How to know what car tyres to buy

close up image of mercedes benz tyre

RACV

Posted December 28, 2021


As well as keeping you moving, your car’s tyres are a key safety feature for getting you around. Here are five things to know when buying them.

Your tyres are the only things connecting your car – and you – to the road. They are what controls our vehicle’s potential acceleration, braking and cornering forces.

That said, tyres do wear over time, and it is important to continually ensure they are inflated, as well as being checked for wear or damage. When checking tyres, it is important to understand how to know when it is time to upgrade, and what to look out for when buying new tyres.

So, if your tyres’ condition is less than ideal, here are the RACV Mobile Tyres and Vehicles engineering teams’ tips for replacing them safely and sustainably. 


Five questions to ask to know what car tyres to buy

 

How to tell if you need new tyres?

All tyres have inbuilt tyre wear indicators to show when they’ve worn down too far. You can look at the ‘tread’, (the outer rubber that makes contact with the road) yourself to see if they are due for a replacement because of uneven wear. Look for small, raised squares set that create tyre wear or a weak spot in the bigger grooves of the tread. When the face of the tyre wears down to this point, your wheel balance may no longer be aligned - it’s time to replaces your tyres.

Remember that any bulges, deep cuts, exposed cords or other damage on your tyres also make the tyre unroadworthy. 

What are the best tyres for my car?

Step 1: Figure out what size tyres you need. You can do this by finding the size on the wall of your tyre, or on the placard inside the driver’s door jamb (the part of the car when the door attaches to the vehicle frame). Look for four numbers specifying width, profile, rim and load – they will look something like this: 205 55 R16 91V. 

Step 2: Once you have this, you can compare features and prices. Some high-end manufacturers have tyres specifically designed for a particular model of car, and so if your car falls in this category, this will be your ideal choice.

In other cars, a sound choice is to replace your tyres with the ones they were fitted with by the manufacturer. If they’re outside your price range, choose the highest-quality tyre you can afford. 

stack of used dusty black tyres

Worn tyres generally have less tread. Bulges, deep cuts or damage make the tyres unroadworthy. 


What are the best value tyres for my spend?

Tyre prices vary from budget to premium. The more you spend, the more likely you are to come to a quicker stop, enjoy better grip and handling, a more comfortable ride, and less cabin noise. Try to buy the best-quality tyre you can afford. The more a tyre has been used, the more ‘tread’ that has gone, leaving it ‘bald’ or appearing too smoother. So overall, if you're buying cheap tyres, new budget tyres are always better than expensive bald tyres.

How do I recycle my old car tyres?

Australians throw out 56 million tyres a year, and only 10 per cent of them are recycled domestically. The rest go to landfills, are exported overseas or are illegally dumped.

To avoid this fate, make sure the mechanic, garage, or tyre retailer you use will recycle your old tyres. Look for the Tyre Stewardship Australia (TSA) logo to ensure the business is accredited. If you have old tyres on your hands, Planet Ark’s website will direct you to a tyre recycler near you. 

How do I take care of my new tyres?

Maintaining correct pressure will prolong the life of your tyres – incorrect pressure accelerates wear and can impair grip and stopping ability, and underinflated tyres increase fuel consumption. You can do this at your local petrol station.

All car makers recommend tyre pressures for their cars, listed on a small placard usually found inside the driver’s door jamb or on the fuel cap. Check the pressure once a week when the tyres are cold. While you’re at it, check the tyres’ tread depth and look at their  general condition. If in doubt about bulges, cuts or wear, check with your mechanic or a tyre specialist. 

Remember that faulty wheel alignment can cause uneven and premature tyre wear, so if you notice this, get it checked too. And if you’re having new tyres fitted, it’s worth having the alignment checked while you’re at it.

 

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The information provided is general advice only. Before making any decisions please consider your own circumstances and the Product Disclosure Statement and Target Market Determinations. For copies, visit racv.com.au. As distributor, RACV Insurance Services Pty Ltd AFS Licence No. 230039 receives commission for each policy sold or renewed. Product(s) issued by Insurance Manufacturers of Australia ABN 93 004 208 084 AFS Licence No. 227678.