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12 Tire Buying Tips

Understand Tire Basics

Simply put, a tire is a flexible container of compressed air. This air container support the vehicle's load; propels a vehicle forward, backward and side-to-side; stops the vehicle; and cushions the load from road imperfections.

Today's tires have between 19 and 25 different components. Tires are built from the inside out rather than the outside in. The heart of every tire is an inner liner. Its job is to give the tire shape and hold in air. Fabric belts are wrapped around the inner liner. The bead is fastened to the bottom of the fabric belts and holds the tire to the wheel.

On top of the fabric belts are steel belts. These belts have two jobs: They give the tire stability and make the tread pattern as flat as possible. (A flatter tread means more contact with the road.) The tire tread is on top of the belts. There are different tread patterns for different types of tires. The sidewall on the side of the tire gives it stiffness and ride characteristics. A taller, softer sidewall will absorb more bumps, while a shorter, stiffer sidewall will provide better cornering ability and sharper steering response.

On the sidewall of every passenger-car and light-truck tire is an alphanumeric code that describes the dimensions of the tire. For most tires, this code will start with a "P." Some may start with an "LT" to signify light truck. Some tires may have a "Max. Load" indication. When selecting new tires, it is important to make sure a tire's load rating is at least a high as the tire you are replacing.

On the next page we'll talk about how to choose the right tire.