How do I know which tyres I need? Separating the truths from the myths

How do I know which tyres I need? Separating the truths from the myths

21 Aug

By Gwyn Fennell

Are you in the market for new tyres? We know it’s not an everyday purchase, and when the time comes to choose new tyres for your car it can be a confusing task. It’s hardly surprising, since there’s a lot to digest. Nevertheless, it’s a decision that needs your focus and research, because if you were to choose an incorrect tyre it could have a serious, negative impact. Recent figures reveal that almost 830,000 car owners failed their vehicle MOT because of poor tyre tread depth, so unless you want to join them, check out our helpful guide to buying new tyres. 

It’s quite common to take the advice of others whether it’s your parents, your partner or even a friend. You may also wish to carry out your own research. But what exactly do you need to look out for? Key factors, such as price, efficiency and quality are important, but anyone that’s ever searched for tyres online knows how saturated the market is, and how confusing it can all seem. Fear not. At Protyre we’re here to help you navigate the industry spiel. With our guidance, all will become clear and you’ll soon be an expert!


Work out your tyre size

Before you do anything else, the most important detail you need to know is the size of tyre fitted to your vehicle. There are a number of tyre manufacturers, such as; Continental, who have made this crucial information really easy to find. It’s embossed on your tyre sidewall, as shown in the example, below. If you’re still unsure, you can also find a list of compatible tyre types in your vehicle manual or documentation. 

You’re probably asking yourself why this information is so important. It comes down to two things. First of all, the tyre size that is compatible for your car is one that is able to support its weight. Second, the tyre will have a top speed that it can handle, represented as a letter. The value attributed to this letter must be at least as high as the vehicle’s top speed. If you get this identification process wrong for any reason it could invalidate your car insurance, so it’s worth researching this thoroughly. Continental provide this useful guide to sidewall markings which can help to explain things in more detail.


Finding the right tyre manufacturer

Now you’ve got the tyre size, it’s time to navigate your way through the list of manufacturer brands available. As a rule of thumb, the tyre industry recommends that all four tyres on your car should be exactly the same - even if you are changing them at different times (it’s unlikely they will all need replacing at once). While this is not a legal requirement, it does help ensure an even, consistent performance from your tyres. 

What is legal, though, is that you have the same tyres across the same axle. This is vital for your driver safety, and it’s the law. The range of products available from manufacturers differ for a few key reasons; their composition of materials and compounds, and range of tread patterns. As a result, they all have their own performance characteristics, and perform to varying standards. If you had even just two different brands of tyres on your car, you would notice a difference in performance, and this can hinder your driving experience.
 


If you are a brand new car owner and it’s the first time a tyre needs changing, it’s worth noting that many car manufacturers choose to fit specific tyre makes and models to their vehicles. Decisions like this are not random, rather a partnership with the tyre manufacturer intended to find the right ‘OE’ – Original Equipment – suitable for a given vehicle make and model. 

One tyre manufacturer the OE sector – Continental. Nearly one in three cars that leave the factories of Europe are fitted with their OE tyres. Their tyres are that good. What this means is that if you bought your vehicle brand new, and they came with OE, you should replace the tyres like for like. This will not only save you time having to research tyres, but also help maintain the optimum performance of your vehicle. OE tyres are identified by a vehicle makers’ code on the tyre sidewall (example“AO” for Audi, as above). Here’s a comprehensive list of car manufacturer OE codes.

 
The importance of tyre performance 

Nowadays, it’s relatively common for cars to be fitted with what are known as ‘all-season’ tyres, such as Continental’s award winning AllSeasonContact™, and these will be fit for purpose in the typically moderate weather conditions we get in the UK throughout the year. However, if you live in a region where the weather differs drastically on a seasonal basis, and you face extreme weather conditions such as in winter, you should consider investing in dedicated summer and winter tyres. 
 

The vital tyre fitting no-no

It has been known for some drivers to fit second-hand tyres. We categorically advise against fitting ‘part worn tyres’ to your car. This is a life-threatening hazard to you and your passengers, and it's just not worth the risk. Why? Because by the time part worns are fitted for the second – often third – time, their tread depth is significantly diminished – sometimes to the point of being near illegal, if not in fact so. It’s the tyre tread that provides the essential grip you need to drive safely.   

Instead, fitting high quality premium tyres, like those from multi-award winners Continental makes sense. Independent tyre tests carried out each year continually result in premium tyres outperforming all other cheaper tyres. They deliver dramatically shorter stopping distances, and provide drivers with optimum safety and performance. That’s why the UK’s best-selling weekly car magazine, Auto Express, crowned Continental as the winner of all three of its annual summer, winter and all-season tyre tests in 2018, as well as Product of the Year for 2019.
 

The importance of price versus value 

Along with the fundamentals mentioned above, the price of the tyre is also an important factor. Much like other ‘big-ticket items’ you typically get what you pay for, and it’s the same with tyres. Cheaper ‘Budget’ tyres are plentifully available on the market, but while they initially cost less than premium tyres, over time they end up costing you more in the pocket. Why? Because they will not have the benefit of as much rigorous research and development than premium tyres, or be made from the same quality of materials and compounds. 
As a result, in a like for like comparison, tyre wear will occur quicker with budgets than with premium tyres, meaning that they’ll need replacing sooner – and more often. Furthermore, not only will you end up spending more on tyres more often, you’ll also drive with tyres that underperform their superior premium tyre counterparts, and that means your driver safety is at risk – such as with stopping distances, and grip. 
 

Expert advice from Protyre

If, after following this guide to buying tyres, you’re still unsure which one is right for your vehicle, speak to the experienced team at Protyre. One of our specialists can help you make the right decision. Locate your nearest Protyre garage by clicking the button below:

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Author

Gwyn Fennell
Gwyn has been in the motor industry for over 35 years with experience in vehicle design, electrics, engine management, geometry and of course tyres. Continental has been Gwyn’s home for the past 15 years, where he has become a qualified trainer and examiner to both IMI and NTDA standards and now working towards the IQA qualification. Gwyn’s job has evolved and expanded in recent times and a more accurate but less pleasing to read title would be Technical Customer Service & ContiAcademy Training Centre Manager. It’s no surprise that Gwyn has excellent knowledge from the tyres up so when any technical questions come his way you know he’ll be providing the best advice possible.
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