Is 2022 the year that you finally invest in a new set of tires? Driving with an old, damaged, or worn-out set can directly impact your safety and security on the road.
If you’ve chosen to tackle the process yourself, then you might be asking, “What tires fit my car?” Getting the selection right is a critical component of purchasing and installing the right tires.
Today, we’re sharing an in-depth guide to choosing the right make, model, and size as you browse your available options. Once you know what to look for, you’ll be confidently back on the road in no time!
Understanding Key Tire Metrics
If it’s time to replace the tires on your car, then you’ll understandably want to choose a set that’s similar in both size and capacity. After all, your vehicle was specially engineered to work well with the tires that came with it when you purchased it.
Going too big or too small could affect the balance and overall stability of your car, as well as its safety and performance. That’s why we recommend choosing a size that’s either identical or equivalent in nature. If you know the kind of you want, or you want to browse available models, click here to browse a few of the most popular styles.
If you’re unsure, then it helps to know basic information about your tires. To make an informed sizing decision, you’ll need to know three important metrics. These include:
- The current size of your tires
- The speed rating of your current tires
- The overall mileage/tread wear of your current tires
Not sure where to find that information? Check the sidewalls located on each of your existing tires. Most manufacturers will imprint those numbers there. If you can’t locate it, then you can also reference the user’s manual that came with your tires.
Otherwise, your local tire dealer should be able to look up the information in their database. You can also search for your specific tires online to find those details. If it’s on your sidewall already, then you’re in luck!
However, those series of numbers can be a little difficult to decipher, especially if you’ve never seen them before. Let’s take a look at the most important ones to know as you begin the search for new vehicle tires.
Tire Size Identification
Tire sizes look like a series of letters and numbers, separated by a slash mark. For simplicity, let’s choose a real-life series to look at: P215/65 R15. Now, let’s break down what each of those numbers and letters means.
Type of Tire
The letter at the beginning tells you what type of tire it is. In this case, the “P” stands for P-metric tire. These tires are manufactured in the United States and are designed for use in passenger vehicles. You may also see the letters “LT”, which stand for Light Truck.
If you don’t see any letters at the beginning of the series, then your vehicle is equipped with Euro-metric tires, which has a different load capacity.
Next, you’ll see the tire’s width, expressed in millimeters. In this case, the tire is 215 millimeters across, from one sidewall to the other. Note that this number represents the widest point in the overall width.
Tire Aspect Ratio
A slash mark will follow the width dimensions. The number that follows will be the tire’s aspect ratio. This number reveals how tall the tire is at the sidewall cross-section. It’s expressed as a percentage of the overall width, though there is no standard percent sign.
Using our example, the tire’s height is approximately 65% of its width. The higher this two-digit number is, the taller the sidewall. For example, most SUVs and family-sized sedans will have aspect ratios of between 45 to 60, while smaller squat tires meant for lower-profile sports cars have aspect ratios of around 30 to 40.
The letter “R” will usually follow, which simply means that the tire is a radial tire. Its layers run radially across, which is standard on most modern tires.
The final sizing number is the diameter of the wheel, expressed in inches. In our example, the tire is designed to fit into a wheel that’s 15 inches in diameter.
Tire Load Index
Once you know the size and dimensions of the tires you need, the next feature to consider is load index. This figure tells you the total load carrying capacity of each tire when it’s properly inflated. Carrying capacity is the amount of weight that the tire can safely carry without compromising its structure or integrity.
In most cases, a typical passenger car tire will have a load index of between 75 and 100. However, there are some models that can carry more or less weight. Note that this number is not expressed in pounds.
For instance, a tire with a load index of 89 does not mean that it can only carry 89 pounds. Consult your owner’s manual or check with your local tire company to understand how load index translates to carrying capacity.
A tire with an 89 load index can carry up to 1279 pounds. Multiplied by four, that’s a total carrying capacity of 5,116 pounds.
Tire Speed Rating
While the load index tells you a tire’s carrying capacity, its speed rating tells you its maximum speed capability. This is the top speed that your tires can attain and keep for an extended period of time. There’s also a slight safety margin added.
Note that these numbers are expressed as maximums and are never meant to be exceeded. Driving faster than your tires can handle could put you at a great risk on the road. It’s always important to follow posted speed limits, regardless of how fast your tires can actually go.
Understandably, high-performance cars will usually carry a higher speed rating than ones intended for use as a family vehicle, including most sedans and SUVs. You’ll find this number on the sidewall of your tire, right after the alphanumeric combination that reveals your tire size.
The letters in this metric can range from L to Y, and most maximum speed ranges are between 75 and 186 miles per hour.
Tire Symbols and Identification Numbers
While you’re checking the sidewalls of your current tires, you should also see the letters “DOT”.
This means that each tire meets all the applicable standards set forth by the U.S. Department of Transportation. You can read more about some of these policies and procedures online.
After the “DOT” inscription, you should see a 12-digit combination of letters and numbers. This is known as your Tire Identification Number, or TIN. While it might seem like a foreign language to you, the TIN reveals a ton of valuable information about the tires that are currently on your vehicle. This includes:
- The factory location
- The week they were manufactured
- The year they were manufactured
If you want to replace your tires with a set that matches them identically, then you can use your TIN to find that match.
Tire Grading Information
Finally, there are a few different grading strategies that you should understand if you need new vehicle tires. These were developed in accordance with the DOT’s Uniform Tire Quality Grading system.
This system categorizes tires in terms of three main factors:
- Temperature capabilities
- Tread wear
Here are the details you need to know as you search for the best tires for your needs.
The tire’s traction will be expressed as two letters, and can include any of the following:
These letters reveal the wet traction of the tire, determined in a controlled testing environment. A tire with a traction rating of AA possesses excellent traction, while one with a C rating has the lowest degree of traction.
You want a tire that can perform well even as your speed increases. When you drive faster, you’ll generate a form of destructive heat that could damage your tires if they’re ill-equipped to handle it.
The possible letters you’ll see here include:
A tire with a temperature grade of “A” can withstand and safely remove the destructive heat generated by speeds of more than 115 miles per hour. Tires with a grade of “B” can handle maximum speeds of between 100 and 115 miles per hour, and those with “C” can handle speeds between 85 and 100 miles per hour.
You’ll also see the words “Treadwear” on your tire, followed by a number. This specific number is generated after the tire undergoes a series of standardized tests meant to estimate its expected tread wear. The higher the number, the longer you can expect the tire to last before it becomes bald.
While this number can be helpful, there’s also a good amount of variance in tread wear. For that reason, we suggest checking the manufacturer’s tread life warranty for any tire you’re eyeing. Usually, this information is included in marketing materials about the tires, and you can also find it online.
What Tires Fit My Car? Look at the Sidewall
As you can see, the sidewall of each tire contains a treasure trove of information. If you’re satisfied with the way your current tires performed, then you can use this data to guide your next purchase.
Even if you’re eyeing a new make or model, you’ll still need to ask, “What tires fit my car?” Otherwise, you could choose tires that are incorrectly sized for your vehicle, which can turn into a serious safety hazard.
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