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Do your research and work with the experts at Auto Lab when it's time to buy tires

leased_vehicle_inspectionBuying new tires can be a bit overwhelming. We’re here to help anytime, but if you want to do some initial research on your own, here’s what you need to know.

Some information it’s good to know is how different types of tires affect fuel economy, how long the they have lasted for other people, how much road noise they make and how they handle.

You also need to look at the type of tire your vehicle manufacturer recommends. These recommendations are based on the size, weight, load capacity, off-road capability and steering for your specific vehicle. You want to select a tire that meets those recommendations because changing the size or type can affect how the vehicle handles, steers, stops, etc.

On the sidewall of your tire and on a decal in the glovebox or door jamb, you’ll find a code that tells the tire’s size and capabilities. The decal contains the manufacturer’s information about what type of tire and size the car should have. If the tires have been replaced before, there’s no guarantee that the tires on the car are what should be on there. Make sure the tire code matches the decal.

Here’s a sample code:

P195/60R16 89H M+S

  • P – Type of tire (P indicates passenger, T indicates temporary, LT is light truck, and C is commercial)
  • 195 – Width of the tire across the tread in millimeters
  • 60 – Aspect ratio of the sidewall compared to the width
  • R – Radial construction
  • 16 – Diameter of the rim in inches
  • 89 – Tire’s load rating (89 indicates the tires can carry approximately 1,279 pounds)
  • H – Tire’s speed rating (H indicates maximum speed of 130 mph)
  • M+S – Tire is suitable for all-season driving

All-season vs. snow tires

That M+S code brings up another big issue: whether to purchase all-season or snow tires. Almost all vehicles purchased in the United States come with all-season tires, and in many areas, those are fine. But in the kind of winters we have here in northern Illinois, snow tires often are a safer choice.  In fact, according to a study conducted recently by Popular Mechanics, snow tires improved performance over all-season tires by up to 5 percent during braking and 20 percent when cornering.

Winter tires have tread designs that grip the snow and ice better than all-season tires. They feature raised blocks of tread designed to channel snow, ice, slush or water away from the tire’s surface and improve “bite” where traction has been diminished by snow or slush build-up on the road surface. Winter snow tires also have razor-thin grooves within the tread that allow better contact between the tires and wet road surfaces.

Having two sets of tires isn’t doubling the expense, it’s halving the wear. You’ll have twice the number of tires but buy new ones half as often. And because they aren’t on your vehicle at the same time, you don’t need to buy both sets at once.

Even if you only need one tire replaced, it’s important that the corresponding tire on the other side of the car be replaced, too. Uneven tread wear can cause instability, uneven traction and braking, and adversely affect the vehicle’s balance.  You’ll also get uneven wear of the tires.

It’s recommended that all four tires be replaced at once if possible because if one pair of tires has more tread than the other pair, then the pair with less tread will begin to hydroplane with less water on the road surface than the other pair. And keep in mind that even though all four tires started out the same size, the older two tires will be smaller because some of the tread has worn away. That small size difference puts more strain on the driveline, in addition to adversely affecting tire performance.

Go to the experts

Where to buy your tires is another decision it’s best to be informed about. We get to know you so we can recommend tires based on your vehicle and your driving habits. We spend a lot of time asking you questions before we make a recommendation.

Installation is key, too. Our ASE-Certified technicians take the time to properly install the new tires, including cleaning the rims properly, installing tire valves carefully, and balancing the wheels properly. And don’t worry, we will not damage your expensive tire pressure monitoring system sensors, which cost $200 or more each. It doesn’t matter how good your tires are if they aren’t installed correctly!

And don’t forget: When you need those new tires, you can use our free loaners, take a ride in our courtesy shuttle or take advantage of after-hours drop-off.

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