How to Find Wheel and Tire Packages For Your Specific Needs
Have you ever thought about how your vehicle’s tires are the single connection point between you and the road? Similarly, wheels are actually the only link between tires are the vehicle itself. Interesting, right?!
It’s important to consider these interconnected facts as they’re solid proof that in more ways than one, a vehicle is only as good as its’ wheels and tires.
For instance, you can invest in a top-of-the-line vehicle with a massively powerful engine and outfit it with every performance-enhancing modification under the sun, but if you top it all off with a so-so wheel and tire package or you shop wheel and tire packages by looks alone, your vehicle will never reach its full potential. In this post, we’ll talk about the importance of wheels and tires along with telling you how to find the best ones that will fit your driving needs.
Reasoning Behind New Wheels and TiresMaybe your new vehicle isn’t so new anymore, and it’s high time you replace those aging OE tires and wheels. The easiest way to proceed is to look for wheel and tire packages that are an exact replica of what you currently have on your vehicle. But before you do that, consider whether or not you’ve been happy with your current setup. Have you ever noticed any season-specific or weather-specific handling issues? Are you interested in doing more with your vehicle than just commuting to work or tooling around town? If the answer to any of those questions is yes, you can look for wheel and tire packages that are the same size as your current equipment but are designed for different conditions or specific uses.
Then again, maybe you’re looking into new tires and wheels because you want to give your vehicle a whole new look or you want to take its performance to the next level. No matter what your reason for shopping wheel and tire packages may be, you’ll need to do it with your eyes wide open because changing your wheel and tire type and size will affect your vehicle’s handling, responsiveness, overall ride quality, and reaction to different road conditions. It may also have a noticeable impact on the lifespan of your tires.
The right wheel and tire setup will make driving a joy. The wrong setup will, at best, cause a lot of frustration and at worst, cause damage to your fenders, shocks, struts, and brakes.
Now let’s dig into how your driving preferences and goals can help you choose between wheel and tire packages that will fit both your vehicle and your lifestyle.
Let’s Talk TiresYou probably already know that there are a variety of tires that are made for different driving styles and requirements. Most tires, however, fall into these main categories:
Passenger Tires: You get what you pay for with these budget-friendly tires. The low price of these super basic economy tires makes it easier for some people to buy new tires when their old ones wear out (which is good). Be warned as the models that fall into this category aren’t known for their performance or their tread lifespan.
All-Season Tires: This is usually your mid-range, workhorse tire designed to provide acceptable performance in a variety of road conditions for most drivers, year-round. They get the job done whether the road is wet or dry. They can even handle some snow and ice. They’re also built to last, and typically have a longer tread life than many other tires. That said, it’s important to understand that all-season tires come in many sizes, load capacities, and speed ratings. You can confirm that the tires you’re looking at are all-season tires by looking for an M+S, M&S, or M/S (which stand for mud and snow) on the sidewall.
Summer Tires: Also known as performance tires, these tires are designed for speed, traction, and agility when there is no chance of icy or super slick conditions. Many drivers like summer tires because they have special tread patterns that put more rubber in contact with the road, which results in better responsiveness whether a driver is cornering or braking. To put it simply, these tires boast maximum grip. Just like with other tires, these come in different grades, from high performance all the way to extreme performance. These tires also don’t have specific markings of their own, but note that if you don’t see M+S, you may be looking at performance tires.
Winter Tires: Colloquially known as snow tires, these tires are made of special rubbers and have a unique tread design that offers the best possible handling in ice and snow. To make matters confusing, winter tires will also have an M+S, M&S, or M/S on the sidewall, so look for a picture of a mountain with a snowflake — a marking that will tell you at a glance whether the tire you’re looking at meets certain snow performance requirements. There are performance winter tires that do offer some enhanced performance on dry roads but the trade-off is decreased traction in ice and snow.
Extreme Performance Tires: This subset of summer tires stands apart because they offer competition-level handling, steering response, braking, and stickiness. They’re not track tires, but they perform like them! Unfortunately, they also wear like them, which means you’re going to replace them a lot more frequently than all-season tires or even ultra-high performance tires. You probably don’t need this type of tire for short trips to the grocery store and inching along the school pickup line, but if you live somewhere where there are empty back roads to zip around on, these tires can be a lot of fun.
Tires Built for Speed: You’ll find the speed rating of any tire right there on the sidewall. Tires designed to handle high speeds will have the following designations:
- Z rated tires can handle speeds of 149 mph and above
- W rated tires can handle speeds up to 168 mph
- Y rated tires can handle speeds up to 186 mph
- (Y) rated tires can handle speeds in excess of 186 mph
Whether it makes sense to invest in tires rated for these speeds will largely depend on preference, since most drivers won’t ever hit 186 mph. Some people find that speed ratings correspond to specific increases or decreases in ride comfort, traction, cornering ability, tread wear, and tire lifespan, but your experience with the same tires may be quite different.
All-Terrain Tires: With more open space between tread lugs, these aggressive all-purpose tires can handle climbing up rugged terrain like mud and rocky unpaved roads as well as flat highway driving in all kinds of weather. But what really sets them apart is the reinforced sidewall that is present on most models. It provides more load capacity, which is important if you’re driving a truck off-road or taking your camper out into the woods.
SUV Tires: These are not just car tires sized up for larger vehicles. SUV tires have specific design attributes that allow SUVs to be safely operated on a variety of terrains and possibly also in harsher conditions. For instance, most SUV tires have a knobbier tread pattern that performs well off-road and siphons water away from the point at which the tire makes contact with the ground. They also use harder rubber to support the greater weight of these vehicles and tend to have a lower speed rating than car tires.
LT (or Light Truck) Tires: Light truck tires are designed to handle heavier loads than passenger truck tires or SUV tires thanks to stiffer sidewalls and a higher load capacity. They won’t offer enhanced handling or a smooth ride, but that’s not why people buy LT tires. These are working tires that let drivers tow heavy loads and carry cargo safely. The best thing about them is that they are built to last.
So What About Wheels?Obviously, tires are only one half of the equation when you’re shopping for wheel and tire packages! Looking at sets can make the process of replacing your wheels (or outfitting your car with cool aftermarket equipment) easier since you know that the tires will fit the wheels and vice versa. What should you be looking for in a wheel? Besides making sure that the wheels you’re most interested in will actually fit your vehicle, you also need to think about how you drive. Sounds a lot like shopping for tires, right? It definitely is, though there are a few more things you’ll need to consider before you can confidently hit ‘Add to Cart’. For instance:
Do you want to lose a little weight?
Nowadays, a lot of vehicles come standard with alloy wheels, but if yours is not one of them then you may not know what all the fuss is about. Alloy wheels weigh less, reducing unsprung weight (i.e., the weight of the parts of your vehicle that aren’t supported by the suspension), which in turn improves cornering and lets you steer more precisely. This is most important for drivers who are driving hard on high performance tires, which can put a lot of force on those wheels. Alloy wheels also allow brakes and rotors to cool more effectively (especially in racing conditions), which can help rotors last longer and reduce brake fade. Finally, the simple fact that alloy wheels weigh less — reducing the overall weight of your vehicle — means they may increase fuel economy.
What if you’re most interested in good looks?
A desire to personalize your vehicle may be what prompts you to start looking at wheel and tire packages, but you still need to think about performance. If you’re not looking for any change in how your vehicle handles, look for wheels and tires that are the same size you have now but flashier. You may have more options than you think, even if you’re not sizing up or down. OE Wheels makes replica wheels designed to fit more vehicles than the OEM wheels they’re based on — and in more finish options — so you’ll have a lot to choose from.
Do you want the smoothest possible ride?
If you drive for pleasure, then you’re probably less interested in looks and more interested in how new wheels and tires will make your vehicle feel. Smaller wheels tend to be paired with tires that have higher sidewalls, which in turn means more flex and less road feedback. You’ll glide right over potholes and road debris without even feeling it and your tires may last longer. Just be sure that you don’t choose a wheel set that’s too small for your vehicle.
Are you all about those performance gains?
Bigger is often better when it comes to cornering, acceleration, faster braking, and responsiveness. A larger diameter wheel paired with tires with shorter sidewalls won’t just give you a cool low-profile look; that new wheel and tire set will also drive amazingly. You’ll definitely feel the road under you, and that feedback might just make you a better driver! Just be careful that you’re not overloading your vehicle with a plus-size wheel and tire package that ends up putting more wear and tear on your brakes and suspension.
Do you want to install them and forget them?
Keep in mind that some wheel finishes will require special maintenance to look their best and may not stand up to the chemicals used to de-ice roads in winter. If you want to drive on your wheel and tire set year-round, choose wheels that won’t require specialty care to stand up to the rigors of the road and also make sure to pair them with all-weather tires that will give you solid performance in almost any weather conditions.
Other Things to Look for in Wheel and Tire PackagesNow comes the tough part! You’re probably looking at wheel and tire packages because they offer a good value and have free mounting and balancing. But which to choose? That really depends on what’s important to you. Are you most concerned with ride quality? It’s all about compromise, since gaining enhanced performance in one area (like cornering) may cause you to sacrifice enhancements in others (like durability). You should decide what a quality ride means to you before you start shopping.
Are you bothered by road noise? One thing many drivers don’t consider when shopping for wheel and tire packages is volume! If most of your driving involves cruising around town, then you probably won’t notice a difference when your new wheels are installed. But if you do a lot of highway driving in an SUV, you could end up with a set that drives you crazy. Do a search for reviews of the wheel and tire set you’re considering along with the word ‘noise’ to see if anyone has encountered issues.
Don’t forget about TPMS! If your vehicle was built in 2007 or later, it has an incorporated tire pressure monitoring system. Assuming you want to keep using the TPMS, getting new wheels will mean purchasing new sensors at an additional cost or replacing your old sensors with a TPMS replacement hardware kit.
And finally, you have to think about aesthetics. A lot of us swap out our OE wheels specifically because we want a unique look. If you’re looking at models that are the same size as what you have now, you can shop by looks alone. Some people, however, are drawn to plus-size wheels and tires. If you’re one of them, make sure that you 1. know what will and won’t fit on your vehicle and 2. understand how increasing the size of your wheels and tires will change how your vehicle handles. Not sure or need some guidance? Our wheel and tire specialists are available Monday through Friday from 8am until 6pm Eastern time at 866-273-3651 toll-free.
At the end of the day, we get it — this is a lot to consider! But knowing what size and type of tires will work for your vehicle, how you use your vehicle, and what you want to get out of your new wheels and tires will help you narrow down your options considerably. Ready to start shopping? Shop our wheel and tire packages now.