Car tyres? Pretty much of a muchness, aren’t they? The one-word answer is ‘no’. There are many different kinds of tyre and here are six types used with road cars.
The most commonly-fitted type of car tyre is known as a standard, or all-season tyre. Such tyres are essentially a compromise. They work well enough in both wet and dry conditions, last for a fairly long time and aren’t too noisy on normal road surfaces. A jack of all trades and therefore a master of none? You may think so but in practice, standard car tyres work well for a lot of customers. There are some sub-divisions within this classification. Some car tyres are claimed to give better fuel economy, for example. These nevertheless remain under the ‘standard tyre’ banner.
So, when might you need non-standard tyres? Winter is a good example. Winter tyres come into their own when there’s snow and ice to be tackled. These car tyres have coarse tread patterns, the better to keep the treads clear of snow and ice. Less obviously, they contain rubber compounds and structures that remain flexible at lower temperatures, which enhances performance and roadholding. On the downside, they are noisy and, in normal conditions, wear out faster than standard tyres. For this reason, some people have a set of winter wheels to go with their winter tyres.
A car tyre that performs well in cold weather is totally different from a performance tyre. These, sometimes called ‘summer tyres’, are made of softer compounds, to offer superior grip. As well as having impressive marked speed ratings, such car tyres can cope with the demands of more powerful, faster cars. To do this, they trade wear rate for performance – they don’t last as long as lesser rubberware, and they abhor cold conditions.
As their name implies, run-flat tyres can be used even after suffering a puncture. Such car tyres achieve this with the imposition of a specific distance and speed up to which they can safely be used. Space-saver tyres are a cousin of run-flat tyres. The take up less space in the car but when fitted, must be used with similar restrictions on speed and distance.
What about the still less friendly conditions we might encounter? Enter the all-terrain tyre. For use on such surfaces as gravel and sand, these are particularly tough customers with very bold tread patterns. They have stiffer sidewalls, and the kind of structure that can handle potholes and debris on the road. The car tyre for all seasons? Not really. Sturdy? Yes. Long-lived? Yes? Quiet? Definitely not!
Similarly, mud tyres have an extremely large tread block pattern and are suitable for use only in muddy conditions. Car tyres of this kind are often used on those four-wheel drive vehicles that are actually taken on rough roads; this includes 4×4s that specifically go off-road regularly. The ‘Chelsea Tractor’ that does the school run doesn’t need them.
As should be obvious, the type of tyres you choose depends entirely on the use to which they will be put. Your local Merityre staff will happily give you a professional opinion on what type will be best for your needs.