Need New Tires
August 11, 2004 11:18 AM   Subscribe

It's time to retire! So what are the ins and outs of buying new tires for my car? To me, one tire pretty much looks like another, and aside from "high performance" and "retreads," I don't really know what makes one tire better than another.
posted by crunchland to Shopping (18 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The reviews on Tire Rack helped me pick a new set of tires earlier this year.
posted by majick at 11:28 AM on August 11, 2004

On top of that, if there is a popular online forum for your car's model, you may want to run a few searches through it. I learned a lot about my car from perusing a forum/knowledge base for enthusiast owners, including the better tire choices.
posted by majick at 11:43 AM on August 11, 2004

If you have a print/online subscription, Consumer Reports has some pretty reliable reviews on tires. Once you decide on the tires you want, definitely call around for the best prices and what the various places include. As a rule, most of the places that do primarily tire sales will have the better prices because of the volume, compared with your local garage that takes care of mostly repair work.

One last thought - if money is a concern, you may want to look at some of the house/generic brands that some of the big tire retailers carry, they're often made by name-brand manufacturers.
posted by dicaxpuella at 12:09 PM on August 11, 2004

I endorse the Tire Rack recommendations. They provide lots of information, a wide range of choice unavailable at your local shop, and great service. Note that the mounting, of course, must be done at a local afiliated shop, and that needs to be checked out. Also, TR's on-line tire sizing system is so slick that it can lull one into thinking that there's no need to go out and check that it has, in fact, come up with the right size. This would be a mistake.

In my opinion, tho, tire technology and manufacturing have gotten so good that even the budget Korean brands are excellent, even if they're not at the level of the top-tier manufacturers like Michelin. I've purchased three sets of Kumhos for various cars, including a modestly high-performance Maxima SE, have had no complaints on ride, reliability, and wet or dry handling, and have saved hundreds of dollars.
posted by mojohand at 12:16 PM on August 11, 2004

Meh. I used to buy the top-end Michelins. Came with a killer warranty, too. Should have lasted 150k km!

They didn't. Not at all. And I still had to pony up treadwear bucks and installation bucks. Bleh.

So I'm going for cheap these days.

But what I will strongly, adamantly promote are actual true-to-life snow tires. Not those all-season things, but real snow tires. I had thought top-line M+S tires were probably as good as cheap snow tires. They're not. Not even close. Night and day.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:20 PM on August 11, 2004

I've only bought all new tires once, for the only new car I've ever owned. I bought fairly inexpensive tires to replace the Michelins that came on my Passat at around 50,000 miles. I'm now at 70,000 and they need replaced. I feel like I've wasted money but learned a lesson. The road noise with the cheap tires was immediately shocking to me. Not unbareable but significantly louder. Then to get 20k instead of 50k mileage when I saved around 40% up front. I also learned from my mechanic that these tires were "directional" which I think he said meant that they could only go on one side of the car without remounting them if I wanted them rotated.

Clearly I'm not an expert, but I'll be buying Michelins or other high quality tires before winter.

In general my second car I consider disposable for the small amount of mileage I put on it. In that case cheap is good. Used is better.
posted by putzface_dickman at 12:34 PM on August 11, 2004

All of this sounds awfully familiar, considering that I just bought a new set of tires 3 days ago. I cross-referenced tireack's ratings with those on, chose a couple of cheaper but highly rated tires, then called all over town for the best price. The time spent researching and calling around was well worth it for the savings, and I learned a lot in the process. Maybe this is the norm in the auto-part world, but I found that most places offer to price-match, which may keep you from having to truck across town for the best price.

Oh, if it helps, I ended up going with BF Goodrich "Traction T/A" tires. They had high ratings on both sites and were very affordable.

I like majick's idea, though, and wish I'd known that three days ago. Ah well.
posted by boomchicka at 1:14 PM on August 11, 2004

I used to get Z-rated tires for my car, and they would wear out very quickly. A tire shop pointed out that tires with a lower speed rating aren't as soft and last longer, which was great advice since I don't drive aggressively. Saved a bunch of money with W rated tires..
posted by rajbot at 1:39 PM on August 11, 2004

Bear in mind that you cannot just switch to a larger diamater tire without changing the effective gear ration between your transmission and the road. Imagine two gears turning with each other. Putting on a larger wheel is like increasing the size of one of the gears: it affects the leverage. So be sure that the tires you buy are the diameter recommended by the auto manufacturer. If you bought your car used, there's no way to be sure that the ones you've got are even correct.
posted by scarabic at 1:46 PM on August 11, 2004

that's "diameter" and "gear ratio" - sheezus
posted by scarabic at 1:47 PM on August 11, 2004

Crap, I got the specifics wrong on my post above re: speed ratings..

Just wanted to point out that racing-type tires wear out fast and are expensive, so if you car came with those, consider replacing them with another brand.
posted by rajbot at 1:49 PM on August 11, 2004

I think he said meant that they could only go on one side of the car without remounting them if I wanted them rotated.

I believe the new wisdom of rotation is that you merely "rotate" front-to-back, I believe, no side-swapping. Maybe that's only for the directional tires.
posted by five fresh fish at 2:42 PM on August 11, 2004

Of course, the advantage of the "racing-type" tires is that they give you a much larger traction circle, which is to your advantage not only if you drive aggressively, but also if you're ever in a situation where you have to take emergency action. Ever lock your brakes in a panic stop? If you had stickier tires, you would have stopped faster without it happening. Is the difference between spending $500-$1000 every 20,000 miles, rather than 50,000, worth the decrease in your peace of mind?

That being said, I'll freely admit that I'm a bit biased -- I drive daily on the same tires that I autocross once or twice a month on (Falken Azenis). They're extremely grippy, but have an incredibly short life (about 12000 miles, with my usage pattern). I don't mind, and I hate driving other peoples cars on tires that feel like rocks, even if I'm not driving aggressively.

I understand that I'm an outlier, though. Basically, I wouldn't recommend replacing OEM tires with anything that is less capable -- most OEM tires are contracted to the lowest bidder, and barely sufficient as it is.

If you're just looking for a good riding, long wearing passengar car tire, you really can't go wrong with any of the big brands -- Michelin, Bridgestone, and Dunlap all make excellent tires. Some of the smaller eastern rim names are good, too; Sumitomo and Hankook are two that come to mind as being good on the quality for your money scale.

And, definitely, if you live in a winter clime, get a seperate set of snow tires. All-weather tires are the worst at everything they do, and not worth it, imo.
posted by jammer at 2:46 PM on August 11, 2004

I believe the new wisdom of rotation is that you merely "rotate" front-to-back, I believe, no side-swapping. Maybe that's only for the directional tires.

The common wisdom says that cross-rotating radials isn't necessarily the best idea, but I've never seen anything that's ever said that that's anything but cargo-cultism, and even some OEMs suggest a cross-rotational pattern. I've never had a problem with cross-rotated radials, but I haven't used non-direction tires in years.

Directional tires can be swapped from side to side, but it requires unmounting them and remounting them in the opposite direction on a wheel, so that they'll continue to rotate in the right direction.

Of course, if you have asymmetrical tires, then yes... they are designed for one side of the car, and they must stay on that side, because there's no possible way to move them to the other side and maintain both directionality and asymmetricality. But you generally only run into that on the highest performance tier.
posted by jammer at 2:52 PM on August 11, 2004

And if you really lucky you have asymetric, directional tires and your tire sizes are different front to back. Giving you 4 unique tires that can't be rotated.

scarabic: If you bought your car used, there's no way to be sure that the ones you've got are even correct.

Any recent car has a sticker on the door frame that tells you what size tire your OEM specified and what load rating to buy.

I'm not sure when they started doing this but the vast majority of cars will have it. My '72 doesn't have a tire size but my '80 did.
posted by Mitheral at 3:11 PM on August 11, 2004

Problems with *cheap* tires:
Low speed tires are made of harder compounds. These tires take longer to wear, but they also provide less friction against the road. When you brake hard, they don't grip as well, and your car doesn't stop as quickly. This may be fine if you aren't an aggressive driver, but what happens when that kid darts out in front of your car?

Retreads are the tires you see pieces of alongside the highway. Trucking companies use them because they are cheap, and a single lost tire is less catastrophic to an 18-wheel truck than a 4-wheel car. Note how they self-destruct.

I like to drive performance-oriented cars (because I'm somewhat lazy, and always late as a result). I've found that the Yokohama AVS series of all-season tires provide very good stopping power in the dry and the wet. They last reasonably long, and are usually around $60 a tire. By comparison, my brother bought some used tires for his car for over $70 per tire. The rural shop wanted over $100 per tire for new tires.

Finally, whatever route you go, buy the tires online from a place like tirerack. They provide good information and will ship to any tire shop for installation. I don't think I've ever been to a consumer-type service shop without the service people telling me blatant lies about their favorite tire in order to sell a set to me. Speed-racer shops are great if you are in to that kind of thing, but then you wouldn't be asking this question of metafilter.
posted by Kwantsar at 8:23 PM on August 11, 2004

Response by poster: Well, thanks for the advice everyone. I found a good set of highly rated tires on Tire Rack, and just went ahead and ordered through them, having them ship to a nearby garage. Should have a new set of BF Goodrich Traction High Performance, All-Season radials by the weekend.
posted by crunchland at 12:11 AM on August 12, 2004

Response by poster: So the new tires arrived at the shop this morning, and I had them installed. I'm really happy with them, and they live up to the reviews I read on tire rack. But after discussing it with the guys who installed them, I didn't save any money over just going there in the first place, and bought the tires from them. While they didn't have the make or size of tire I needed, they would have ordered them, swallowed / rolled-in the $31 shipping costs that I paid, and they would have only charged me $10 a tire to install instead of the $15 they charged me (which was a break from the $20 they normally would have charged).

Oh, except that I did get the tire road hazard program that I would have had to pay more for at the installation place, so I guess I ended up saving the cost of that, which was about $30.
posted by crunchland at 4:02 PM on August 13, 2004

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