When it comes to selecting new tires for your car, truck, or SUV, the tires’ speed rating is just one of many factors you should consider. Because there are so many different ratings and types of tires available, we’ve created this guide to help you decide which tires are right for your vehicle.
What Are Tire Speed Ratings?
All tires have a speed rating. This rating indicates the optimal speed at which a tire can safely operate over a period of time. If your vehicle’s speed exceeds your tires’ speed rating, your tires may not perform the way they’re supposed to. The higher the speed rating, the more control and improved handling your tires will provide at higher speeds. The tire industry developed the speed rating system to guarantee safe performance at standardized speeds. When you choose a tire with a higher rating, there are some benefits, including:
- Better Handling. The higher the rating, the better it will handle at higher speeds. That means your car, truck, or SUV is easier to control, even when you’re cruising at highway speeds.
- Stiffer Construction. Tires with a higher speed rating tend to consist of softer rubber compounds and have a stiffer construction. This combination means they’re better at cornering, have more stopping power, and provide better steering response.
- Durability. In order to perform at higher speeds, tires with a higher speed rating have to withstand and handle the high temperatures generated by driving at a high speed. That means that tires with a higher speed rating are more durable than low-rated tires.
Types of Tire Speed Ratings
There are several types of tires on the market, each with different speed ratings. What type of tire you choose depends on your vehicle and your specific needs.
All-season tires deliver optimal traction year round, and they feature a tread pattern that can grip the road when it’s raining. All-season tires usually have an S rating, meaning that they can perform at speeds up to 112 mph.
Like all-season tires, touring tires provide optimal traction while providing more responsive handling. They often have a higher speed rating than all-season tires.
Performance tires feature larger grooves for even more traction on wet roads and silica-enriched tread compounds for greater traction in all weather conditions. Performance tires have a higher speed rating than touring tires and all-season tires.
Summer tires are designed for warm weather and provide optimal performance on wet and dry roads. Summer tires often have a V rating, which means that they can perform at speeds of up to 149 mph.
Track and Competition Tires
Track and competition tires usually aren’t intended for everyday use. They’re optimized to perform constant contact with dry roads, so they’re definitely not suitable for all weather conditions. Many track and competition tires boast a Y rating, meaning they can handle speeds up to 186 mph.
All-terrain tires are designed for those times when you want to take your SUV or truck off the beaten path. They provide extra traction when you’re driving through mud, on sand, or on gravel. All-terrain tires, as with all-season tires, usually carry an S rating.
Winter tires are designed to provide optimal traction in harsh winter conditions, especially on sleet- and snow-covered roads. Winter tires usually have a Q speed rating, meaning that they can perform at speeds of up to 99 mph.
How to Choose Speed-Rated Tires
When choosing the right tires for your vehicle, there are several factors to consider. These include:
- Vehicle Make and Model. This is the most significant factor to consider when choosing tires. Consult your owner’s manual to see which size tires your vehicle requires. Your manual will also indicate the maximum speed rating that your car, truck, or SUV can accommodate.
- Price. Setting a budget can help you narrow down your tire options further. By deciding how much money you want to spend ahead of time, you can avoid overspending.
- Weather. What’s the weather like where you live? If it’s sunny and warm most of the year, you might want to invest in a good set of summer tires. If you have to deal with sleet and snow-covered roads, you’ll want to have a set of winter tires and another set, such as touring tires, for when the weather warms up.
- Driving Style. If you prefer a smooth and comfortable drive with very little road noise, consider a touring tire with lower speed ratings. They’re optimized for a smoother ride. Also, look at the tire tread. An aggressive tread design tends to be noisier. If you like to feel every curve when you’re driving, go for a high-performance tire with a high-speed rating. High-performance tires offer a more precise ride, thanks to their stiffer construction.
How to Replace/Install Speed-Rated Tires
Disclaimer: The guidelines in this article are general and not meant to replace instructions for your specific vehicle. Please consult your owner’s manual or repair guide before attempting repairs.
After you’ve selected the right tires for your vehicle, you’ll need to install them yourself, or trust a reputable tire shop take care of the dirty work.
Remove Your Old Tires
Before you raise your car, you’ll need to break the lug nuts loose from the old tires. Raise the vehicle slightly using a tire jack. Then remove the old tires.
Insert a New Valve Stem
Before you install the new valve stem, you’ll have to lubricate it with tire lubricant. Then press the stem into the hole on the rim. Once the stem is inserted, you’ll use the lubricant to lubricate the tire bead and the rim. You can use a spray or a spread-on lubricant.
Place the Tire on the Rim
Lay the rim on a piece of cardboard to prevent it from getting scratched. Then lay the tire on top of the rim. Step on the tire to press the tire onto the rim. Keep pressing until the tire’s lower lip is securely attached to the rim. Add more lubricant and then press down again to secure the upper lip. You’ll need to use a pry bar to force the tire completely on the rim.
Inflate the Tire with an Air Compressor
Once the tire is on the rim, you’ll need to make sure it’s properly inflated before you can put it on the vehicle. Inflate the tire and continue on to the next tire until all four tires are mounted.
Where to Buy Speed-Rated Tires
Make sure to verify the correct tire size for your vehicle.
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