snow as well. The spacing in between the blocks is wide enough to shed snow, preventing it from compacting and building up to the point of losing grip and control. With a consistent tread pattern all around the vehicle, you can use this tire knowing the surface will maintain its traction throughout the entire revolution of the wheel.
A true off-road tire is meant for the outdoors. While its performance on the road will be less than satisfactory compared to a normal, everyday tire option, the larger tread blocks and wider grooves will play well with the loose rocks, sand, mud, snow, and other terrains you are likely to find off-road. Many off-road tires also use special compounds to maximize grip or increase puncture resistance so you're less likely to encounter a flat while in the middle of nowhere.
The Hankook DynaPro ATM RF10 is an off-road-specific tire with a wraparound tread pattern that maximizes grip in loose conditions. It achieves maximum grip and control with a tread design that is angular and jagged to prevent loose debris like sand, rocks, or mud from clinging to the surface as the vehicle rolls along. In addition to the tread pattern, the tire uses a heavy-duty compound that increases puncture resistance and extends the life of the tread surface. This tire can be used on cars with larger wheels or typical trucks and SUVs meant for off-road use. To maximize traction, it is smart to use these tires on a vehicle with four-wheel-drive.
Some people just like the feel of a road trip. Whether you are driving to the next city or crossing state lines, driving for long periods of time can almost be meditative. Tires that excel in these conditions, known as touring tires, increase efficiency and performance by decreasing rolling resistance. In other words, these tires make it easier for the wheels to roll so the engine and drivetrain don't have to work as hard to keep the vehicle at a constant speed.
The Westlake RP18 Touring does a perfect job of blending a grippy surface with low resistance tread blocks to maximize speed and efficiency during a long trip. The angular, alternating pattern of the treads keeps the tires gripped to normal road surfaces like roads and highways. Meanwhile, the straight strips of tread decrease resistance by providing a straight surface for the wheel to roll over at high-speed. Meant for 16-inch wheel rims, this tire is a good choice for common small to medium-size cars if you want to maximize fuel efficiency and engine performance during a road trip.
What to Look for in Tires
The tire type you'll need will largely depend on the type of car you have, the conditions you will drive in, and the terrain you expect to drive on. The most common types of tires are all-season, all-terrain, touring, and winter tires.
All-season tires are made to drive over any type of terrain all year long. However, they are categorized between regular, performance, summer, and ultra-high performance. The performance type is slightly better than the regular type at providing better year-round traction but their mileage may be lower than the regular variety. Summer and ultra-high performance all-season tires sacrifice some traction that could be beneficial to have in winter.
If you choose the latter versions, having winter tires would be beneficial as those are made specifically to tread through snow and ice. All-terrain tires are great for driving off-road and providing traction on uneven terrains that are dry, wet, or even snowy. Finally, touring tires are great when you are traveling long distances.
Size is an important factor when shopping for tires. It's best to choose tires that are the same type and size as your current ones since your car was designed to work with those. You never want the tires to be smaller than the tires your car came with since they will not support your car. Getting bigger tires is an option, but it can affect the performance of your car.
There are a few features to look for that will clue you in on how durable a tire is. Start by checking the speed rating and tread wear. The speed rating lets you know how fast the tire can go for long periods of time without causing too much wear. The tread-wear number indicates how many miles the tire is expected to last. The higher the number, the longer it will last. It also helps to check the tread-life warranty. If your tires wear out before the milage listed on the warranty, you can get a credit to go towards a replacement.