At Bockman’s, We Sell Tires to You at Cost—Every Day

Winter is just around the corner, and with it, often comes the need for new tires. Whether you are thinking of getting a new set of snow/winter tires or a new set of all-season tires, the whole process can be pretty confusing.

With multiple brands, styles, names, and prices, how do you choose the best tire for their needs? And what do all those numbers on a tire mean?

We’ve put together this tire guide to help you make a more informed decision. From knowing when your tires are worn out to picking the best ones for your vehicle, we have everything you need to know right here.

Once you make your decision on tires, remember that at Bockman’s Auto Care, we sell our tires at cost to you every day.

What the Numbers on Tires Mean

If you have ever looked at a tire’s sidewall, you will see a whole lot of numbers and letters. One set of numbers is most likely the serial number, but all the other numbers and letters mean something. When you see a set of numbers on your tire that says something like, “P195/60R15 85H,” this is referring to the tire size and type.

  • P – Passenger tire. You might also see LT for light truck or T for temporary.
  • 195 – Tire section width, measured in millimeters, from sidewall to sidewall.
  • 60 – This is called the aspect ratio, and it compares the height of the tire to the width. The lower the number, the wider and lower the tire will be.
  • R – The ‘R” tells you that you have a radial tire, which is a type of tire construction meaning that the belts inside the tires run diagonally, rather than just around the circumference of the tire. A “B” instead of an “R” means a bias ply, which means the tire may have more plies (belts) but it doesn’t handle as a radial tire will.
  • 16 – This the size (in inches) of the rim that the tire will fit on.
  • 85 – This is the load index, which means it measures how much weight each tire can support. The larger the number, the more weight the tire can withstand.
  • H – The maximum speed rating of the tire. The letters are:
    • S = 112 MPH
    • T = 118 MPH
    • U = 124 MPH
    • H = 130 MPH
    • V = 149 MPH
    • Z = Over 149 MPH
    • W = 168 MPH
    • Y = 186 MPH
    • (Y) = Over 186 MPH

While the speed rating sounds pretty exciting, there is no need to pay for a tire that is speed rated Z for your 2006 Kia. You will only be wasting your hard-earned money.

Basic Tire Terminology

Like many things, tires have their own lingo. The following are a few tips into basic tire terminology:

  • DOT – Department of Transportation – The government department in charge of tire safety.
  • UTQG – Uniform Tire Quality Grading – The method used to test tires so they can be graded for how well a tire tread wears down, its traction ability, and ability to handle high temperatures.
  • Tire Icons – These give you insights into a tire’s unique benefits. For example, LT means the tire is designed for light trucks and heavier weights than a typical passenger car tire. M&S means the tire was designed to work well in mud and snow.
  • Specs or Tire Specs – The specifications of a tire, meaning its traction rating, treadwear rating, and speed rating. A tire with poor “specs” is a tire with poor quality.

There might be other terminology you are unfamiliar with, but we will try to cover those in the following segments.

Types of Tires

Tires go by many names, and this can be very confusing for consumers who don’t buy tires more than once every few years. Do you need All-Season Tires or Ultra Performance Tires? Let’s break the types of tires down to help you make the decision process easier.

  1. All-Season Tire: These work best on cars and minivans or in climates where the temps rarely hit freezing. These tires typically last between 40,000 and 80,000 miles and they are quite cost-effective.
  1. Performance All-Season Tire: These are great for cars and minivans, as well as newer model cars. Often lasting between 40,000 and 60,000 miles, these offer better braking and handling capabilities than the regular all-season tire.
  1. Ultra Performance Tire: You often find these on sports cars. They last about 40,000 miles and offer exceptional handling on dry pavement. While they can be driven on wet pavement, we don’t recommend them in the winter!
  1. All-Terrain Tire: These are designed for SUVs and light trucks, including 4-wheel drive vehicles. This type of tire lasts between 40,000 and 60,000 miles, and despite the name, works best for freeways and very light off-road use, such as dirt or gravel roads.
  1. Winter or Snow Tire: For areas that experience harsh winters, like northern Illinois, winter tires are a great choice for handling snow and ice, and the rubber performs well in below-freezing temperatures. Since these are often put on and then removed in the spring, mileage estimates for how long they last are hard to measure.
  1. Performance Winter Tire: For areas that receive severe winter weather, such as those who live on unpaved roads in mountainous terrain, these tires offer enhanced winter traction and performance.

For those who don’t drive far or very often, an All-Season or Performance All-Season tire might be perfect for your driving style. If you live in Chicago and drive longer distances or drive frequently, it might make sense for you to invest in a second set of rims with winter/snow tires. If you want to discuss the economics of buying a second set, give us a call at 815.756.7413 or send us a message. We’re happy to help. Likewise, if you still aren’t sure which type of tire would work best for you, give us a call at 815.756.7413 or email our auto repair experts.

What Type of Tires Are on Your Vehicle Now?

When you get close to needing new tires, you may want to ask yourself these questions to help determine what you want in your new set:

  • What kind of tires do you have now? Have you been happy with them?
  • Are you able to drive through rain, snow and other inclement weather?
  • How satisfied are you with how long they’ve lasted? Or did they wear out too soon?
  • Have you been happy with or disappointed by the ride or the handling?

Again, if you’re still not sure, that’s OK. The team here at Bockman’s is happy to answer your questions and guide you towards the perfect tire for your needs.

Knowing When Tires Need to be Replaced

Now that we’ve walked through tire terminology and types of tires, the question is: How do you know when it’s time for new tires?

Here are several indicators:

  • Low tire tread
  • Severely uneven tire tread
  • Bald spots on the inside or outside of the tire
  • A bald section in the middle of the tire
  • A bubble on the sidewall
  • Actual chunks of tire missing in the tread

Low tire tread is probably the most common reason to replace tires. And traditionally, an easy way to measure tire tread involves using a penny. That’s right, a penny. The penny tests involve inserting the penny with Lincoln’s head sticking into the middle of the tire tread. Historically, if you could see ALL of Lincoln’s head, you needed new tires. If his hair was mostly covered, you were still good to go. The problem with this measuring tool is that is waits until the tires are EXTREMELY thin, as in you only have 2/32nds of tread life left. At 2/32, the tires have worn down from 10/32nds or 12/32nds. They’re extremely thin and can pose a safety risk.

A more common test these days is to do the same test but with a quarter instead. If you can see ALL of Washington’s head, you need new tires. If his hair was mostly covered, you are still good to go. Using the quarter, you’re replacing your tires when there’s 4/32nds of tread left.

Want a more precise measuring tool? You can also purchase small devices that actually measure the depth of the tire tread.


Here are some common tire-buying questions:

Q: Why are my tires bald on the inside? (or the outside, or down the center) 

Answer: Tires that are bald directly in the center are wearing unevenly due to an excessive amount of air pressure. Keeping your tires correctly pressurized will not only improve traction but prevent blowouts and tire wear.

Tires that are bald on the inside or the outside indicate a problem in the front-end alignment of the vehicle or a failure of one or more front end components that keep the front end in proper alignment. Before you purchase another set of tires, have the front end suspension and steering components inspected.

Trying to short-cut it and not addressing front-end issues will result in very rapid tire wear, which is simply a waste of money.

Also, keep in mind that rotating the tires will not make the opposite side wear down. Once there is a bald spot on the tire, it must be replaced.

Q: Can I buy just one new tire? Or can I mix different types and tread patterns? 

Answer: Generally speaking, you shouldn’t do this. Of course, you can, but the best performance comes from a set of 4 matching tire types and tread designs. Cars that have different tires often have stability problems, poor braking performance and difficulty in handling. Have an all-wheel drive or 4-wheel drive vehicle? Putting on different tires, even two at a time, can cause catastrophic and really expensive damage to the transfer case and differentials.

Q: How Can I Extend the Life of My Tires? 

Answer: Tires are expensive, so it makes sense to take care of them and get as much mileage as possible. There are remarkably simple ways to take care of your tires so they last longer, including:

  • Checking tire pressure regularly (at least once per month). Don’t rely strictly on the tire pressure monitoring system.
  • Rotate the tires as recommended by the manufacturer.
  • Inspect the tread for objects such as rocks or screws and remove them.
  • Check your car’s alignment every 12-18 months depending on your driving habits.
  • Avoid hitting curbs, rubbing the sidewall on a curb, or hitting objects.
  • Avoid hard cornering.
  • Avoid abrupt braking and acceleration.
  • Don’t overload the tires with excessive amounts of weight.

It’s that simple!

Q: Can I put used tires on my car?

Answer: This is not recommended. A used tire for a spare is okay because its use is only temporary, but installing used tires for every-day driving can be a safety hazard.

Q: Why did my last set of tires wear out so quickly?

Answer: Without seeing the tires, it can be difficult to say. If you still have the tires on the vehicle, bring it over to Bockman’s for some expert advice regarding your current and next set of tires.

Q: Are little known or unknown tire manufacturers just as good as brand name tires? 

Answer: This is difficult to answer with a yes or no since there are literally hundreds of tire manufacturers.

Big-name tires often earn their name due to their reputation for having quality tires that perform and last well.

This isn’t to say that there aren’t some lesser-known names that also make quality tires. Over time, lesser-known names can also earn a reputation, but it could also be that the company remains not as well known because of a lack of product quality.

Again, this is where the team here at Bockman’s can help. We help our clients buy new tires every day, so we know what brands and styles perform well and where you can get the most value for your money.

Not to mention: We sell our tires at cost to you every day. If you have questions about tires for your vehicle, give us a call at 815.756.7413. Ready to buy? Schedule an appointment with us today.