Performance Tire Buyer’s Guide

Upgrading Your Performance Tires

Areas we’ll be covering:

Why Performance Tires Are So Important

Four small rectangular patches of rubber are your car’s only connection to the road surface. As you drive, the forces of acceleration, steering, cornering and braking must all be transmitted through this rubber/road interface.

Since you have no control over the quality or performance of the road surfaces you are driving on, let’s focus on the one thing you can do that will make a noticeable difference in your car’s performance in this regard: upgrading your tires.

Replacing your original equipment tires with aftermarket performance tires is a cost-effective modification that will make a difference you can feel every time you drive your car. The improved traction, braking, steering response, cornering and ride quality will transform your driving experience and your car’s performance under all road and weather conditions.

Why Your Original Tires Are Not Very Good

Imagine that you are the tire buyer for a major car manufacturer. You are responsible for buying millions of original equipment tires. The company’s cost accountants demand that you purchase tires at the lowest possible price. The engineers require tires that provide the best possible fuel economy.

The sales department insists on tires that give a smooth ride, so that potential buyers feel comfortable during their test drives. The result: the low bidder gets the contract and performance considerations are not part of the conversation.

Most new cars get the least expensive tires that give the highest mileage and a nice ride.

What’s A Performance-Minded Car Owner To Do?

Fortunately, you do have a choice. There is a large aftermarket for performance tires, with many brands and styles to choose from. Let’s walk through the process for finding the right performance tires for your car, your driving style, and your budget.

One of the best sources online for performance tires is amazon.com. Amazon offers the performance tire buyer a huge marketplace to shop and choose from. Let’s get started!

Define Your Budget

Define your budget when shopping for performance tires

This is the first step toward finding the right tires for your car. The amount you have to spend will determine the rest of the process.

The Easy Way – Same-Sized Performance Tires

The simplest and most cost-effective route is to replace your current tires with the exact same size in a performance tire. This way, you can use your original wheels. The only additional expense will be for mounting and balancing.

You will definitely see improvements in your car’s ride and handling, and there should be no problems with the tires fitting inside the wheel wells and clearing the suspension. Original size means original fit.

Summer Tires Or All-Season?

Your next decision is: summer tires or all-season? If you live in a mild climate where the temperature never drops to anywhere near freezing, you can probably live with summer tires all year ‘round. Living in a cold, snowy climate, you have a choice, depending on the severity of your winters.

When winters are moderate, with light snow that does not accumulate very much, you can likely get away with all-season performance tires year ‘round.

If your winters are bad, with regular major snowfalls, you can use summer tires during the warm season, but for maximum winter safety, you should consider getting dedicated snow tires on a separate set of wheels. More on this later.

Let’s Go Shopping!

Shopping online to find the perfect tire

To shop on Amazon’s site, simply click the image above or visit amazon.com and search for “Performance Tires in Automotive.” Next, select the year, make and model of your vehicle by using the pull-downs to the right of “Filter by Vehicle,” then Click on “Filter Results.”

Next you will get another filter that narrows it down to the trim level, body style, and whether it is front-wheel drive, rear-wheel drive or all-wheel drive. Click on “Filter Results” once again.

You will now see a very large selection of tires that should fit your car. Verify that your present tires are the same as the tires you are viewing on Amazon by checking the sidewall of one of your car’s tires.

You can then filter the raw list by various factors listed on the “Relevance” pull-down at the upper right of the page. The two most important factors are price and customer reviews.

Search by Price

Take your tire budget and divide by four to get your maximum per tire price. Select “Price – Low to High” and start browsing. Go past the lug nuts and other inexpensive items until you start to see tires.

ALERT! Be aware that there will be used tires mixed in with the lowest-priced items. Avoid these. Make a list of the new tires that come in at or under your budgeted price.

Search by Reviews

Now select “Avg. Consumer Review” and check out the ratings from others who have purchased the tires on your list. Focus on the tires with the best ratings – you are most likely to have a good ownership experience with these.

Need More Information?

These Amazon user reviews are fine as far as they go, but what if you want to know how one performance tire compares to another in a side-by-side comparison? Simply Google “performance tire comparison test” and look through the results. Focus on reliable sources such as Car and Driver, Road & Track, etc.

Another useful Google search is “performance tire comparison chart.” Click on the “Images” header to see countless charts that compare various selections of performance tires. Take all the time you need to make an informed decision.

Make Your Choice, Place Your Order

Once you have narrowed it down to the one tire that best meets your needs, it is time to place your order. Now is the time to decide on how you will have these tires installed. The easiest way is to use an Amazon-approved installer in your area.

Their site lets you select by zip code and read reviews of other Amazon customers’ installation experiences. You can also see what estimates for charges for various installation services such as mounting and balancing, any other services they provide. You simply make an appointment and drive there with your tires once you receive them.

Break Them In Gently

Please don’t go roaring out of the installer’s lot in pursuit of that new level of performance you are expecting from your new performance tires! Every tire needs a break-in period of 500 miles before you get to an optimum performance level. Why?

All tires have a lubricant applied during manufacturing to keep them from sticking to the molds. It takes 500 miles of gentle acceleration, cornering and braking to wear the lubricant off of the tread surface. This also gives the layers of rubber, fabric and steel time to start working together as a unit for the best possible performance. Be patient and you will be rewarded!

Ongoing Care = Longer Tire Life

You will enjoy the improvement that your new performance tires bring to the driving experience every time you take the wheel.

To get the most life and miles out of your new performance tires, remember to regularly check your tire pressures and inspect them for signs of uneven wear.

Rotate them at the recommended intervals, too. A little care and attention will go a long way.

The Next Step Beyond: Upgrading Your Wheels

The next step beyond original size tires is to upgrade your wheels and get new performance tires to fit the wheels. This is a huge topic in itself, so we will stick to the basics. As with your tires, the easiest way is to go with the same size wheels as the factory put on it.

You get a cool new look, maybe save some weight, and will experience zero problems with them fitting inside your fenders.

Not enough? Now we are talking about larger diameter wheels, wider wheels, and lower-profile tires to match. They do look cool, but there are some downsides you should be aware of. The air in your tires acts as part of the suspension, cushioning the wheels (and you) when the road gets rough.

Much larger wheels with super low-profile tires mean that there will be very little air between the tire and the wheel. Your ride quality will get worse.

If you live where the roads are in pretty bad shape, there will likely be bent wheels and blown tires in your future. It can get expensive.

The moral of the story? Don’t get too extreme. A one- or two-inch increase in wheel size should still look great without making you cringe when a pothole appears. You will still get the benefits of going larger and wider – more responsive steering and more cornering grip.

Winter Alert! Performance Snow Tires Are Available

Just because you have to deal with major snowfall during the winter season does not mean you can’t have a great driving experience! There are many dedicated performance-oriented winter tires that will make a world of difference when you have to brave the white stuff.

You can choose from tires that are built for deep snow, for highway use in mixed snow and sleet conditions, even tires that have special compounds to help them stick to icy surfaces.

If you commit to getting a set of specialized winter tires, you will need to switch to summer tires as soon as the snowy season is over, otherwise you will wear your winter tires out very quickly. They are not meant for summer conditions.

The easiest way to deal with this twice-a-year ritual is to mount your winter tires on their own set of inexpensive wheels. That way, you just unbolt one set and bolt on the other.

The money you save from not having to mount and balance your tires twice each year will quickly pay for the extra wheels. Extra bonus: both sets will last longer, and your nice summer wheels will never have to go through a winter!

Go Forth, Explore New Roads!

It is now time to enjoy the benefits of your performance tires. Set aside some time to explore some of the lesser-traveled roads in your area. Go at off-peak hours when traffic is lightest and experience the improvements in acceleration, cornering and braking that you have made in your vehicle. Happy Motoring!

Now that you’ve learned all about performance tires, be sure to read:

Thanks for reading.

-Sean from ShortRam.com

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