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Trying to find new-type winter tires to fit older car
November 11, 2011 9:04 PM   Subscribe

I know very little about car tires. Having problems finding a Blizzak-type winter tire, and retailer of same, for lady friend's older car. Advice gratefully accepted!

Hi everyone. I swung by Costco today to get tires for a 1992 Toyota Camry. I particularly wanted to get a set of the new-generation winter tires, like Bridgestone's Blizzak or Michelin's X-Ice.

The current tires say "P195/70Rr14 90S". Costco guy said they don't carry this size, and their website seems to back this up.

Recommendations? Is there a good online retailer, preferably one that offers free shipping, that I should check?

Tirerack, for example, only seems to offer a single tire in this size: The Firestone Winterforce, which as far as I can tell does not seem to be one of the "new generation"-type tires.

I would love to get any helpful pointers or suggestions you might have.
posted by Alaska Jack to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Try taking it to an independent tire store, rather than Costco. They are more likely to carry that sort of tire, or can order it for you. Costco will just carry the most common tires. You can use minus-sizing to broaden your tire size options, I will have to google it to remember how to calculate. Not sure there are many options on a 14" rim, but worth looking into.
posted by Joh at 9:34 PM on November 11, 2011


They just don't make those tires in R14. Actually I'm shocked at the R14 sizing, until I re-read your post and saw 1992.
posted by sanka at 9:35 PM on November 11, 2011


Sanka, why is the R14 shocking? Is that something you don't see on new cars? Why not? Just curious.
posted by Alaska Jack at 9:44 PM on November 11, 2011


R14 refers the size of the wheel; 14 inches in this case. This size was very common on smaller cars in the 90s.
Most modern cars that I have seen have wheels that are 16 inch or larger.

To see what is available, take a look at Tire Rack and America's Tire.

Also, talk to some independent tire stores, if you have some nearby. They may be able to order something in for you.
posted by nickthetourist at 10:08 PM on November 11, 2011


Alaska Jack writes "why is the R14 shocking? Is that something you don't see on new cars? Why not? Just curious."

Rim sizes have been trending upwards for mostly aesthetic reasons since the 60s. Very few cars come with 14" rims anymore even though they are perfectly adequate from a mechanical point of view (IE: a 14" tire will support the weigt of the vehicle and a 14" rim can clear the brake caliper). The good news is that generally the smaller the rim the cheaper the tire even for tires that have the same circumference.

At any rate you could try plus or minus sizing your tires using the same rim size and for winter tires I'd even consider up sizing by one (IE: going with a tire with a larger circumference). A taller tire will: effectively reduce your gearing reducing acceleration and increasing gas mileage but will also roll over deep snow easier (picture trying to push a base ball over a curb vs pushing a basket ball over the same curb). It'll also make your speedometer read slow.

You can play with the mechanical results of different tire sizes on here. Your +1 size is a 205/65R14 (1% smaller) or 215/65R14 (1% larger) and the +2 size is a 225/60R14 (0.5% smaller). A potential taller tire would be a 205/70R14 which is ~5% larger.

Note that a 1% difference in circumference is within the range of the difference between new tires and worn out tires or variance between manufacturers.

Finally if your jurisdiction allows studding I strongly recommend it. It trades off slightly reduced traction on bare pavement (plus a little noise) with greatly increased traction on ice and compact snow; especially hard ice covered with water that moulded sipes have trouble gripping.
posted by Mitheral at 12:59 AM on November 12, 2011


Another option is to buy a set of tires in a compatible size that actually exists AND ALSO buy a set of appropriately-sized cheap steel wheels for them. If you buy both tires and wheels from Tire Rack, they'll mount and balance them for free. This will save you money if you keep the car for a couple of years, because you won't have to have the mounting and balancing redone every spring and fall when you switch back and forth between your 2 sets of tires.
posted by jon1270 at 2:16 AM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think that this is a case where you can increase the size of your wheels and change the size of your tires without a problem. Along the lines of what Mitheral is suggesting, you buy a different-size tire that stays within 3% of the diameter of the original-spec'd tire, but you also buy a larger wheel, because as people have pointed out, most tires just aren't made in 14" sizes anymore.

If I'm not mistaken, what you want to do is buy 15" wheels, and P205/65R15 tires - the Blizzak WS-70 is available in that size (and excellent tire choice, BTW - it's the best winter tire right now and the one I'd buy).

You just need to ensure when you buy the set of steel wheels that they are appropriate to the Camry. As I understand it, different wheels have different mounting properties - I don't entirely understand the importance of things like centrebore, but the good thing is it's not really necessary to - tell a good tire shop what you're thinking of, have the exactly model information for the car, and they can get the right set of steel wheels for you.

A separate set of steel wheels will cost you a little more upfront (not more than $200), but cut the cost of changeovers in half each year (should save you $100/year) and prevent possible damage to the tires that can come from mounting and unmounting them from the wheels twice a year.
posted by Dasein at 6:46 AM on November 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Okay, I just have to pop back in to take issue with a couple of specific points in Mitheral's answer, since you marked it as best and they're not trivial point. First:

A potential taller tire would be a 205/70R14 which is ~5% larger

You really should not run tires with more than a 3% variance from the original diameter. Doing so effectively changes the gearing on your car, which is hard on the engine and transmission. Also, from the 1010tire site: "When changing tire sizes, we recommend staying within 3% of the diameter/height of the original tire. Any more than this and you face the risk of brake failure."

Second:

Finally if your jurisdiction allows studding I strongly recommend it.

Studding significantly (not slightly) decreases your grip on pavement. It also chews up the roads, which is why most places ban it. You're in Alaska, so it may be that your roads are buried in deep snow all winter long, in which case, go for it, but beware that if you're in a city that regularly clears its snow, the tradeoffs are probably not worth it. I note that the Nokian Hakkapeliitta 5, a great studded tire, is not available in your size, but is available in 185/70R14, which is within 3% of your tire's diameter, so it would work and you could stick with 14" wheels.
posted by Dasein at 12:54 PM on November 12, 2011


jon1270 - Yeah this seems pretty reasonable. Except with Tire Rack, at least, it looks like I would get totally hosed on shipping charges. Probably makes more sense to investigate local tire shops.
posted by Alaska Jack at 2:09 PM on November 12, 2011


OK, just located an inexpensive set of 15" wheels at a local junkyard. That should give me more options.
posted by Alaska Jack at 3:17 PM on November 12, 2011


OK, thank you very much for the advice everyone. I ended up buying the 15" rims, then going back to Costco and going with the Michelin Ice-x's. (They were out of Blizzaks).

Thanks again!
posted by Alaska Jack at 11:03 PM on November 12, 2011


Dasein writes "You really should not run tires with more than a 3% variance from the original diameter. Doing so effectively changes the gearing on your car, which is hard on the engine and transmission."

OCMV. Many vehicles come with a choice of final drive ratios with much greater variance than a measly 3% usually as part of a performance or towing package. For a couple of vehicles I'm familiar with: The 84 Fiero had a choice of two final drives 3.23 and 4.10. The third gen Dakota had final drives options of 3.23, 3.55 and 3.90. And the 92 Tercel itself was available with two different final drives: 3.944 for the C140 four speed and 4.058 for the C150 five speed (a difference of almost 3%).

On studs vs non on ice and bare pavement it's fairly complicated but typically a studded tire will perform 5-15% better than an non studded tire on packed snow and ice vs a 2% degradation in traction on bare pavement (pg 18 of this PDF WA report summarizing Alaskan testing data) with the best improvement near freezing. Studs do perform poorly vs a blizzack on concrete with stopping distances 16-32% longer. Admittedly that is worse than I originally thought however I stand by my recommendation. In my experience people rarely get in trouble in the winter on bare pavement (at least not more so than in the summer); it's ice and snow that makes winter driving challenging. The pavement chewing is of course a concern but it also a benifit as it helps to break up compact snow and roughen icy surfaces aiding traction to all drivers including those using non-studded tires (pg 44 of the above report) even during the non winter months. Though I've never seen the sort of damage pictured here which if truly caused by studded tires shows a bizarrely consistent track width and positioning of studded vehicles.
posted by Mitheral at 7:15 AM on November 13, 2011


OCMV?
posted by Dasein at 7:40 PM on November 13, 2011


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