Tire Buying Guide | Dakota Tires Direct

How to know if you need new tires

Tread Depth

New tires come with 10/32” or 11/32” tread depths. Some truck, SUV and winter tires may have deeper tread depths depending on the brand and model. It is recommended to replace your tires when they have worn down to 2/32”.

Tire manufacturers are always looking for advancements. Tread wear gauges are now equipped in the tread of tires. Consumers are now able to easily indicate their tread depth by just glancing at their tires.

Tire tread

*Not all tire manufacturers have tread depths built into their tires*

6/32” or higher: Your tread depth is satisfactory.

5/32”: Snow covered roads may be harder to navigate, consider replacing your tires.

4/32”: Wet roads may be harder to navigate, consider replacing your tires.

3/32”: You are reaching the end of your tire life.

2/32” or lower: Your tires are considered legally worn, and should be replaced.

Helpful tip: Grab a penny. Put the penny upside down in your tires tread groves. If Lincoln’s hair is visible, it is time to replace your tires.

Tire penny test

Sidewall cracks

Tires are exposed to numerous harsh conditions, and those conditions factor in the rubber degrading over time. Sidewall cracking can happen when your tires are exposed to sunlight, excessive exposure to heat, use of tire cleaning products, improper tire inflation, and even sitting unused for an extended period of time. Tire cracks can cause the underlying structures of your tires to become exposed. This will speed up the deterioration of your tires, and put you at risk for a blowout, tire failure, less responsiveness and even complete loss of control.

Sidewall cracking isn’t known as an immediate safety concern, but cracked tires can worsen in no time, and put you in safety hazard situation. Severely cracked tires should be replaced.

Tire with damage


A bulge in your tire means the interior of your tire has failed and the tire needs to be replaced as soon as possible. Structurally; there is damage to the belts or sidewall chords. Allowing air to leak from the inside to the body of the tire. There is no safe driving when you have a bulge in your tire. The tire is a tire-bomb and could blow out at any second.

Tire with bulge


While driving, you may notice a vibration. There can be many reasons for a vibration, and your tires could be the cause. It could mean you have uneven tread wear caused by improper inflation, improper alignment, or an out of balance tire(s).

Under inflation will cause excessive shoulder wear. To fix under inflation, add the proper air pressure to your tires. Over inflation will result in excessive inner tire wear. To fix over inflation, let air out of your tires to the proper air pressure.

Tire inflation levels

Improper alignment can cause “heel/toe wear,” which is excessive inner or outer edge wear of the tire. Alike, there is also caster and camber wear. This is where the tires are feathered by the tread being worn lower/smoother on one side and higher/sharper on the other side.

Wheel out of alignment camber

Wheel out of alignment heel toe wear

Out of balance tires will present patchy wear of your tires. If you notice patchy or uneven wear, that could be a sign that your tires are out of balance and you are in need of a tire rotation and/or tire alignment.

Tire out of balance wear

Ultimately, once uneven tread wear has happened, it is almost impossible to reverse. Tire replacement may be the only solution.

Choosing the right tire for you

How to read your tires sidewall

Understanding your tires is important. Each tire has its specs marked on the sidewall. The tire specs include; size, speed rating, load rating, U.S. DOT number, max air pressure, and ply rating. The below diagram will show you where to find these specs.

Size, Speed & Load rating defined


Service Description

P = Passenger

LT = Light Truck

ST = Special Trailer

T = Temporary


Tire Width

The tires section width is the distance from sidewall edge to sidewall edge. The higher the number the wider the tire.


Aspect Ratio

The tires section height compared to its section width. Lower numbers mean a shorter sidewall with improved steering & handling


Internal Construction

Radial construction


Rim Diameter

Wheels Diameter in inches, for which the tire was sized


Load Index

Measurement of how much weight each tire is designed to support. The larger the number the higher the load capacity.


Speed Rating

Speed the tire is designed to run for long periods.

S = 112 MPH

T = 118 MPH

U = 124 MPH

H = 130 MPH

V = 149 MPH

W = 168 MPH

Y = 186 MPH

Z = Over 149 MPH

(Y) = Over 186 MPH

Types of tires

It is also important to know what type of tire you need. There is a wide array of tire types to choose from. The below diagram explains each tire type to help you choose the best tire that suits your vehicle.

Tire Type



An All-Season tire is designed for the spring, summer and fall. The rubber that it is made with is designed to extract water and provide traction, performing the best at 44 °and higher.


All-Terrain tires are designed to perform on and off the road. They are made to provide traction and comfort in wet, dry and light snowy conditions. They are an in between highway and mud tire.


The All-weather tire performs well in both the summer and winter seasons. They do fall short on certain winter conditions when compared to Winter tires. They will be stiffer and less aggressive, which will reduce traction in the snow. All in all, All-weather tires provide decent performance year-long, and save on the hassle of changing tires for the winter season.


Highway tires have an All-Season tread pattern, but are designed to handle heavier loads.


Mud tires are used in rocky, steep, sand and dirt filled terrains. They provide the best off-road traction in those extreme conditions.


Passenger tires are designed to give vehicles a smoother ride, and great traction in wet and dry conditions. They are used for mainly hatchbacks, sedans, coupes, crossovers, and many SUV, minivans, and smaller pick-ups.


Performance tires are made with unique tread patterns, features and rubber compounds; giving them increased responsive handling and traction in wet and dry conditions.


Trailer tires are designed for towing. The materials that make up the sidewalls are thicker, with a tread pattern focus for heavier loads.


Winter tires also known Snow tires are designed for use on snow and ice. They are made with a special compound that keeps them soft and flexible in extreme cold temperatures.

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