Buying tires today may seem like a no-brainer, but if you don’t pay attention to a few details, it’s easy to buy tires that don’t belong on your car. Even if you choose the right size, you can still buy tires that are intended for other types of vehicles or that do not meet the requirements of your car. Or, on the contrary, they unnecessarily exceed them. It is also possible to mistakenly buy the wrong rims that are not suitable for your car.

Choose the right dimensions and other parameters

For tires, in addition to the basic dimensions, other parameters are given. It is primarily a weight and speed index. Even in this case, the recommended parameters are listed in the technical license for the vehicle. Be careful with data written freely on the Internet, as some sites often repeat errors reported elsewhere.

Photo: Škoda Auto

In addition to the basic parameters, the tires differ in many other details. Pay attention to the speed index, load index and, for example, whether you are buying “runflat” or other specific tires.

Let’s take the example of a 225/45 R17 91H tire.

The basic markings are quite clear: width 225 mm, diameter 17″ and the number 45 means the ratio of height to width, in our case 45% of 225 mm. Another important marking is 91H. The number 91 indicates the so-called mass (or load-bearing) index. This indicates the maximum load that one tire can carry. In this case, 91 means a load capacity of 615 kg. The letter H is then the speed index, i.e. the highest design speed of the tyre. The letter H means 210 km/h, relatively common for winter tires is the designation T (190 km/h) and V (240 km/h).

Other tire markings include, for example, the letters XL denoting reinforced construction, usually tires suitable for SUVs, off-road vehicles, but also pick-ups and vans. The FR mark means rim protection, the letters SSR, RFT and others similar can indicate runflat tires.

Then you can still find marks on the tires indicating that it is a specific tire developed according to the requirements of the car manufacturer. For example, tires belonging to BMW have an asterisk, Audi the letter A or A0, Bentley tires have B in the wheel, Porsche 911 tires have the letters NA, and so on. Sometimes, however, you will also come across specially designed tires from “mass” brands, especially their stronger models, or cars that have a higher towing capacity.

Don’t buy the cheapest ones

Thanks to the huge competition on the market, you don’t have to pay crazy extra for even top-of-the-line tires and they can be bought at reasonable prices. So don’t buy the cheapest tires from brands you’ve never heard of. Just take a look at the renowned tire tests to see how they fare. There are of course exceptions, and even among cheaper tires you can find decent ones, or at least ones that work acceptably in certain conditions. However, in general, only established brands will offer really good properties in all conditions.

Photo: Dominik Valášek

During our editorial testing of the tires recommended by the manufacturer and the cheapest ones on the market, we have shown that the differences in their performance can be huge and even the average driver will immediately recognize them. But the top tire does not automatically have to be the most expensive. On the contrary, excellent tires can be bought at very favorable prices.

If you then compare the prices of cheap tires and premium ones in regular sizes, the differences are only in the order of hundreds of crowns, and the question is whether you really want to save those few hundreds, only to then scratch your head that you didn’t brake. As part of the total operating costs of the car, an extra charge of a few hundred on tires is actually a negligible item. It really doesn’t make sense to save excessively in this area.

If you have a more powerful car, you should outright ban buying the cheapest off-brand tires. Buy the best on the market. Tire comparison tests will help you with your choice and you will see that really top tires do not automatically have to be the most expensive.

For wheels, check the ET number and also the bolt shape

It’s the same with rims. The choice is wide and the devil knows how to do it. But some are not suitable for winter use, others may not reach the quality of branded rims and are easily damaged on potholes. However, there are not many comparative tests for the rims, and rather you have to look for user reviews. Then be very careful about imitations and copies of branded rims that some fraudsters try to sell through advertising.

They’re not 16s like 16s. If you buy new discs, you need to look at several parameters that are often hidden. Most commonly sold rims are designed for classic tires, so if you have runflats on your car (tyres that enable emergency driving after a puncture), you need a special rim with a different contact surface. And these are usually only available as part of the original car accessories.

Photo: Dalibor Žák

Even if you put the wheels from the Passat on the Octavia, they have no business there. Therefore, be very careful when buying used rims and tires through an ad without physically inspecting the wheels. Sellers will often (sometimes intentionally) give wrong information and sell you wheels that you put on your car but are not supposed to be there. Firstly, you can damage your car (wheels rub against the wheel arch, brake shoe or brake cover plate), secondly, they can kick you out of MOT. And in the event of an accident, the insurance company can even reduce the insurance payment!

Also pay attention to the width of the rim. It makes a difference if the rim is 5.5″, 6″ or perhaps 6.5″ wide. Again, you can find the correct dimension in the large technical document. And in addition to the diameter and width of the rim, you also need to observe the correct value of the ET number, which is the offset – it indicates the distance from the center of the wheel to its landing surface in millimeters. The greater the ET, the more the wheel will be sunk into the fender. A lower ET (the number can be negative) in turn means that the wheel will look out of the fender.

Another important number is pitch. This is not indicated in the technical certificate, but indicates the distance between the screws and their number. 5×112 means five screws and a pitch of 112 mm. The number 4×100 is four screws and a pitch of 100 mm and so on. This is important when ordering wheels so they send you the correct rim. Every decent e-shop wants to know exactly which type of car the wheels will fit. Also check the shape and length of the screws. Some screws have a spherical bearing surface, others are in the shape of a truncated cone. And then, of course, there are cars that have bolts on the wheel hubs and are only fastened with nuts.

It is certainly a good idea to recommend special locking screws to protect the rims against easy theft. Even if you cannot defend yourself against “professional” thieves, the locking screw makes quick removal of the rim difficult and at least deters petty thieves.

Even branded retailers can have interesting offers

There is a common myth among people that branded retailers have exorbitant prices, but this may not be entirely true. This tactic is mainly chosen by premium car companies, who know that their customers will leave their money there. But mass brands of the most widespread car manufacturers regularly come up with interesting price promotions that can compete with the regular offer of e-shops and tire dealers.

Photo: Škoda Auto

Original rims and branded tires do cost something, but compared to the mass offer of e-shops, the extra charge may not be that big. And you get exactly what has been approved and most importantly tested for your car. Original wheels also increase the value of the car, so you get a return on your investment when you sell it.

You can thus have an original set of branded discs in exactly the right size that fits your car. And that includes tires approved directly by the car manufacturer. For example, Škoda even states that all the tires it sells have been tested by the development department directly with specific cars. But such a quality set certainly does not have to cost twice as much as a non-branded alternative from an e-shop. Even the prices can be very similar.

Photo: Škoda Auto

Branded services will also gladly help you with changing shoes. You can also combine it with a pre-season car inspection, oil change and other services. Original accessories, including new wheels and tires, can also be bought advantageously as part of various price promotions.

And one more interesting thing about branded service centers and dealers: you can also have your car changed to winter tires at them, often also at discounted prices, and they will often store a second set of tires in an air-conditioned warehouse for a few hundred crowns. In addition, as part of the pre-season preparation of the car, car manufacturers offer various advantageous service packages connected with the inspection of the car and the inspection of the most important parts.

It is a good idea to check with your brand whether they have such an event in authorized services and what is included. For a few hundred, you can get, for example, diagnostics with a fault memory dump, a geometry check, a test of the battery or chassis components, for which you would probably pay much more, apart from the pre-season check.