How to Buy New or Used Off-Road 4×4 Tires

Exercising caution when buying new/used tires is a must because not only are they subject to regulations but can prove to be dangerous for the user if not selected with care. Regulations aside, overall the foremost concern is to render it safe for people driving or using the vehicle.

Given the fact that tires have come a long way from what they were about two decades ago, replacement is still an ordeal that every car owner dreads and it is not just because of the price. An exponential increase in the number of alternatives available for purchase has introduced a new element into the equation – confusion. The best way to deal with the situation is to adjudge the conditions in which you will be driving the vehicle.

If you happen to be an off-road person, then opting for a make which is known for providing traction is a decision that will work in your favor. Not only will it keep you safe while driving over snow but also protect you from bumps that inevitably characterize a rocky terrain.

How should you interpret markings on a tire?

Markings on a new tire might seem like a Mayan inscription but are important all the same because they provide vital information like the type and level of performance that should be expected from this part. To this effect, three different indications that you must pay special attention to are – diameter, load index and speed rating. The load index refers to the maximum weight that the tire can carry and speed rating is a code that indicates the maximum speed at which tires can carry this load.

Speed rating is represented either by a single letter or the letter ‘A’ with a number beside it. Additional markings are provided on tires with off-road capabilities, for example, ‘M&S’ indicates a tire that has been designed for mud and snow, while ‘M&T’ points towards one meant for mud and terrain.

More recent information that has come to be regarded as part of standardization is described as Uniform Tire Quality Grade (UTQG) rating. It is imperative to buy tires that are compatible with conditions in which you will be using them in terms of load and speed. Being able to interpret the markings will definitely stand you in good stead when you enter a shop with the intention of buying a new tire for your vehicle.

What does treading indicate?

Tread of the tire must meet a minimum standard and remember that the less tread on the tires, the shorter its life-span.

Depth of the tread is a key component of the safety of tires and there is a minimum standard that is specified in every country. For example, in UK, the minimum tread depth is 1.6 millimeters while in Australia it is 1.5mm. This information is especially important when driving in wet conditions where tires with low tread depth do not remove as much water and hence are more prone to skidding on the wet surface.

To measure tread depth, the age-old trick of sinking a penny into the groove is still the best – as long as your penny sinks fully, the tire is good in terms of tread.

Is it possible to estimate my budget?

An aspect that needs to be taken into account while shopping for tires is the cost per mm of tread. While cheaper tires might appear to be cost effective, these often lack tread depth and hence need to be replaced frequently. Therefore, from the safety perspective, buying tires that have a large tread depth is strongly recommended. When your tires have a lot of tread in them, they are also safer.

Calling up the company directly and asking the price will enable you to determine the approximate expenditure for original tires but other options like dealerships, retail outlets and gas stations should be explored too.

Important criteria –

Make sure that the new tires which you intend to buy fulfill the following criteria:

  • Preferably these should be identical to the original or alternatively as close as possible. Asking the vehicle manufacturer for suggestions as regards to which tire would be best suited for the vehicle is also a good course of action.
  • For an off-road enthusiast, load carrying capacity of the tire is an important metric and tires meant for light trucks could be more suitable as compared to those meant for passenger cars.
  • Plus sizing is an option for a 4-wheel drive meant for off-road trips but it comes with its unique pros and cons that need to be considered before purchasing.
  • Awareness with regards to technology applied in tire-making and fuel economy also help with selection of new tires.
  • Of course they must have a minimum tread of 2/32 inches or more if possible.

That said, if there is even the slightest hint that would seriously compromise the safety aspect of the tire, a strong recommendation would be move on to the next one.

Buying tires online –

While buying over the internet, check out well-known websites and find a seller who boasts of a good reputation and positive feedback. Ask a lot of questions about the tires and go for a site where you can do this as opposed to one which is not very forthcoming in terms of information. Checking the image from lots of angles, like inside, outside and close up on the treads is also a must.

Buying Used Tires –

It is especially mandatory for the tire being sold as part-worn, and not new to be projected as such so that the buyer is aware of it. Initially buying used tires might seem like a cost saving, but because these do not carry much tread, safety and life-span are issues that come with a question-mark.

Used tires that you must avoid buying however cheap they might be are those that are patched, particularly for off-road driving. Patches are formed when the tire runs over a sharp object, like a nail, and suffers a puncture. You must check for patch marks while buying used tires by feeling with your fingers where the surface of the tire is different as these can be dangerous to drive with.

How old is the tire?

Most tires are only designed to be used for 5 to 10 years and if the used tire in question has already crossed this time-frame, it should be left alone. Age can be checked through the DOT code, wherein the first two digits indicate the week of the year in which it was made and the last two show the year of manufacture.

Whom should you buy used tires from?

Choose to buy from a seller with a good reputation. There is a black market trade in used tires that puts profits before safety, so make sure the tire is safe before using it on your car. In such a situation, it is best to get it inspected by a professional who is a part of the trade as such a person would be better qualified to scrutinize it and observe subtle clues that might otherwise escape you.

A word of caution –

One of the points that you must be aware of when it comes to buying part-worn tires is that very likely, the seller must have had a reason to dispose of them and without knowing the history, you never know what the deal might entail. They may have the required tread depth but they could have been driven badly or may even have some defects that are not easily visible.

Although it is safer to buy new tires, in these cash-strapped times it is understandable that you would want to save money. Just ensure that the tires you buy are safe and suitable for the vehicle and also the conditions that you will be using them.

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