What kind of tires should I buy?
This is one of the most commonly asked questions we hear from customers buying new tires. What most tire buyers don’t know is that every tire on the road is manufactured to a specific top-speed threshold. For example, off road tires may be made to drive at speeds as little as 15 MPH, whereas a tire like the one used on the Bugatti Veyron super-car is designed to drive at close to the speed of light (well not really but pretty close) – over 200 MPH. While in theory, you can run a tire at any speed, you will be seriously jeopardizing your safety and the performance of your vehicle in doing so.
Anyone buying performance tires should consider how they want their vehicle to perform at all speeds, instead of focusing on how fast a tire is speed rated.What determines a tire’s performance capabilities is its construction. Here are some of the most commonly sold tires and some basic details about how they’re made:
OFF THE ROAD TIRES
A tire made for a skip loader will typically have a belt package consisting of polyester and sometimes steel. It will have massive lugs of hard rubber designed for traction in the dirt, bruise resistance and heavy load carrying capacity. The speed rating of this tire would only be 20 mph. Most light truck tires would fall into this category also. Albeit rated for higher speeds. The performance characteristic of this tire is heavy lifting and extreme durability.
PASSENGER CAR TIRES
This class of tires is what most people use on their cars. The performance category of this class of tire would consist of delivering a quiet comfortable ride with long mileage and moderate handling capabilities. These tires usually have a belt package consisting of multiple polyester or rayon belts for handling and steel belts providing puncture resistance. The rubber composition of this tire is in the middle of long wear and grip. It is always give and take in the engineering between long wear and traction when making a tire. Engineers use different polymers and materials such as silica in the rubber compounds to obtain a tire that will last a long time ( most average 60,000 miles) and handle well. Tires are designed to wear down rubber as they rotate. The more they grip the faster they wear. Not to say a long lasting tire will not grip well, it just won’t handle extreme driving well. On the opposite end of spectrum a racing tire grips and handles excellent but only lasts a few hundred miles.
Typically you will find this type of tire on an SUV or sedan. These tires perform to the degree that they were designed for and provide a quiet comfortable ride with design features that allow for sportier handling.
HIGH PERFORMANCE TIRES
This category is the one most associated to speed ratings. The tires in this category are engineered for high speed driving and superior handling. The belt package of these tires consists of the basic polyester, rayon and steel. The next part of the package is what makes the tire safe at high speeds. Engineers use exotic materials that you would not think of in a tire. Kevlar and Aramid, fibers typically used bulletproof applications, are woven into belts and wrapped around the other belts to help the tire keep its shape at extremely high speed. Since the main force that inclines to rip the tire apart at high speeds is centrifugal, the fibers compress to hold the tire together.
The strips of tire tread, usually from big rigs, which you see lying in the roadways, commonly referred to as Road Alligators, are usually caused by larger commercial grade trucks, when the tire fails and it’s construction is split apart.
The rubber compounds in high-performance tires are designed with high speed over durability. High performance tires are not known for their longevity. Typically one would expect anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 miles depending on driving characteristics. They won’t last you long but what you lose in the life of the tire you certainly make up for in the performance capabilities: if you have a heavy foot these tires will ensure that when you point your car and go, you’ll end up precisely where you intended on going. The basic characteristics that would define this class of tire are excellent grip, solid handling at high speeds and generally more elegant, sleeker tire tread designs. Consider high performance tires the “track shoe” of passenger radials. However, as technologies improve at a fast rate, so do performance parameters. At present, there are companies using “nano” technology (the science of building machines at a subatomic level) to engineer rubber compounds for extreme grip in this category of tires. It’s not unreasonable to assume that within the next decade we will see high-performance tires built to last as long as your vehicle does.
In summary, simply referring to the speed rating classification on a tire is an incomplete science and will result in the purchase of a tire that may not be correct for your vehicle. Although speed rating is important, performance rating must also be taken into consideration when making your tire purchase. As you’ve learned, there is a tire for every application and defining you’re driving needs first is paramount to guaranteeing a solid purchase. The OTR and truck tires can carry heavy loads at lower speeds. The passenger car tires will get your family and groceries home comfortably and quietly at freeway speeds. The high performance tires will stick to the road like glue when you want to use every last drop of horsepower under your hood. Whatever your needs, there is a tire for you and with the wealth of information, reviews and resources on the web, consumers are armed with all the information necessary to purchase the tire that’s just right for their needs.
This article was submitted by UsaRim Staff Writer | Adam Gaddis