Tires 101: A Glossary of 20 Essential Tire Terminology You Should Know

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Wheels have been around for millennia, with many regarding them as “the hallmark of man’s innovation,” says Megan Gambino for the Smithsonian Magazine. From wooden carts to cars, wheels have found their way into every aspect of modern living. Even some furniture and footwear have integrated wheels. Nowadays, they’re prevalent as tires in automobiles—one of their most common uses in modern society. As a vehicle owner, learning about what arguably is humanity’s greatest invention is essential to becoming a safer driver. This article will discuss a few key terms about tires you may encounter daily to help you take better care of them. Common Tire Terms

• Load rating Load rating refers to the max weight a tire can safely carry without damage. The tire’s construction, material, pressure, and other factors determine this number. It’s essential to pick a tire with a load rating matching your vehicle’s attributes, such as its weight, size, and intended use. Otherwise, you risk wearing out your tires prematurely.

• Rolling resistance Rolling resistance is the force a car needs to exert to keep its tires spinning at a constant speed. Friction between tires and the road often creates this resistance, affecting fuel efficiency and emissions. Typically, manufacturers reduce resistance and improve efficiency by building tires with lighter materials and optimized designs. This effort avoids a low figure that may impede grip and handling.

• Speed rating Speed rating indicates the maximum speed a tire can sustain over prolonged periods. Tires with a higher rating typically have better handling and stability at greater speeds, so choose a tire that matches or exceeds your vehicle’s top speed. A lower-rated tire will wear out quickly and have poor handling, especially if you frequently drive on expressways.

• Tread depth Tread depth is the measurement from the top of a tire’s tread to the bottom of its deepest groove, which impacts friction on wet or slippery roads. Adequate depth, like on brand-new rubber, provides excellent traction, braking, and handling for a safer drive. Meanwhile, worn treads may cause hydroplaning and poor control, leading to accidents.

Learn More About Your Tires Tires are your vehicle’s figurative legs. Without them, driving anywhere is impossible, so getting familiar with tires is crucial. Hopefully, knowing these terms can help you understand how they work, how to assess their condition, and how to maintain them to avoid potential accidents on the road. This way, you can become a safer and more informed driver. The terms above are only a scratch on the surface. Refer to the infographic below to learn more tire terminologies and help your car stay in tip-top shape.

Infographic Source:


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