Important Decision – The Tires On Your New Car

The Importance Of Your Tire Choice

So, you are looking for a new car, you spend a ton of time on choosing the brand, the model, which engine and transmission, and you fret over just the right color. You get to the dealership, and carefully chose your new set of wheels…but what about the tires on those wheels? Most people do not pay attention to things that could be important down the road.

How important are aesthetics?

For me, the wheels on a vehicle make or break the looks for me. I like tires that fill the wheel wells of a vehicle and if it’s a pickup, the larger the better. Most upper line trucks and SUVs have 20” and up to 22” wheels these days and they have been extremely popular. However, if you are one of those people who doesn’t really care, opt for the standard wheels. The larger the wheel, the more costly the tires when you need to go to replace them.

Does The Vehicle You Are Buying Have A Spare?

Do not assume your next new vehicle will have a spare, many do not, and the number is growing rapidly. In fact, I predict in the 2018 model vehicle year, less than half will even offer a full-sized spare as standard equipment. Even if a real spare is offered, many dealers do not order them, primarily because most people never bother to act.

What you get instead is a can of fix-a-flat, a portable air compressor, and the phone number to roadside assistance. Of course, the can of fix-a-flat will do you no good if you have a blowout. The roadside assistance number doesn’t help either if your cell battery is dead, or you cannot get a signal. If your vehicle is equipped with run-flat tires, you don’t even get a repair kit, but more on run-flats later in the article.

Are The Tires On Your New Car Directional?

Yes, all tires roll forward and backwards, but what are directional tires? Found primarily in sports cars with high top speeds, directional tires must turn in the same direction at all times. There are even arrows on the sidewall to show you the direction the tires must roll. So why is this a big deal, you might wonder? It is about the tire rotation process.

Unless the tires are unmounted and remounted on their wheels to accommodate use on the other side of the vehicle, directional tires are to be used on one side of the vehicle only and are intended to be rotated from the front axle to the rear axle. If different tire sizes are used on the front vs. rear axle, the tires become location-specific and prohibit tire rotation unless remounted. Either way, this will add a lot of expense to getting your tires rotated and will certainly require a specialized tire shop or service center.

Does Your Dream Car Have Run-Flat Tires?

Run-flat tires are certainly not new but are gaining rapidly in use. Odds are good if you are purchasing a BMW or a sports car, it will have run-flat tires. Honda starting using them on Odyssey minivans back in 2005.

Run-flat or zero-pressure tires can support the weight of a vehicle for a short time, providing the driver with roughly 50 to 100 miles of range to find a repair shop. While it may sound like a great solution, car owners and car shoppers should know about the pros and cons of these tires.

On the plus side, should you have a blowout or flat, you can keep driving, and not have to worry about being on the side of the road, broken down. It also helps with stability in the case of a blowout or sudden loss of air pressure. You can maintain very good control of your vehicle. As previously mentioned, run-flat tire-equipped vehicles do not come with spare tires, inflators, or any other way to make a repair.

The downside to run-flats is they wear sooner than regular tires, meaning they have to be replaced sooner. Also, you have limited range with run-flats when there is a problem. Should this happen in a desolate area outside the range, you’ll be waiting on a wrecker for a while. There is a good chance run-flats will give you a rougher ride, I have had many listeners desire to switch to regular tires after they purchased a car with these. Finally, when you do go to replace them, they are about $75 per tire more expensive, and often are not as readily available in the size you need.

Ask Questions

When car shopping, ask questions about the tires on the car you are considering. The problem is, a lot of salespeople will not know the answers you are looking for, such as how much weight the tires are rated for if you carry heavy loads in a pickup. If this is the case, talk to someone in the service department of the dealership.

If tires are just not a big deal to you, at least find out if the vehicle has a full-sized spare tire and wheel, and if it has run-flat or directional tires.

Photo Credit: nd3000/Shutterstock
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Run flats are a no-no for me. First thing I'd swap out and it's upsetting to waste that kind of $$. Also, the new vehicle MUST HAVE storage room for a spare tire. That is a deal breaker for me.
Alan R.
Hi Jerry,
One thing you forgot to mention is that within the first 100 miles after delivery of your new car, goto a tire store (I prefer Americas Tire/Discount Tire) and get the Road Hazard Warranty! Depending on the type and size of the tire, it will run $15-$30. Considering the cost of a new tire, it's cheap insurance. Ever since I had a tire blow out on a new car car 20 years ago I found out after the fact. I've used the road hazard warrant several times and it saved me a lot of money!
Thanks for all you do!
The Car Pro
Thanks Alan! That’s a great suggestion!

Jerry Reynolds