What Tires Do I Need for Different Terrain?

Before purchasing a set of tires, you should know which types of tires are best suited for the terrain on which you normally drive. Different tires are suited for different types of driving, and the wrong tire can result in serious damage or injury.
To narrow down your options, ask yourself these questions:

1. What is the worst-case scenario? If you live in a colder area of the country, you know you’ll be driving in heavy snow a few months out of every year. Or, if you like to off-road your truck, you know you’ll be dealing with mud and uneven terrain on occasion.

2. What are your normal driving conditions? Do you drive in suburban areas with moderate speed limits and traffic? Or are you faced with city driving? Do you like to drive fast or take corners at break-neck speed?

The tires you need will depend on both the worst-case and typical terrain. If possible, you want to purchase a set of tires that will accommodate both.

Performance Tires

I live in Houston, Texas, where traffic is always present. Getting on any of the major freeways in the city means changing lanes frequently, varying speeds, and making use of quick reflex. In those conditions, performance tires are recommended.

The purpose of performance tires is to make your vehicle more responsive. You can slow down and speed up with greater efficiency, meaning you are more likely to avoid an accident in city conditions. There are also ultra-performance tires, which are designed more for sports cars and other flashy vehicles.

All-Terrain Tires

For many U.S. residents, all-terrain tires are a perfect solution because they are designed for use in all types of conditions as long as it isn’t too extreme. They can be used on unpaved roads, for example, but probably not for heavy off-roading. They can also handle moderate amounts of ice and snow on the street.

All-terrain tires are excellent choices for truck- and SUV-owners who want peace of mind. As long as you live in an area with moderate weather they should provide all the traction you need.

Mud and Snow Tires

The next step up is the mud and snow tire, which has an M/S or M+S designation on the tire’s sidewall. This type of tire is designed for moderate mud and snow, and although it can handle more than all-terrain tires, it isn’t for heavy or everyday use in severe mud or snow. The tread pattern is wider, providing more grip, and it might be slightly higher than other tires.

Winter Tires

The final category of tires to consider is winter tires, which are designed for use on terrain with severe snow and/or ice. These tires have a shorter lifespan because the tread wears down from contact with snow and ice, but they are a must in areas with severe winter weather. Studded winter tires provide more traction and better responsiveness.

As mentioned above, you want to buy tires that are suited for all the types of terrain you encounter throughout the year. You might have to use special winter tires during the winter months, but other than that you should take into account all possible driving conditions.

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