Well don’t worry, as we are hear to teach you everything you need to find the perfect tires for your perfect minivan. We will cover tires sizes, and what those numbers mean as well as other things to look for when selecting new tires, we will also finish up with our selection of what we think are the 5 best tires for a minivan.
Finding Your Tire Size
The first thing you need to do is to work out what tire size you actually need. I always go with the size recommended by the van’s manufacturer, it is what your minivan is designed to run on, and changing from that size can effect the accuracy of your speedometer and odometer as well as changing the handling of the vehicle.
The easiest way to find out the correct size for your tires is to check what is already on the vehicle, in most cases this will be correct as they will either be the originals from when your minivan was manufactured, or will have been replaced with the same size as the original when they were replaced. If you want to check the size that is on your van you can check for a small information sticker just inside the drivers side door, as this should have the original tire sizes printed on it. If you think the tires on the van are not the original size, or if the sticker is missing you can try online tire shops like Discount Tire and Tire Rack who both have tools to work out the size you need from the year, manufacturer and model of your vehicle.
Decoding Tire Sizes
So now you have a list of numbers and letters that probably does not mean much to you, so lets examine those and see what it tell you about your tires.
Taking a 2009 Honda Odyssey LX as an example, the tire size is 235/65-16, or 235/65R16 as it is sometimes written.
The number on the the end after the ‘-‘ or the R is your wheels rim size, so in the Odyssey’s case it has 16 inch rims, or the wheel has a 16 inch diameter. Unless you also plan on buying new rims, this number cannot be changed.
The number at the start, 235 in our case, is the width of the tread pattern in millimeters. I have no idea why tires mix both inches and millimeters, but it certainly does add to the confusion. There are approximately 25mm in one inch, so our 235 tires are actually 9.4 inches wide. Most tires have a width ending with a 5, and they increase in size in 10mm steps, so a 245 width tire would be one size wider and a 225 width tire would be one size narrower.
Getting a wider tire is normally the reason why you would change from the original tire size, but doing this can effect handling, cause your tires to rub on parts of the bodywork or suspension, or even come off the rim if you change sizes too dramatically due to the tire being a lot wider or narrower than the rim you are putting it on, and the tire not being able to seal correctly and hold the air inside.
Your speedo accuracy can also be effected by going with a wider tire due to the last number in our tire size soup, the /65 in our case. This number tells us about the profile of tire, or in understandable terms, how large the size of the sidewall is, but rather than being an actual size in inches or millimeters, it is in fact a percentage. What this means is that your sidewall is that percentage of you tire width, so if you pick a wider tire without changing the profile, the actual sidewall will be taller, changing the overall height of your tire.
To give a quick example, for our 235/65-16 tires, each of the sidewalls is 6.1 inches, but if we move up to a 265/65-16 tire (only just over an inch wider) the sidewalls become, 6.9 inches, and as there is one at the top and bottom of the tire, the overall diameter of the wheel and tire brows by over 1.5 inches. To help combat this change, you can adjust your profile down to help compensate for choosing wider tires, for example a 265/60-16 tire has a sidewall height of 6.3inches, much closer to the 6.1 inch height of the stock tires.
If you are considering changing the sizes of the tires to something that is not designed for your vehicle, please consult a professional so they can explain all of the risks to you.
Treadwear vs. Traction
Two other numbers normally quoted when buying tires are treadwear and a mileage guarantee. It may come as no surprise to find out that these numbers are related, a low treadwear number means that the tire wears out faster, but generally has more traction that a tire with a higher number. This number allows you to decide if you want a high traction tire that may only last 20,000 miles, or if you would prefer to trade some of that traction for an additional 20,000 miles.
With a minivan there is less of a trade to make, as you are not normally looking for every last bit of traction from your tires, as the design of the suspension and the mechanics of driving a heavy vehicle will normally limit you before the traction of you tires becomes an issue, for this reason I normally recommend tires with a treadwear number in the 500-800 range which normally gives an expected life in the 50-80,000 mile range.
How Many Tires Should I Replace?
I often hear from readers that they only need to replace two tires at the moment, and this concerns me a little as it is normally a sign that tire rotations are not being done at regular intervals, if you are rotating all of your tires frequently then all of your tires should be wearing evenly, meaning they all need replacing at the same time.
If you do only need to get two tires, have the company installing them put the new tires on the back of the vehicle, and the existing tires on the front. A lot of people are tempted to put the new tires on the front, especially if their van is front wheel drive, but this can be dangerous, when you brake the rear of your vehicle becomes lighter, if this happens in a turn, or in the wet it is possible for them to break traction, turning the rear of your car into a pendulum and spinning you out of control.
Our Pick of the Best Tires for a Minivan
These tires run around $80 each for our example tire size, and have a treadwear number of 560, which means we should get around 50k miles out of them before they need replacing. These are our pick for best cheap tire. While there may be cheaper off-brand tires available in the size you need we have see the quality of them vary between batches, so while one set may be great, others may get uneven wear or other problems.
Kumho Solus KR21
The are around $90 each for our example size. The treadwear number is a little higher at 680 meaning we should at least get a few more miles out of them to help offset the purchase price. This is our pick for best mid-priced tire based on the mountains of great reviews they have been receiving.
Yokohama Avid Touring-S
Now we step up to $100 per tire for our example size. A treadwear number of 620 should give you good longevity, but the real advantage hear is the reduced road noise. These are our pick for best highway tire due to their long life and low road noise.
These tires are $115 each for our example size, but feature a treadwear number of 800 as well as an EcoPlus low rolling resistance feature. These are our pick for high milage drivers as you will probably make back the extra cost of the tire in increased efficiency and lower gas bills.
Goodyear Assurance Tripletred All-Season
These tires are $125 each, over half as much again as the Firestones we started with, but they feature an improved All Season tread pattern much more suitable for harsh weather conditions, as well as a treadwear number of 740 ensuring a long life. These are our pick for drivers in more extreme weather conditions.