You car's tyres seem pretty basic when you buy it. But if you need to get a replacement set for your vehicle, you may be aware that there are a lot of different options out there to choose from when it comes to tyres. This general overview should help set you in the right direction, whether you are looking to buy a new set of tyres identical to the ones already on your car, want to change to a different type of tyre or simply want to understand more about this important part of auto ownership. There are four main categories to consider: climate, usage, tyre size and vehicle type.
Tyres by Climate
People who live in parts of the world with extreme weather often need to consider temperature and precipitation when selecting tyres for their cars. For example, individuals in the northern hemisphere who live at the top of a mountain that regularly sees snow and ice may want to get special studded winter tyres to help ensure safety on the road. However, for most South Africans, this type of weather isn't an immediate concern. There are a few places in South Africa where snow is not unheard of, and temperatures below zero are, though rare, plausible in wintertime. On the other hand, summer tyres help optimise performance when temperatures stay above 7 degrees Celsius for the majority of the year.
For most people in South Africa, all-season tyres, which combine elements of summer and winter tyres and are suitable for the moderate temperatures experienced in most parts of the country. There is only a small segment of the South African population that needs to consider seasonal tyres, and even among that group, there will be a smaller proportion that can afford multiple sets of tyres, have space to store these different types of tyres and have the ability to change tyres at home. For everyone else in South Africa, all-season tyres are perfectly suitable.
Tyres by Usage
The ways and locations in which you use your car can also have an impact on what kind of tyres you should buy. If you regularly drive off-road on sand, dirt, mud, rocks or gravel, you may want to buy a tyre with increased traction. If you stick to city driving on paved roads, it makes better sense to select tyres designed for those conditions. The best tyres for city driving offer a short braking distance, low rolling resistance and durability. The last two considerations are related to finances. Low rolling resistance is related to fuel economy, meaning you can spend less money on petrol in the long run, and durability allows the tyres to stand up to the wear and tear associated with city driving, meaning you will have to replace your tyres less frequently. This saves money in the long term. If you do most of your driving on high-speed motorways, try to select tyres with good high-speed braking distance.
Car manufacturers carefully select standard tyres for each model car they make. This means that each manufacturer names an optimal tyre size for every car. If you are the first owner of your car or you know that the previous owner never replaced the tyres, you should be able to read information printed on the sidewall of the tyre. This will tell you the tyres' dimensions, allowing you to use that information to purchase identically sized new tyres. Some car owners choose to put larger tyres on their cars, but in general, this is not advisable. There are a variety of concerns related to tyre size, including fuel efficiency, safety and the overall health of the car's frame and components. Going with the original equipment size is the best idea.
Tyres by Vehicle Type
Sometimes, the type of vehicle you drive affects the kind of tyres you should use. For example, 4x4 vehicles typically need to have a matching set of four identical tyres, while two-wheel-drive cars can have two different sets of tyres, with identical tyres on each axle. Drivers who own sports cars may want to get specific tyres that help these light cars grip the road, increasing traction and safety.
Though there are a lot of tyres from which to choose, if the tyres that came with your car are working for you, there may be no need to switch to a new type of tyre. Make sure you get your tyres checked regularly, and have them rotated and replaced as needed. If you end up moving to a new location with a drastically different climate, it may make sense to get some seasonal tyres. In South Africa, though, chances are slim that seasonal tyres will end up being a practical choice. Sticking with the manufacturer-selected all-season tyres for your specific vehicle is usually a good idea.