NOTE: This article assumes you are buying tyres of the same size as those installed currently on your vehicle. If you are looking for wider/bigger tyres or alloy rims, Pakwheels will soon publish another article for that. This article is not a basic article. It focuses on products available in the local market rather than basics of tyre buying. It also assumes you are familiar with tyre size notation. If not, please see this.
A note in favor of buying radial:
I’d urge everybody to buy radial if they can. Although radial tyres are more expensive but they provide predictable braking, greater rain confidence, better grip in cold weather, better cornering, greater steering feedback, lesser fuel consumption, lesser effort in maintaining your vehicle in the lane, plus most radials are tubeless, so you also gain the advantages of tubeless-ness. These include running with a nail/thorn stuck in the tread. Also, tubes currently available in the market are of very poor quality and fail often. Initially (in the 1960s) radial tyres had one disadvantage: lesser load-carrying capacity. Nowadays (in 2010) that problem is solved and most long-haul truckers (10-wheeler and above) in Pakistan are using Bridgestone Super R187, Ling Long LLF06 or Ling Long LLA01 tubetype radials and commuter vans & Hilux are using Bridgestone Leo 677, Bridgestone R623, Lassa Transway, Toyo Tranpath or General Star Sprinter. Also, all the ensuing info like date stamp, load capacity, UTQG ratings etc. hold true only for radial tyres. Buying non-radials is just like a blind date. Whatever your car maybe, it is absurd to go for non-radials (bias ply or cross ply).
Foremost, the most important thing to look for is the date-stamp (whether buying new or used). It is in the form of WWYY e.g 2307 means 23rd week of 2007. Since tyres have a life of around 6 years, it is imperative you don’t buy tyres older than 2 years (even new tyres available in market are 1-2 years old. They spend this much time sitting in go-downs and cargo ships).
Ever seen what happens to a rubber band sitting around? It becomes a slimy mass. Tyre rubber goes through degradation too. Expired tyres fail very catastrophically and could take lives, not to mention costing thousands in bodywork. Therefore never use expired tyres even if they have a lot of groove left.
The other important thing is speed rating. This is marked by a letter such as T or H. T-speed is 190 km/hr. H-speed is 210 km/hr. Most new 12” dia tyres available in Pakistan are T-rated. Almost all tyres in 13” or greater sizes are H-speed or better. The cars available in Pakistan cannot exceed the rated speed of tyres, but there are exceptions: Honda Civic 8th gen (2006-) can easily achieve 212 km/hr but ships stock with H-speed General EuroStars.
Another point which is not mentioned on the tyre is the weight of the tyre. Heavier tyres consume more fuel. Bridgestone MY-01 are V-speed and hence a full kilo heavier than other H-speed tyres of same size and they consume more fuel. Whenever you go to the shop, look for the lightest weight tyres available. Hankook and Michelin tyres are usually the lightest. Michelin are very expensive and not available in 12” (the most common size in Pakistan).
These are of two origins. Those tyres which were brought new in Pakistan and those which were imported in used condition to Shershah. The ones which were bought new in Pakistan came to the tyre shop when somebody replaced a pair; from these 2 maybe 1 was capable enough to be resold. The Shershah variety is called ‘kabli’ just like all other scrapyard import. This variety mostly comprises of studless snow tires (most common are Bridgestone Blizzak series) which are used for a few months in Japan and then discarded, therefore they have plenty of groove. There’s no problem in using winter tyres in summer. As compared to all-season tyres, they have softer rubber so they will wear soon, have stiffer side walls so ride will be bumpy and due to the chunky tread pattern rain grip will be lesser. What you have to be wary of are tyres which have been used for many seasons in Japan hence are very old.
It is difficult to tell the history of a used tyre just by visual inspection. Your tyrewala got a used tyre, he saw the groove was shallow, so he regrooved the tyre using a standard kitchen knife. (Note: Regroovable tyres are also available in the world and this is mentioned on the sidewall of such tyres, however if the tyre was not regroovable and still somebody did, so it would be very weak, nails/thorns could easily puncture it and it could burst easily being thin.) This is mostly done with General Awami Sprint or Silverstone Valiant (both are locally made and non-radial). General discontinued Awami Sprint a few years ago so if you find them somewhere they’ve probably expired. After the regrooving, the tyre was washed with Lux and then polished with Cherry Blossom so that’s why those old tyres look even better than new ones. Again in this case, you have to be careful about the manufacturing date.
You have to be careful of bulges when buying used tyres. As the tyre hits bumps etc. during use, some of the steel/polymer wires that form its skeleton are broken/stretched and form a bulge. This means a weak spot has formed which potentially lead to failure. Most bulges are visible on careful inspection. A bulging tread is definitely more dangerous than a bulging sidewall. Even when buying new tyres, you should keep note that some tyres are more prone to bulging than others e.g Dunlops are very prone to sidewall bulging except of two models: SP Sport 300 and SP Sport 490. All other models incl. Digityre Eco EC-201, LeMans LM701, LeMans LM702, SP10 and SP70i will always develop bulges in the sidewall long before you’ve used up all the tread.
Retreadable tyres are also available over the world. Previously there was a shop named Tire ‘n’ Tires near Karachi Duty Free shop which provided retreading services. Radial tyres could not be retreaded and your tyre should be in good condition (no sidewall cuts or swells) to be regrooved. The party have closed shop since many years. There are retreading services still available for truckers though. Retreaded tyres are good to go if done correctly, however grip and other factors will be different and would depend upon the qualities of the newer material fused over the old tyre.