Tire Shopping: Like Shoe Shopping, For Your Light Truck.

You wouldn’t wear sandals in the snow. And sneakers at a wedding would be quite out of place. Just as proper footwear is critical to your comfort and correct body alignment, appropriate tires are vital to affecting the overall performance and handling of your vehicle.

If you’ve shod your SUV with this weekend’s “four for $99” special, you can expect an underwhelming experience on the roadways. The wrong tire does little to benefit the vehicle wearing it. The good news – optimizing your vehicle’s performance is as simple as shopping for the right shoe.

When choosing tires – just like shoes – start by looking for the proper fit. Take a moment to realize how you plan to use your vehicle and then understanding basic tire designs can help you select the right one for the job. With the increasing popularity of light trucks and SUVs, tire manufacturers have worked diligently to offer many tire options.

Highway or rib design tires provide traction on wet and dry surfaces. The tread block elements are aligned in a rib pattern with wide grooves to help resist hydroplaning. If you’re one of those 90+% who never take their SUV or pickup off-road, these tires provide long mileage, a comfortable ride and excellent handling performance. Like the casual loafer, these tires are made for everyday use, commuting to work and for those family vacations.

A tire marked “A/T” is designed for all-terrain use but also performs well on the highway. An all-terrain tread has many independent blocks separated by large grooves for off-road traction. Varied sizes and shapes of tread blocks minimize highway noise. The A/T could be compared to a tennis shoe: comfortable and dependable, but only able to handle mildly rugged conditions. If you run off-road only occasionally, for instance weekend camping trips, or see a lot of gravel in your daily driving, the A/T is your “shoe”.

An A/T tire might offer options that an off-road enthusiast would enjoy, but it is not as aggressive as the M/T tire. A tire designated with an “M/T” is used for “Max-Traction.” These dutiful soldiers easily handle muddy and rocky surfaces frequented by the serious adventurer. The M/T tire is the “hiking boot” of tires. Rugged tread elements with large tread voids offer excellent traction to handle the most severe driving conditions. Whether charging up a sand dune, climbing over rocks or heading down the trail, look for the M/T tire.

An “A/S” denotes all-season tires which are dependable for many road conditions. For severe snow conditions, a mountain snowflake pictograph with an M+S represents the industry’s standard for tires, much like snow boots, designed for wintry conditions.

When shopping for tires, don’t be intimidated by the choices. Think of it as a chance to shop for shoes – for your automobile. Search for the right combination of comfort, style and performance to suit your vehicle.

Size up options by visiting your local tire dealer or retailer, the professionals who want to help you “put your best foot forward.” For more information visit www.bridgestonetire.comwww.tiresafety.com.

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