There are so many different makes and types of tyres available today that it can be hard to know which tyres to choose for your car. Our guide will help you find the right tyre to suit your car, your usage, and your environment.

The code which is printed on the side of every tyre in the UK follows a standard format. An example would be: 17550R1596H

This is broken down as follows:

  • 175/50/R/16/96/H
  • 175: the width of the tyre in millimetres
  • 50: referred to as the aspect ratio, this shows the height of the tyre as a percentage of the width.
  • R: stands for radial. The majority of tyres sold now are radial tyres. Radial tyres are constructed from cords (usually polyester) positioned across the width of the tyre, so at 90 degrees to the direction of the tread. This gives the tyre more strength than older style tyres which have cords in a diagonal angle.
  • 15: shows the width of the wheel rim on which the tyre can be fitted in inches
  • 96: indicates the load rating. The load table lists all load ratings and the corresponding weight in kg which the tyre is capable of carrying.
  • H: the letter represents the tyre’s speed rating. This is the maximum speed at which the tyre is designed to be used. This is calculated from testing tyres at given speeds over a sustained period.

Summer tyres

The simpler tread pattern on a summer tyre is designed to perform best at temperatures above 7°C, on either wet or dry roads. Summer tyres are made from a softer compound which gives reduced resistance, so they offer better fuel economy. They also give better stability and road handling in warmer conditions, whether wet or dry.

Winter tyres

Since severe snow conditions are infrequent in many parts of the UK, many people choose not to switch to winter tyres. However, in some parts of the north of England and Scotland, it is advisable to change to winter tyres before the onset of very cold weather, as is the norm in northern European countries. Winter tyres are usually marked with a symbol showing a snowflake within a mountain.

All-season tyres

Some people in the UK use summer tyres all year round, but these do not perform so well in the winter. If you don’t want to switch tyres during the year, all-season tyres could be the best option. All-seasons, or intermediates, are made from a compound which doesn’t harden as much in cold conditions as a summer tyre would. They also feature a groove pattern designed to avoid aquaplaning on very wet roads.

Premium to budget

Premium tyres are manufactured by the big well-known brands such as Michelin, Bridgestone, Pirelli, Continental, Goodyear and Dunlop (now owned by Goodyear). A premium tyre should last for around 20,000 miles, so the additional cost can be a worthwhile investment. These manufacturers invest vast sums into researching the very best in tyre technology, so you can expect to reap the benefits of this, particularly in superior grip and enhanced fuel efficiency.

There are many tyre manufacturers in the mid-range price bracket. Look for brands such as Firestone (owned by Bridgestone), Uniroyal and Yokohama. The cost is lower, but the average mileage before replacement may also be reduced.

You can expect to get around 7,000 to 8,000 miles from a budget tyre, and they are perfectly adequate for most circumstances. However, you may not get the best results if you combine lower cost tyres with a high performance car.

The quality of tyre you choose may also depend on the type of driving you do. For example, regular driving in traffic requires more frequent braking, which inevitably results in wear and tear on the tyres, so it might be worth investing in premium tyres.

Looking after your tyres

Whichever tyres you choose, it's important to look after them. Maintaining correct air pressure is a simple way to prolong the life of your tyres. Check your tyre pressure regularly and adjust according to your car’s specification and loading. Look out for any signs of uneven wear and tear, and if you spot any, arrange to have the wheel alignment checked at your local dealer.

If you want to get the very best from your tyres, you may wish to rotate them through the wheels periodically. Rotation helps to ensure that wear and tear is even. Manufacturers suggest that tyres be rotated approximately every six months. The type of rotation required depends on whether you have a front, rear or four wheel drive vehicle, but no rotation should be undertaken at all if you have directional or asymmetric tyres.

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