With millions of vehicles sold in the United States last year ranging from FIAT 500s to Ford F-150s, drivers have a myriad of choices. Shouldn't they also be able to have their tires their way, too? In a perfect tire world, every tire manufacturer would engineer the optimal tire for every car and driver. However, the market is very large and competitive, and instead of a few brands dominating all segments, there are all-stars that excel in their niches.
Even though Michelin was the first tire company to commercialize the radial tire back in 1948, all major tire manufacturers have the same core technology, such as radial ply construction, steel belts, etc. They often use the same or similar materials with some noteworthy exceptions, for example polyamide. As you research tires, judge a tire by how well it's been engineered for your specific needs.
Taking a look at the hypothetical case of Maria from Burnsville, Minnesota, she drives 16,000 miles per year in her 2009 Honda Civic EX Sedan which came with the 205/55R16 Original Equipment size. Her daily commute consists of two miles of suburban roads before hopping on the interstate for 25 miles of highway driving to reach work. She normally drives about five miles above the posted speed limit and has never received a speeding ticket.
What does Maria need in her tires?
- Snow grip - It's Minnesota! Running dedicate winter / snow tires during the winter is the best choice for her during the colder months.
- Wet grip - Spring showers will cause her to need adequate wet grip to brake, corner and accelerate properly in the rain.
- Treadwear - Since Maria drives quite a bit, she's needs a tire that combines good treadwear and has enough grip to stop quickly.
- Low tread noise and a good ride - She's in her car over one hour each day, she needs a tire with low tread noise and the ability to ride well over bumps. Tire noise is heavily dependent on vehicle design and ride compliance will inherently be challenged in short wheelbase cars.
- Relative efficiency - One reason she got the Civic was because of its fuel efficiency. It would be helpful to have a tire that's engineered for efficiency even though tire choice is only a partial factor of fuel economy with speed, air pressure and other things coming into play.