The problem with just going to a tire shop and asking for new tires is that you will probably get recommended whatever tires they have in stock or make the most money on which may or may not be the best option for you. It definitely pays to shop around and do a little research into which tires perform the best for the conditions you drive in.
Tire Size and Rating
Printed on the side of the tires you currently have is a code where you can see the width, aspect ratio, rim diameter and speed rating.
Width and rim size are somewhat fixed based on the rim that you have. The larger the Aspect Ratio the higher the tire. While lower aspect tires can look nice, you will lose ground clearance and more easily damage the rim on rough roads.
The load rating is based on the weight of your car. Tires with a higher load rating will be more rigid and less comfortable to drive with but they will creep less in the corners.
The speed rating is the maximum speed the tire is rated to travel. Most modern cars have tires rated for V or W speeds.
The good news for those who live in Finland is that all this information on which tires your car should use is printed in the registration papers which can be accessed online from the Traficomm site.
So in my case I run 17 inch alloy rims on my Skoda Superb so the correct tires for my car according to the manufacturer are 215/55 R17 94W.
In Finland there is some leeway with what tires you can put on your car but in other European countries like Germany it is very strict. Tire shops will know the details of the restrictions.
Choosing the best tires for your Car
There is basic product rating information available for all tires based on EU testing. Fuel Efficiency, Wet weather performance and Noise.
Fuel efficiency comes from low roll resistance of the tire. This is affected by the tread pattern and rubber compound.
Wet weather performance tests how well the tire stops and maneuvers in the wet.
It’s important to remember with noise that it is a logarithmic scale so with every 3 decibels the noise doubles.
The test results you see here are from the Goodyear EfficientGrip Performance 2 summer tires I run on my car. B, A and 69 dB are very good scores. You can find the this information for all commonly available tires on this website.
For more detailed test results and comparisons check out these websites renkaatvaihtoon.fi or tyrereviews.co.uk (I especially like the UK one for summer tire reviews)
It is important though to make sure you see the test results for your specific tire size as tires will perform differently under different weight classes.
Remember also before you get your tires installed to check the manufacture date. As rubber ages it deteriorates which will affect the qualities it is supposed to have. I make sure the tires were manufactured in the same calendar year.
What tires I run on my car
Living in the Nordics and spending half the year driving on ice and snow, I have come to appreciate Nokian tires. They are designed for the conditions here and usually get first place in the test results. The Nokian Hakkapeliitta 9 are currently on my car.
For summer tires I am not so loyal, it is more about which manufacturer is topping the charts. Wet performance, comfort and wear are the factors I pay most attention to.
It’s pretty hard to go too wrong with any of the big manufacturers as they put a lot of research and development into developing very good products.
As mentioned above I am currently running the Goodyear EfficientGrip Performance 2 which are a big improvement on the previous generation.
It’s tempting to ask the question how much all of this actually matters. In my experience for winter tires it definitely matters. Good tires make all the difference between staying on the road.
For summer tires even the worst tires are still probably going to give you more grip than what you get in the winter. Having said that I still want to do everything I personally can to make sure my wife and kids are safe. Stopping distance can mean the difference between life and death, especially in the wet.
Premium tires are also going to give you more comfortable and environmentally friendly drive. So in short, I recommend putting a bit of effort into researching what tires are best for your car, and investing in tires that give you a better and safer drive.