Tire Factor

We spend hours agonizing over the right shoes to wear for sporting activities, but few of us give our car tires any thought. What difference does it make? Quite a bit, actually.
Text by Bill Lindsey | June 6, 2018 | Lifestyle

Smooth Roll
Maintaining proper tire inflation ensures maximum fuel economy (tires roll more easily at optimal inflation) as well as safety (a partially deflated tire can come off the rim in hard cornering, leading to even bigger problems). Check the tires with a gauge at least monthly, and if your car has a Tire Pressure Monitoring System, check it at least once per week. And find a local gas station with an air pump now (they are as rare as honest politicians), before you really need it.

Wider Is Better
Most cars can be fitted with wider tires than the standard equipment. This larger footprint ensures significantly more grip for vastly improved braking as well as stability in corners and better traction on wet roads. They look cool, too. However, make sure your car’s rims — and wheel wells — will accept those huge slabs of rubber. However, as the tire size increases, so does the weight and the power needed to move them, so MPG will decrease a bit.

Speed Rating
Tires are rated for maximum speed, which means a “Q”-rated tire (up to 99 mph) is fine for grandma’s car, but if you have a Porsche GT2 in the garage, a “Z”-rated tire (149 mph) is actually not enough tire if your left foot weighs 56 pounds. Choose the rating that matches how you use the car. If you regularly take your car to Homestead for DE events, go for the maximum rating you can find. If you never exceed 45 mph, we offer our sincere condolences.

Tread Purpose
It’s easy to find tires that will last for 40,000 or even more miles, and that’s great, right? Not so much. Tires with long tread life tend to be very stiff, resulting in a harsh ride, while performance tires are made from a softer compound that “sticks” better to the road, for maximum cornering and braking efficiency. True, they wear out after 15,000 miles (less if you are enjoying the car), but you get maximum SPG (smiles per gallon) from them.