Among the plethora of moving parts that make an automobile work, its tires are quite literally the most important. A manufacturer makes use of an entire team of engineers and product planners to ensure each of its vehicles roll off the factory floor with the most complimentary size, weight, and tread pattern tire. However, when it comes time for you to buy a new set, you might not be able to afford the luxury of having a entire team of engineers help you decide.
Let's break down a variety of popular tires and help you make a smarter shopping decision. We’ll compare them across several metrics such as size, functionality, season, price, and quality.
All-season passenger tires
The all-season tire is the jack of all trades but master of none for your vehicle. Given the size range of the above five, most passenger all seasons are meant for cars and light-duty crossovers. The Firestone Precision Touring is a highly rated standard tire that can often be found on factory-fresh vehicles. They perform well in virtually every category of quality - wet and dry performance, road noise, comfort and even snow traction.
The Goodyear Integrity is a bit different in that its main goal is to maximize fuel economy by reducing rolling resistance. These are great choices if you own a hybrid or commute long distances. For a little sportier feel, the Kumho Ecsta Lx Platinum offers increased dry and wet road performance at the cost of diminished snow traction. With 24 sizes, it’s a great tire for every “BMW" in your life.
Want a little more grip? Give either the Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 2 or the BFGoodrich G-Force Super Sport A/S a try. These high performance all seasons mimic summer tires but offer more year-round performance. While they may have a shorter tread-life than other offerings, both the BFG and Michelin will transform any runabout into a year-round autocrosser. The G-Force is even available for a 15 inch wheel.
Summer passenger tires
If there’s no snow where you live, or if your car is a fair-weather friend only, summer tires maximize on road performance at the cost of snow traction and longevity. All of these examples are not intended for all weather use and some are barely intended for the street. The Bridgestone Turanza ER20 is the most civil of the group, frequently fitted to standard grand touring cars such as BMWs and Infinitis and are available in premium SUV sizes too.
If you want maximum road grip for virtually any car, the insanely available Yokohama S. Drive is a great all-rounder with high ratings for both dry and wet grip. Need something a little quieter with low rolling resistance? The Michelin Pilot Sport 2 is a great compromise and is frequently used by manufacturers for up-level, performance-focused packages.
However, if you just want to be competitive at autocross but drive your car to and from the track on the same set of tires, both the Toyo Proxes R1R and BFGoodrich G-Force Rival S play that part. The R1R is friendlier to smaller, older vehicles while the G-Force comes in big, wide, Corvette-like sizes.
On-road light duty truck and SUV tires
For the SUV and truck in your life that performs mostly on the street and highway, you’ll want a tough, long-lasting light duty truck tire. Available in larger sizes, these focus on maximum weight distribution and stability, with some offerings even blurring the line between truck and car performance.
The Michelin LTX M/S2 is one of the most well-known highway terrain tires on the market, praised for its longevity and quiet operation. The Yokohama Geolander H/T G056 is similar to the Michelin, but focuses more on dry performance than all season durability. What the Yokohama brings is a wide availability of sizes, including inch sizes such as 20x9.5x15.
For more high performance road holding, perhaps as a replacement tire for a premium SUV, the BFGoodrich Long Trail T/A Tour ditches wet and snow performance for increased road grip and dry traction. Taking that concept one step further is the General Grabber UHP which mimics a street car tire but comes in big, aggressive sizes. This isn’t an off-road tire by any means so think carefully before fitting a set to your truck or SUV. The Generals are mostly associated with lowered classics or “dubs.”
Off-road truck and SUV tires
Non-competition off-road tires tend to come in three different flavors: all terrains which perform well on the street and in the muck, mud terrains which ditch winter performance for supreme mud and rock traction with high durability, and competition-style radials for maximum off-road grip.
Both the BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 and Yokohama Geolander A/T-S are a solid blend of year-round road grip and off pavement traction. These double as winter tires and are great for overlanding and expedition style vehicles. What all terrains fall behind on is mud traction and sidewall strength.
In order to excel in the dirt, you’ll want a more dedicated mud terrain such as the Mickey Thompson Baja MTZ P2 or the all-new Dick Cepek Extreme Country. Both feature strengthened sidewalls for durability when airing down for off-road performance and both “clean out” well when submerged in mud. Mud terrains typically perform poorly in the winter and on ice, and will have increased road noise as the miles stack up.
If you want absolute off-road performance at the cost of road noise, tread life and pavement performance, stick with the Interco line up of Super Swampers. The TSL Radial is a heavy, thick and loud mud terrain that’s offered in a variety of strange and obscure sizes - including for a 16.5 inch wheel that can be found on military HUMVEEs.
As you can tell, picking the right tire for your vehicle can get complicated. The above lists only scratches the surface of what’s available and tire manufacturers are announcing new examples every minute. If you still have questions about what tire is best for your ride, want to know how to maintain your tires, or simply want your tires rotated without visiting a repair shop, make sure to consult your local YourMechanic technician. We’ll come to you wherever you are, and help you hand pick and maintain the tire that’s right for you.
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