How to choose the best tires for highway driving?

Article by Christian A., on August 13, 2018

The importance of tires in car can never be underestimated. They are more than just rubbers, as tires essentially connect the car to the ground, enabling the transfer of power to propel the vehicle. However, the performance, efficiency, traction as well as safety of tires aren’t the same.

Because of different conditions on or off the road, different tires are made. If the wrong type of tires is used, then there would be a compromise in performance, efficiency, traction and safety. Thus, choosing the right tires for the right situation is very important.

Quite a number of drivers have to travel on highways to get to their destinations. Highway driving is quite different from driving in the city. In the highway, cars don’t have to slow down to traffic. Instead, cars can go as fast as the speed limit permits. Interestingly some highways don’t have speed limits. To optimize performance, efficiency and traction, you need to choose the right tires for highway driving.

Since highway driving is about speed, you should consider this element in choosing your highway tires. Tires do have speed restrictions. There are tires that can optimally perform up to 81 mph (130 km/h) and there are those that allow the car to go speeds of beyond 149 mph (240 km/h). Most states in the United States have highway speed limits of between 60 mph and 70 mph, although in Texas, cars can go as fast 85 mph in the highway. So, in most states except Texas, even the lowest speed-rated tires (M) are applicable.

In some motorways in Europe, there is no speed limit and cars can go as fast as they can. The tire speed rating is always expressed as a letter placed next to the tire’s load index. M, N, O, P and Q tires are rated at 81 mph, 87 mph, 93 mph and 99 mph respectively, while V, W and Y tires are rated at 149 mph, 168 mph and 186 mph respectively. Z tires, meanwhile, are rated at 149 mph and beyond. Always stick to the speed rating in choosing tires for the highway, no matter what type they are.

But remember, speed isn't just the factor to consider, but also the current road and weather conditions. Because of this, different tire types have different tread patterns and tread depths. They also differ in tread noise, rolling resistance and ride comfort.

During winter season when snow hits the highways, you would need winter tires that are made from special rubber compounds that remain pliable in cold, allowing them to offer better grip and braking. All-season tires can also be used, but they have the “mud and snow” mark (M+S, M/S, M&S or MS). The tread compound of all-season tires may harden in the cold, which makes them offer lesser grip than specialized winter tires.

In good weather conditions, or in places where snow is nowhere to be seen, it is better to choose tires with low rolling resistance (LRR). Featuring tread patterns that allow them to roll easier on the road, LLR tires can minimize wasted energy, allowing for greater efficiency and greater gas mileage.

For highway driving, you may choose high-performance tires or ultra-high performance tires, as they are designed to optimize high-speed control, steering response, and stability. They are also designed to optimize cornering, accelerating and braking. These tires usually have independent tread blocks and multiple sipes.

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