As automobiles become more complex, one constant remains: Tires are what connect your vehicle to the road. Even high-tech self-driving cars and electric drive systems won’t get far without this mix of rubber, fabric, wire and air.

Picking the best tires for your vehicle and your driving conditions involves several considerations. But do you know how to choose the best tires for your car and when to replace them?

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Replacing your tires soon and wanting to pump up your knowledge? There are three main types of seasonal tires to consider: all-season, snow or winter tires, and summer tires.

In temperate climates, drivers should stick with all-season tires. Combining optimal handling and performance with less noise, this type of tire is the best option for most locations.

Areas in the North that experience icy-cold winters and snow require a tire designed for traction in the cold. Snow or winter tires employ a softer rubber compound that improves grip in wintry conditions. However, a softer tire wears faster than all-season and all-terrain tires.

High-performance vehicles, such as souped up muscle cars or luxury sports sedans, in warmer climates are typically the only cars that should use summer tires. These tires offer better cornering, response and braking ability, but, like snow tires, they won’t last as long as all-weather and all-terrain tires.

All-season highway-tread tires work best for the average commuter car that is used primarily on smooth highways and city and suburban streets. For more challenging terrain, like rougher roads, unpaved surfaces and off-roading, a more aggressive all-terrain tire gives you more traction.

Size and service description

Looking for the correct tire size? This information can be found on the sidewall of your current tires, on the driver’s door jamb or in your owner’s manual (along with recommended tire pressure). The service description—something most drivers don’t consider—categorizes the tire’s weight-carrying capacity and speed rating. Selecting the correct size but wrong service description can result in a less comfortable ride and could potentially put you and your passengers in danger.

When to replace

Most brand-name all-season tires should last between 60,000 and 80,000 miles. But even if the mileage on your tires is low, if the tires are old, they may have dry rot, which can compromise safe handling. Start thinking about replacing them when there’s only 4/32 of an inch of tread remaining. Check this by sticking a quarter (Washington’s head pointing downward) into the tread. If the tread touches the top Washington’s head, you have at least 4/32 of an inch of tread remaining. If you can see space between the top of his head and your tread, it’s time for new tires.

When replacing tires, always do so in sets of two or four. It’s also important to have the same make and model of tire on all four wheels. Mismatched tires can damage a vehicle—and compromise safety—by causing handling instability or confusing the vehicle’s computer and straining the components that allow your wheels to turn.

Get Trustworthy Service

At AAA Approved Auto Repair facilities, members get a free multipoint vehicle maintenance inspection upon request and a 10% discount (save up to $50) off labor on regularly priced services. Plus, repairs are backed by a 24-month/24,000-mile warranty.

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