Understanding The Types Of Tires
Types Of Tires
Shopping for tires is much like shopping for a pair of pants, all are pants but not all will fit you or work in every weather or match your tastes or be as utilitarian as you’d like them to be. Summer and all-season tires take the place of casual pants that you can wear anytime but if you want something more focused and athletic, like track pants then performance tires shine bright. Formal pants are like grand touring tires: look great yet are comfortable. Now, as winter strikes and cold sets in, you can’t be sporting a pair of casual pants. Instead, you need winter clothes that keep you warm similar to what winter tires do for snow and ice driving. As for size, if your pant size is M you can’t be wearing an XL. Similarly, car and truck tires are differently sized to accommodate different wheel sizes and vehicle loads.
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Different Tire Types
The type of tire for your vehicle can be differentiated mainly based on the vehicle. Car tires are solely intended for sedans, CUVs, minivans, hatchbacks, and other subcompact cars. Truck tires have similar characteristics to car tires but are intended for larger wheels and are designed to bear heavier loads, as evident from the sidewall height and width of the tire. Truck tires are used on SUVs, light trucks, off-roaders, ATVs, and other recreational vehicles.
Summer tires work well in dry and wet conditions during warm weather and are often referred to as three-season tires. They are ideal for use on dry and wet roads and provide great handling and driving dynamics as well as optimal stopping distances on dry tracks. They are only suited to be used during warmer and moderate weather and stiffen up when the temperature drops to freezing. These do not perform well in winters with snow and ice-covered roads. Since they are only intended for use during the summer months, the tires need to be switched out when winter strikes.
Most vehicles come equipped with All-season tires from the factory as they are the perfect balance between summer and winter tires. All-season tires, as the name suggests, are designed for summer months with warmer weather, and the rainy seasons and also work well in moderate winter conditions. However, these tires do not cope well with snow and ice-covered roads and can only perform at temperatures above 7℃ (45℉).
All-season tires provide good traction, wet-weather capability, a comfortable ride, and acceptable all-year performance. They also have great treadwear ratings, which allow them to last longer. All-season tires can come with a treadwear warranty between none - 65,000 to 160,000 km and speed ratings of S (112 mph) and T (118 mph).
All-weather tires are a subset of all-season tires and provide additional benefits as compared to all-season tires. All-weather tires can perform even in cold temperatures similar to winter tires while still providing all-year-round traction, handling, and performance. These tires are even rated with winter tire standards (three-peak mountain snowflake pictograph) allowing them to be used in extreme winter conditions below freezing temperatures on snow-covered roads. However, they cannot outperform specialized winter tires, especially at very low temperatures (-10℃ or 14℉) and on ice.
All-weather tires are ideal for use in Canada, where the temperatures reach both extremes. These tires can last longer and perform well in every type of weather condition while providing a comfortable ride. The speed ratings and treadwear warranty of these tires are similar to all-season tires.
All-Season Performance / Touring
These tires perform better than standard all-season tires and offer increased handling and sharper cornering ability with higher speed ratings and shorter braking distances. These tires are geared toward people who prefer a sportier ride with all-year performance and long-lasting tread. These are often referred to as touring or grand touring all-season tires. The speed rating is within H (130 mph) and V (149 mph) with a treadwear warranty ranging from none - 65,000 to 130,000 km.
For absolute performance-oriented vehicles like sports and sports sedans, all-season and summer UHP tires are used. These tires have very high-speed ratings and provide exceptional handling dynamics, swift steering responses, and minimal stopping distances. However, the performance benefits come as a compromise to ride quality, tread life, and winter traction. All-season UHP provides some snow traction at the expense of dry and wet grip, while summer UHP tires have no winter capabilities.
UHP tires have speed ratings of ZR (149-plus mph), W (168 mph), and Y (186 mph) with treadwear warranty ranging from none - 50,000 to 100,000 km.
All-season SUVs and truck tires are designed specifically for increased load capacities while offering adequate all-year performance. These all-season tires are tuned for SUVs and trucks and offer performance, tow-ability, and off-road driveability based on the vehicle’s capabilities. The speed ratings vary from S (112 mph), T (118 mph), to H (130 mph) with treadwear warranties of none - 65,000 to 130,000 km.
During winter, the rubber compounds in most tires, like all-season and summer, start to harden and stiffen up, which reduces their traction and road grip. This is why winter tires, previously known as snow tires, are used that provide unparalleled winter traction and handling. Winter tires can sustain extremely low temperatures such as -40℃ (-40℉) while retaining flexibility and enough grip to handle and brake on ice and snow-stacked roads. No other tires can outperform winter tires when it comes to driving in severe ice and snow conditions in severely cold weather. Due to their specialized winter capabilities, these tires do not work in any other season and wear faster on clear roads.
Winter tires are recognized by a three-peak mountain snowflake design that is etched into the tire sidewall and signifies that the tire has met minimum industry requirements for severe winter usage. Canada is prone to inclement weather during the winter months and so the use of winter tires is recommended and even mandated by law in a few Canadian provinces. Click here to learn more about winter tires and winter tire laws in Canada.
Winter tires have low-speed ratings - Q (99 mph) but come with no precise treadwear warranties.
Similar to UHP all-season and summer tires, performance winter tires offer the best driving dynamics on winter roads while retaining their winter capabilities. They offer a better grip on icy roads as compared to standard winter tires. Speed ratings for these tires can start from H (130 mph) and go higher. These also have no stable mileage, much like regular winter tires.
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The tire that is best for you depends on a few factors such as your driving style, the weather you drive in, and what type of roads you drive on. We have compiled a comprehensive tire buying guide that can help you realize the type of tire best suited for your needs.
Every tire found in North American markets has three sets of codes: tire specifications, DOT, and UTQG codes. The tire specification identifies tire and wheel size along with its speed and load indexes. The DOT code is mainly for the manufacturer, but it can help you determine your tire’s date of manufacture. Lastly, the UTQG codes showcase the various tire parameters such as treadwear, temperature and traction rating. You can learn in-depth about each tire code in our tire specification article.