Need new tires for my sedan. Know almost nothing about tires. Help!
November 20, 2018 7:10 AM   Subscribe

I'm replacing all 4 of my Michelin Defender tires (215/55R17 94T) on a 2007 Lexus ES350 sedan. I've had the tires several years (also probably didn't rotate them often enough) so they're due for a change out. At about $150 a tire, I can replace them with the same model. I live in Atlanta, so I'm only dealing with rain and maybe ice on occasion. I drive about 5-8k miles a year in this car. Should I stick with these same tires or is there a better alternative in this price range? Thanks!
posted by arm426 to Travel & Transportation (18 answers total)
Those are good tires. If you're happy with them and can stomach the cost, stay with them. My brother in law works for GM and Michelin Defender is what he puts on his own cars. That was enough recommendation for me so I've stuck with them on my Odyssey. When I whined at him because it seems expensive, he always says do not skimp on tires.
posted by cmm at 7:31 AM on November 20, 2018

Seconding the above. You don't 'save money' on tyres, as such, it is more that you instead make a conscious quality and reliability decision. Michelin are my go-to brand for work and make great road tyres. I'd be completely happy with the decision to stay with them.

Having said that, due to another work involvement I got involved with Hankook tyres and recently put them onto my wife's car (Infiniti G35). She couldn't be happier. Improved ride (over the standard Goodyear) and I think they have at least as much grip and less road noise. They were significantly cheaper than the Goodyears and I have been pleasantly surprised by the quality.
posted by Brockles at 7:55 AM on November 20, 2018 [1 favorite]

The last time I priced tires per mile it was not any more expensive to get the Defenders, at least at Costco. The out-the-door price was a bit higher for the Michelins, which have a high Consumer Reports ranking, as compared to a Toyo or Federal, which are lower rated. The "cheapest" tires were among the most expensive per mile, actually, even leaving performance and comfort out of the equation. The Michelin Premier are a higher performance tire that wear out sooner (and cost more per mile), but the Defender is economical and excellent. Put a reminder in your calendar to rotate, though.
posted by wnissen at 9:01 AM on November 20, 2018

"so they're due for a change out"

Do you actually have any indication the tires are worn out?

Defenders have a 90K mile tread warranty, so you probably haven't worn down the tread yet. You can easily measure this with a coin. At 5-8K miles per year, I suspect you haven't worn out the tread.

Tires do wear out due to age, but probably not on the time scale you're thinking of. Unless you've had the same tires for 6-10 years, you might as well keep the same tires you have.
posted by saeculorum at 9:47 AM on November 20, 2018 search for your vehicle model turns up 94W most often, which is just a different (higher) speed rating than what you currently have. The Goodrich and Bridgestone models here might be a little cheaper and still good enough for you. That said, there's nothing wrong with the Michelin brand in general. Brockles' advice is also spot-on, as usual.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 9:48 AM on November 20, 2018

Tire have wear indicators, spots in the main tread that are raised from the bottom of the tread. IF these are level or close with the tire ridges then time to replace. The last set of tires I bought were Perelli all season, I could notice a big improvement in the ride.
posted by tman99 at 9:59 AM on November 20, 2018

Unless you've had the same tires for 6-10 years, you might as well keep the same tires you have.

Yeah, 5 years is about as long as a tyre should be on a car for - more if it is an occasional tyre like a winter tyre because it doesn't get so much UV degradation.
posted by Brockles at 10:31 AM on November 20, 2018

I'll do the coin test before I pull the trigger on this. I should also note I've had some steering wheel shaking, which I'd experienced in my last Lexus, too. The Lexus/Toyota repair shop would usually machine the this case, I'm thinking it's likely due to not having the tires rotated or aligned in the last two years. :|
posted by arm426 at 10:39 AM on November 20, 2018

When do you notice the wheel shaking? If it's most intense at a certain speed it's probably a balance problem. Either the tires have worn in a way that has put them out of balance or one of the weights they used to balance the tires has come off. In either case, a new set of tires should solve your problem as the new tires will be balanced when they're mounted and installed.

If it's only under braking then the rotors are probably warped and if they've been machined a few times they probably need to be replaced.

There are reasons why a wheel might shake but I think those are the most common.

2nd'ing as a resource to shop for tires. Their website makes it easy to search and has a TON of additional information, articles, and reviews. They have, in my experience, excellent customer service and their reps are some hardcore tire nerds and it's odd that they're so enthusiastic about tires.
posted by VTX at 10:51 AM on November 20, 2018

Thanks for all the advice! Based on a quick loo over at tirerack it seems like the Defenders are a great option, and it's worth it to stick with them. The question of whether I need new tires will be determined by a better inspection with coins after work!

Regarding the steering wheel shake, it's definitely at certain speeds. I believe at about 50ish to 65ish it shakes but above or below that and it's fine. Sound like a balance issue then? An alignment and re-balance would sort that out without new tires? Lastly, my car displays if tire pressure is low via that sensor system. Is that just a thing they'll transfer over from old to new tires or do I need to specify anything regarding that?

Thanks again!
posted by arm426 at 11:09 AM on November 20, 2018

If tire wear is OK, then you may just need a tire rotation and alignment. If you do get new tires have the alignment checked too.
posted by tman99 at 11:16 AM on November 20, 2018

The Lexus/Toyota repair shop would usually machine the this case, I'm thinking it's likely due to not having the tires rotated or aligned in the last two years. :|

Rotors have nothing to do with tires, wheel alignment or rotation schedules. Rotors are part of the braking system, and machining them fixes unevenness of wear of the rotor itself, which is one of the reasons why you might feel shudders or vibration when the brakes are applied. Don't have the rotors machined to deal with a pure tire issue like uneven wear that's visible on the tire.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:21 AM on November 20, 2018

Michelin says that their tires are good up to 10 years if inspected annually. Since ozone and UV are the primary factors, it makes a difference if your car spends a lot of time in the sun or is shaded. You get a lot more ozone in Los Angeles than San Francisco. You get a lot more UV in Arizona than Minnesota.
posted by JackFlash at 11:28 AM on November 20, 2018

FWIW, the quote for 4 all new Defenders, install, alignment and tax is $709. Seems pretty decent, all things considered.
posted by arm426 at 11:38 AM on November 20, 2018

Sound like a balance issue then?

Yes, a textbook balance issue. I don't quite remember the physics behind it but it's something about the weight balance being off in the tire and the frequency of the rotation at certain speeds lining up something that exaggerates the effect of off-balance weight.

The tires just need to be re-balanced, tires are also balanced when they're mounted on the wheels so getting new tires will fix the issue as well.

It shouldn't have anything to do with the alignment. When you're doing your coin inspection compare the tread depth across all the treads of the tire. If they're noticeably deeper/shallower across the tire then you've likely got an alignment problem. However, if it looks like the tread is more worn/shallower on BOTH outside edges then it's not the alignment but underinflated tires. If it's shallower in the middle, the tires have been overinflated.
posted by VTX at 11:42 AM on November 20, 2018

Coin test seems to indicate I need new tires. Here are pics of both my front and rear tires, driver side only.

Rear looks better than the front but the penny still barely gets into that groove that’s parallel to the wheel.
posted by arm426 at 2:46 PM on November 20, 2018

The top pictures are crazy low and long past replacement. Both tyres are showing signs of UV degradation too, and do need replacing. The lower pics don't look AS worn but I can't see the wear bars, but on age alone it doesn't make sense to keep them.
posted by Brockles at 3:13 PM on November 20, 2018

Seconding Costco for tire sourcing. I just put Defenders on my 2007 Nissan, and I do drive in snow and ice, and they got good reviews. Costco’s price was pretty equivalent to Discount Tires’ price, charging slightly more per tire and slightly less for disposal of the old tires.

I’d replace the tires, and schedule an alignment for the new tires once they’re on the car.
posted by Autumnheart at 5:54 PM on November 20, 2018

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