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When you go shopping to buy tires, ask yourself a few questions first:
1. Have my driving needs changed? Are you the owner of an SUV? If you are hauling more weight than before, consider going to a higher load rating. If you are carrying a full passenger load these days, plus tools, groceries and other additional weight factors you may need the extra safety margin a higher load rated tire can give.
2. Have I moved to a new climate? Snow, rain, slush, heat and other weather factors may not have been a consideration before. If you are buying tires in a new climate, reevaluate your needs instead of simply buying the identical model you have on your vehicle now.
3. Am I driving longer distances? Or am I doing more start-and-stop city driving? Again, if you are in a new environment you'll want to increase your traction, treadlife and speed rating needs. Chances are those needs have changed if you have relocated.
4. What new tire products are available for my vehicle? You may discover a whole new world of better traction, handling, and comfort simply by not buying the exact same model and brand of tire. Check consumer reports and reviews before you buy tires, you may be quite pleasantly surprised.
One good thing about the tire market--there are always improvements to look forward to. Did you know that some tires now feature KEVLAR? This is the same material used in bulletproof vests. Another new tire features something called "Triple Tred" which features three different "tread zones" to handle a variety of traction needs. New tire products often start with introductions in the luxury car market first, and then eventually get introduced in the general market. You may have to wait an extra year or two, but that innovation you have your eye on now could be available for your make and model soon. For the latest updates in new tire products, check manufacturer websites for announcements and release dates.
You may wish to consider spending a bit of extra money to purchase new tire products with a higher treadlife, depending on your driving conditions. Those who live in areas such as Chicago, Texas, Oklahoma and other areas with lots of highway driving know that those miles add up fast. In the south, heat is an additional factor. Your tires may wear out more quickly depending on how hot the weather gets, and for how long. This can also affect the life of your tire. Know how your local conditions can affect your tire's lifespan and purchase accordingly. Your local tire retailer can help with these important conditions.
New tire technology focuses on several areas, but one of the main challenges will always be traction; how to increase it and improve the ride? One innovation found on the Mazda RX-9 includes a tire that is capable of morphing to adapt to traction needs. The tire includes electroactive polymers. With these, pulses from the vehicle's electrical system can change the size and depth of the tire treads! It's an amazing leap forward in tire tech. This new tire technology may not be coming to a vendor near you for a while, but time will tell; if it winds up being a cost effective solution to the traction problem, electroactive polymers could one day be a standard part of tire manufacturing the way steel belted radials became standard after they caught on in the marketplace.
The future is light for airless tires. An airless tire is actually an "integrated" concept featuring the tire and wheel as one unit. Some are calling this new development 'disruptive' to the tire industry, and many aren't ready to give up buying tires just yet. The initial uses for this airless tire stop short of consumer autos, so this new tire product will most likely be in development for some time before being unleashed on the auto market. In the meantime those who want to buy tires can still look forward to plenty of innovation for traditional tires.
If you want a down-and-dirty checklist to review when considering new tire products or if you need to buy tires, look no further. Here is a list of things to look for at your local vendor:
1. Treadlife Warranty--how many miles is this new tire product good for?
2. Speed Rating--if you plan to do highway driving, and can admit to yourself that you have a lead foot, stay away from the minimum tire speed ratings. Go a bit higher for a wider safety margin.
3. Load Rating--are you planning on carrying heavy loads? Don't get a passenger-rated tire when a Light Truck or higher capacity is warranted.
4. Seasonal or All-Weather? Double check to see what is offered. You may need to invest in two sets of tires in anticipation of weather changes.
Keep these in mind when you venture out to buy tires, your purchase will go much easier with a bit of extra planning.
Reading consumer reports on new tire products can be very helpful if you know how to interpret them. If the reports address regular 'street-legal' new tire products, pay close attention to the reviews which duplicate actual street driving conditions rather than testing on a closed course. When you buy tires, you want to base your decision on tests that anticipate rain, rough roads, cold and hot conditions, start-and-stop city traffic, etc. A closed course with optimal conditions won't give accurate performance data on in-traffic driving or sudden weather changes peculiar to your area. It's important to make an informed choice when you buy tires; it's even more important to get the right data.
New tire products hit the market all the time, and auto consumer publications jump on the bandwagon to test these new products. How can you evaluate their evaluation? Will their tests give you accurate information? The short answer--it all depends on what you need.
Are you building a performance car for racing and high-speed driving? You'll want to read new tire product reviews conducted on a closed course and at the speeds you are apt to use.
How does the new tire product help the vehicle's performance over the length of the test? Does it start out well, but disappoint over the long haul? Or are the benefits consistent and noticeable for the duration of use?
These are important questions. That new tread design may be an exciting development in one area, but disappointing in another. Don't overlook data on how the new benefits hold up to other features on the tire such as tread life and other factors.