How To Choose The Correct Tires For Your Car, Truck, or SUV

Are you wondering how to choose the correct tires for your car, truck, or SUV? Having the correct tire size and type on your car, truck, or SUV is essential. Driving with the wrong size and type of tires will not only do damage to your vehicle, but it can also pose a safety hazard.

The biggest difference between tires is actually the temperatures in which the tires perform best.

Summer tires have a compound that is meant for temperatures generally above 44 degrees Fahrenheit, whereas winter tires have a compound that is meant for temperatures below 44 degrees Fahrenheit.

If you are a regular car owner that wants to choose the correct tires for your car, truck, or SUV, read on as I go into depth about tire types and in which conditions are they performing best.

Types of Tires For Your Car, Truck, or SUV

There are a lot of types of tires for cars, trucks, and SUVs on the market. However, not every tire will match your vehicle and needs. So, I did detailed research and talked to a couple of tire experts to put up a list and help you choose the correct tires for your car, truck, or SUV.

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1. All-season Tires

How To Choose The Correct Tires For Your Car, Truck, or SUV

The all-season tires are a combination of summer tires and winter tires. Although an all-season tire can’t outperform a winter tire in winter conditions, nor a summer tire in summer conditions, it can do a decent job in both hot and cold weather.

The all-season tires have sipes in the center of the tire which helps to improve traction in snowy conditions which resemble a winter tire, and fewer features on the outside to allow for good cornering grips in dry and wet conditions which resembles a summer tire.

How To Choose The Correct Tires For Your Car, Truck, or SUV

All-season tires are meant to be used at any temperature above 44 degrees Fahrenheit.

The rubber that an all-season tire is made with is designed to extract water and provide traction whenever the temperature is above 44 degrees Fahrenheit.

Ideal for: All-season tires should be used only when the temperature outside is above 44 degrees Fahrenheit.

If an all-season tire is used when the temperature drops below 44 degrees Fahrenheit, then the tire will become stiff and will not grip the road or evacuate ice and snow leading to an increased risk of sliding.

All-season tire also has grooves that expand as you get deeper into the tread pattern. So, as the tire wears, that groove expands and you still have a lot of space for the water to evacuate.

2. Winter Tires

How To Choose The Correct Tires For Your Car, Truck, or SUV

Winter tire is meant to be used at any temperature below 44 degrees Fahrenheit. This means that the winter tires perform best in the winter months. The rubber from which the winter tire is made is soft and will stay soft in cold temperatures.

This means that the tire will grip the road and evacuate snow and ice at any temperature below 44 degrees Fahrenheit.

Since winter tires have soft rubber, the tire tread will wear down quickly if you drive on them through the summer.

The tread pattern of winter tires looks significantly more complicated. The tread is designed to evacuate water and slush. Winter tires also have deep grooves which help hold impact snow.

Ideal for: Winter tires are ideal to be used in temperatures below 44 degrees Fahrenheit.

What’s interesting is that by packing in snow, snow on snow traction is actually pretty good and so it can improve the grip of the tire. If you look at a winter tire, you’ll also notice zigzag sipes all over the tread pattern.

The zigzag sipes help create a biting edge which is great for grip in wet, snowy, and icy conditions. The zigzags are used to improve the tread block rigidity while also allowing for good traction in different directions.

There are two main types of winter tires:

Studded winter tires

How To Choose The Correct Tires For Your Car, Truck, or SUV

Studded winter tires have metal studs embedded within the tread designed to dig into ice in order to provide better traction.

The Studded tires were the must-have snow tires for a long time. However, advances in rubber compounds and other winter tire technologies have changed the minds of many drivers.

The metal studs found within the tread of studded winter tires are designed to provide better traction when driving on icy surfaces by digging into the ice.

However, studded tires can damage the road because they are tough enough to dig into the pavement which is why many states limit their use during non-winter months. Some states have even outlawed studded winter tires completely.

Studless winter tires

How To Choose The Correct Tires For Your Car, Truck, or SUV

Studless winter tires are capable of maintaining flexibility in freezing temperatures due to their rubber compound.

Modern studless winter tires are made more capable of handling some of winter’s most extreme driving situations. Studless snow tires have become the preferred snow tire for many winter drivers.

Instead of relying on metal protrusions in the tread, modern non-studded winter tires lean on advances in rubber-compounding tread designs and other unique technologies.

As tire technology has advanced over the years, the studless winter tires were made better and better over the years. Nowadays, the modern studless tires are made out of a rubber compound that doesn’t lose flexibility in extremely cold temperatures as non-winter tires do.

By not losing flexibility in extremely cold temperatures, the studless winter tires are able to maintain traction on snowy, icy, and wet roads. Studless winter tires generally have deeper tread depths than summer or all-season tires.

The deep tread depths allow the tire to manage snow and slush dispersion from under the tire. It also allows the tire to provide better snow on snow traction by packing it within the tread blocks.

Another feature that studless winter tires have is thousands of tiny slits in the tread pattern called sipes. These sipes act as thousands of biting edges on ice that help with acceleration, deceleration and stopping on snowy, icy, and wet roads.

3. All-weather Tires

The all-weather tires try to combine the best properties of both the winter and all-season tires. The compound that the all-season tires are made of is softer than all-season tires. This means that the all-weather tires will perform in temperatures below 44 degrees Fahrenheit without losing their flexibility.

All-weather tires are made of a softer rubber than all-season tires and will grip in temperatures below 44 degrees Fahrenheit.

Also, the all-weather tires have more rigid rubber than winter tires which means they won’t wear down in the summer months as quickly as winter tires.

Ideal for: All-weather tires are best to be used if you live in an area where the temperature doesn’t drop below 35.

However, it is impossible for the all-weather tires to replace the winter tires in cold conditions and the summer tires in warm conditions. But, the all-weather tires do a fair job in both weather conditions.

4. All-terrain Tires

All-terrain tires are used for traction on all kinds of surfaces including on and off-road. They combine the open tread design of off-road tires with good handling of street tires.

The all-terrain tires are designed to combine the toughness of off-road tires with the secure handling of road tires.

The all-terrain tires have a tougher sidewall rubber compound that resists splitting and bruising. These tires also have a thicker extended shoulder rubber that reaches further down into the sidewall to protect the failure zone.

Ideal for: All-terrain tires are ideal for drivers that enjoy balanced driving between off-road and regular roads.

It’s important to remember that is this type of tire is all-purpose, so it’s not the best option for people who drive only on highways and paved roads.

Check out some high-quality all-terrain tires from Priority Tire here.

5. Low-profile tires

Low-profile tires are tires that have a shorter-than-average sidewall. Typically, a tire with an aspect ratio size to a sidewall of 50 or less is considered low profile.

Low-profile tires typically handle and perform better than with larger sidewalls.

The low-profile tires are considered to perform better than other regular sidewall size tires because they allow you to purchase larger rims and brakes for your vehicle. Having larger brakes will shorten your braking distance.

Ideal for: Low-profile tires are ideal for drivers that like to have big rims and big brakes installed on their vehicles.

Constructed with a wider tread, the low-profile tires grip the road better and afford you more stability while cornering. As it may sound all good, the drawback of driving on low-profile tires is the possibility of rapid deflation and an increased chance of damage by potholes.

The increased chance of getting damaged by potholes is due to their thinner sidewall. Having such a thin sidewall is not enough to absorb much impact which also contributes to a stiffer ride.

6. Mud / Off-road Tires

Mud-terrain tires are specifically designed to perform off-road in jagged rocks, loose soil, mud, or sand. Mud tires are used on trucks, SUVs, and jeeps to get maximum possible off-road traction, especially in mud.

The large treat voids on off-road tires allow the mud, snow, dirt, and sand to easily be ejected out of these voids, allowing the tread blocks to grab and grip on every revolution, regardless of the terrain.

They offer a unique tread design with rugged tread blocks or lugs and a greater amount of space between each block/lug than in regular tires.

Ideal for: Mud / Off-road tires are ideal for drivers that enjoy driving on mud, snow, dirt, and sandy roads.

The space between the blocks ejects mud and prevents it from becoming compacted. This feature ensures optimal traction while driving off-road.

7. Performance/Summer tires

Summer tires are also known as performance tires. Performance tires are designed to provide excellent dry and wet traction along with precise handling. They’re meant to be used during warm months, or all year in regions that don’t get a true winter.

The reason why summer tires perform better in heat and rain is because they are optimized for excellent road grip whether it’s baking hot, slightly damp, or raining heavily on the road.

Performance tires are made from a tread compound, a mix of rubber, and fillers that make up the tread. They contain sticky additives that enhance the road grip ability in wet conditions.

But, this tread blend also provides enough stiffness so tires hold up and retain their shape when the heat is on. This keeps rolling resistance to a minimum on hot pavement. Thread patterns typically feature shallower straighter grooves than what you’ll see on all seasons tires.

Performance or summer tires don’t offer any winter traction as they get rigid at cold temperatures.

Summer tires have less tread depth overall which helps with steering feel and responsiveness. If you look at a summer/performance tire, you will notice a lack of tread features in comparison to all-season, or winter tires.

Ideal for: Summer/Performance tires are ideal for drivers that live in hot and dry areas.

Summer tires also tend to have stiffer sidewalls which can reduce the comfort provided by the tire, but it can allow for better steering response and feedback. 

The solid continuous ribs on the performance tires allow more rubber to always be in contact with the road, resulting in more stability during cornering, braking, and acceleration.

Since performance tires often have asymmetrical or unidirectional tread patterns, tire rotation options may be limited. You may only be able to rotate front tires to opposite sides versus crisscrossing to even out tread wear.

It may come as news to many that summer tires outperform all-season tires when it comes to both wet and dry traction.

Check out some high performance tires from Priority Tires here.

8. Run-flat tires

Run-flat tires are tires on which you can continue driving after a puncture. If your run-flat tire gets punctured, you can take time to get to an auto shop or find a safe level area to change your tire.

The extremely strong sidewall structure of the run-flat tires allows them to support the weight of the car without any air inside the tire.

However, you can’t drive on a punctured run-flat tire indefinitely. How long you can drive on a punctured run-flat tire will depend on the manufacturer.

For example, Bridgestone run-flat tires will allow continued operation even after a loss of some or all inflation pressure for up to 50 miles or 80 kilometers at a maximum speed up to 50 miles per hour or 80 kilometers per hour.

Ideal for: Run-flat tires are ideal for drivers that don’t really know or have the time to change a flat tire once it gets punctured.

The only downside of run-flat tires is the cost and weight. Run-flat tires cost around 25% more than conventional tires. As far as weight, they tend to weigh more than conventional tires. Driving with heavy tires will change the dynamics of how your vehicle handles and rides.

Less weight is always better in any part of your wheels, brakes, tires, or suspension.

Braking Distance of Summer, All-season, and Winter Tires

Type of TireSpeedWeather ConditionsBraking Distance
Summer Tire60 MPH – 0 MPHDry/Wet110-125 ft/135-170 ft
All-season Tire60 MPH – 0 MPHDry/Wet120-135 ft/150-200 ft
Winter Tire60 MPH – 0 MPHDry/Wet125-145 ft/150-220 ft

The braking distance really shows the importance of compounds that play the largest role in grip overall. Since summer tires tend to have the stickiest compounds, they tend to perform best whether it’s dry or dumping rain, assuming the tires haven’t worn down too much and can still evacuate water.

What Do The Numbers And Letters On The Tires Mean [Explained]

You probably noticed a lot of numbers and letters on the sidewall of the tires. They are not just random writings without any meaning. Each number and letter written on the tire means something. So, what do the numbers and letters on the tires mean? Read on.

Type of tire

The letter P at the beginning of the tire size tells us that the tire is a Passenger Car Tire, whereas the letter LT tells us that the tire is meant for a Light Truck.

The LT tires for light trucks have a bit stronger sidewall so they can carry higher loads. These tires generally require higher inflation pressures than passenger tires.

A passenger tire marked with P is built to carry the weight of the passenger as the biggest cargo component.

The P and LT are markings made for the United States. If there are no such markings on a tire, it means that the tire was made for the European market.

Tire width

Tire width is measured in millimeters from sidewall to sidewall. The first three-digit number in the tire size refers to the tire width. For instance, if your tire is 215, that means the width of the tire is 215 millimeters.

Tire aspect ratio

The tire aspect ratio is the ratio of the height of the tire’s cross-section to its width. The two-digit number after the slash mark in a tire size is the aspect ratio. Meaning, if your tire is P215/65R15, that the height of the sidewall is equal to 65% of the width of the tire.

The bigger the aspect ratio, the bigger the tire sidewall will be.

Tire construction

The letter after the aspect ratio is the construction of the tire. The letter R in a tire size stands for radial which means the layers run perpendicular to the centerline of the tire. A letter D stands for Diagonal Bias meaning that the layers run at an angle across the tire.

Wheel diameter

The wheel diameter is the size of the wheel measured from one end to the other. The number after the R tells us the size of the wheel that the tire is intended to fit. Example: a size P215/65R15 tires made for a wheel with a 15 inches diameter.

Tire load index

The tire load index is an assigned number that corresponds to the maximum weight that a tire can support when properly inflated.

The higher the tire’s load index number, the greater its load-carrying capacity. Choosing a tire with a lower load index than the original equipment specifications means that the tire will not carry the load capacity of the original.

Most passenger car tire load indexes range from 75 to 100, and up to 126 on light trucks. Here is a full list of tire loads.

If your tire has an EXTRA LOAD marking it means that this tire has a higher load rating for its size and higher air pressures than a standard tire of the same size. It’s designed to hold higher loads than a standard tire of that size.

Speed rating

Correct Tires For Your Car, Truck, or SUV

The last letter on the tire size tells you the maximum speed capability of the tire. For example, if your tire has an H, it means that the maximum speed capability of the tire is 130 miles per hour or 210 kilometers per hour.

The speed ratings of the tires are matched to the top speed capability of the vehicle. You shouldn’t exceed the speed limit of your tires because there is no guarantee how the tires will behave. Also, it is recommended that all four tires on your vehicle have the same speed rating.

Here are the most common speed ratings on tires:

Tire Speed Rating IndexMaximum Tire Speed
Q99 mph (160 km/h)
R106 mph (170 km/h)
S112 mph (180 km/h)
T118 mph (190 km/h)
U124 mph (200 km/h)
H130 mph (210 km/h)
V149 mph (240 km/h)
W168 mph (270 km/h)
Y186 mph (300 km/h)

Maximum tire pressure

Correct Tires For Your Car, Truck, or SUV

Maximum pressure is the amount of pressure that the tire is designed to contain while being cold (meaning the vehicle is at rest and hasn’t been driving around and heating up the tires).

The maximum tire pressure is not the recommended tire pressure. The recommended tire pressure information will be located either in the door jamb or in your owner’s manual.

Noise generation (acoustic label)

Correct Tires For Your Car, Truck, or SUV

A rolling tire causes regions of air pressure to vary within the tire itself. These varying air pressure regions create vibration and that vibration is audible and it transmits that vibration to the car. By placing foam within the tire, you actually help to reduce that vibration and noise, hence the acoustic label.

Tire treadwear grades

Correct Tires For Your Car, Truck, or SUV

The treadwear grades number indicates the wear rating of a tire. A higher number means that the tire tread will last longer versus a lower number.

For example, a treadwear rating of 300 means it will last three times longer than a treadwear rating of 100. Keep in mind that this rating is manufacturer-specific, so you can’t compare two different tire brands’ treadwear ratings.

Tire traction grade

Correct Tires For Your Car, Truck, or SUV

The tire traction grade indicates the wet traction of a tire under a controlled test. Basically, this reading only gives you information about a wet stopping in a straight line.

The tire traction grade is measured with the letters AA (as the highest grade), A, B, and C (as the lowest grade).

Tire Traction GradeAsphalt G ForceConcrete G Force
AAAbove 0.540.38
AAbove 0.470.35
BAbove 0.380.26
CLess than 0.380.26

Temperature grade on a tire

Correct Tires For Your Car, Truck, or SUV

Temperature grades indicate the ability of the tire to withstand and dissipate destructive heat. A tire with a higher temperature grade is able to operate at higher speeds.

Temperature grades are measured with the letters A, B, or C.

Tire temperature gradeSpeeds in mph
AOver 115
BBetween 100 and 115
CBetween 85 and 100

Year of manufacturing

Correct Tires For Your Car, Truck, or SUV

The four digits on a tire are the manufacturing date. For example, this tire was manufactured in the 15th week of the year 2021.

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Hi there. I am a certified Automotive Service Excellence (ASE) mechanic since 2018 and a car detailer for 10 years.

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