The unprecedented events of 2020 have forced on us a period of confinement, loss of income for some and job uncertainty for many more. The economic consequences that could affect many motorists are leading many to reconsider their material needs. As a result, many who might have considered changing their vehicle now find it wise to hold on to it for a few more months, if not years.

Obviously, this necessitates a more meticulous maintenance of the current vehicle. And for some, that could mean buying new tires.

If you own a car or light truck that is already three or four years old, or even more, it’ best to have your tires seen by an expert, unless they are sufficiently worn that you already know you need to replace them. However, if you’re in doubt, it's best to have them inspected.

If the vehicle is even older, the date of manufacture of the tires may indicate that they have dried out or aged and are no longer as reliable as they appear. The industry has set the overall durability of a tire at seven years. Your tire retailer will be able to find the date of manufacture on the sidewall of your tires.

Even though we're already halfway through the season, would you trust your current tires for another three or four months? As well, some motorists may have plans to spend several months of the cold season down south, if that becomes possible. For them, the choice of an all-season replacement tire is even more important.

If new tires are required and need to be changed, budget is, for most of us, an obvious consideration. New tires will certainly be expensive. However, though you may have spending constraints, your safety and that of your passengers is your first concern. It’s important to remember that your life and that of your passengers rests on four points of contact with the ground, each barely larger than the palm of your hand. Just think: those four points are the only ones that touch the road as you drive at over 100 km/h on the highway!

If your vehicle isn't too old, our first bit of advice is to buy tires that exactly match the ones that came with your vehicle out of the factory. At the same time, the idea of switching to better-quality tires should not be overlooked. Just be mindful that doing this is not a guessing game. You need to start by finding out the make and model of the tire you’re interested in and, of course, the price. Choosing a higher-quality tire will certainly bring you more satisfaction behind the wheel and make your travels safer on the road. If you’re looking to upgrade, it’s wise to consult a specialist who will validate your choice.

If you want to change the size of your tires, meanwhile, you will have to go to a specialized workshop as you need to be certain that the new dimensions respect the space in the wheel arch of your vehicle and the mechanics of the suspensions and brakes. This also applies in cases where vehicle owners want to opt for less-expensive winter tires or tires adapted to different rims.

Above all, don't choose lesser-grade tires

Some motorists might be tempted to decide that choosing tires that are less efficient (that have a lower performance rating) than the original factory tires will save them money. This is, to put it simply, not a wise decision.

Most cars and light trucks on the market run on tires with an S or T speed rating on the sidewall. These are regular indexes. On the other hand, many higher performance or more luxurious cars and light trucks come out of the factory with higher performance V, W or Z type tires. We're referring here not just to genuine sports cars; this will also often be the case with premium models.

With these vehicles, it is not recommended to switch to an S or T tire as the vehicle has been designed to perform at its best with higher-performance tires. Reducing tire capabilities could throw the vehicle off balance and make it unsafe to drive in emergency situations.

Conversely, choosing a higher-performance tire with a higher speed rating (from S or T to V or Z, for example) will have the opposite effect, making the vehicle safer in all circumstances. Incidentally, some more-advanced cars come with so-called "summer" tires with very narrow, shallow grooves. These can be replaced by "all-season" Ultra High Performance tires, as long as they are of equal or superior capability.

Here's a true Ultra High Performance (UHP) replacement tire, the Advan Sport A/S + that Yokohama is introducing for spring 2020. Rated for very high speeds, this is an All Seasons type tire with grooves that easily dissipate water from wet roads. It is of course also quiet!

Change from run-flat tires to regular tires

Some vehicles are delivered from the factory with "run-flat" type tires. These tires are not puncture-proof but are designed to travel a certain distance following a puncture. The problem is that they may have less flexible sidewalls that make them uncomfortable on damaged roads.

That's why some owners of cars equipped with these tires choose to change them for regular, softer tires. Here again, motorists have to make sure they choose the same or better quality, which should be easy. Do keep in mind that it’s best to deal with a specialized workshop to remove "run-flat" tires because the procedure is trickier.  

Furthermore, cars that come with such tires don’t have a spare tire or a space dedicated to a spare tire, even a mini tire. The motorist with a flat tire will therefore have to ask for roadside assistance service.

And pickups too

In the case of SUVs, crossovers and pickup trucks, the same recommendations described above apply and more. More specifically, larger SUVs and pickup trucks (for instance Ford F-250s or older Suburban 2500s) must also have tires with load ratings that match the vehicle's use.

Although this is less the case with newer vehicles, there are still older vans that can be equipped with car tires. In this case, some owners may look for less-expensive P (Passenger) type tires to replace worn tires.

But light-duty trucks should really be fitted with LT (Light Truck) type tires capable of carrying a certain load at a given speed without heating. Even if owners honestly never intend to load or overload their light truck, the opportunity may very well present itself and they will ignore the limitations of the tires, putting their lives and the lives of others at potential risk!

In the same vein, some specialized SUVs come with very aggressive tires that can be noisy and uncomfortable in the long run. It is possible to replace them with less-aggressive and quieter tires, but once again, it is recommended that you consult a specialized tire centre that can advise you in the choice of a tire that is both safe and affordable.

If you need new tires for your pickup that sometimes goes off-road, consider the new Geolandar X-AT from Yokohama, a tire for all situations (AT is for All Terrain) that can be installed with a white or black sidewall. It also has an F load rating for small trucks.

Of course, switching from a more regular tire to a very aggressive off-road tire requires a certain amount of discernment. Special-purpose tires such as off-road tires do not necessarily offer the same handling as original tires, and their stopping distance during emergency braking could be longer. They should prove to be very effective on trails and most likely less prone to punctures due to their stiffer and better protected sidewalls. But they may also be less effective on ice and water!

Therefore, when it comes to buying new tires for your vehicle, don't think about cost-saving first. Think about safety and performance first. Don't fall for cheap tires that you might regret buying pretty quickly...

Incidentally, sure as we pay taxes, there’s no avoiding the coming cold season, headed our way sometime in November. Even though we still seem to have a lot of time ahead of us, better safe than sorry! Therefore, expect a special buyerS' guide within the next two months on the sometimes thorny subject of winter tires. In the meantime, have a good trip!