Only One Tire Available for My Mazda CX-7?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015 by Turk Turkleton

Many drivers of some Mazda CX-7 models will find that their Original Equipment 215/70R17 tires only have one replacement option when the time comes for a new set -- the Bridgestone Dueler H/L 400. When you search by size, you'll also see there's a winter tire option available with Bridgestone's Blizzak DM-V1. While these two choices will cover any season for most drivers, some customers will find themselves wanting more options. 

An alternate size for the Mazda CX-7 is 225/65R17. This size is a little wider and just a little shorter, but it's less than 1/2" change oin both width and height. Therefore, it will fit on the Original Equipment 17x7" wheel.

The 225/65R17 gives you many more options than 215/70R17, and the following all-season options are worth considering.

Bridgestone Dueler H/L 422 Ecopia

Continental CrossContact LX20 with EcoPlus Technology

Firestone Destination
LE 2

Shop by size to view all options available in the 225/65R17 size.

How to Prepare for Your First Track Session in Four Simple Steps

Monday, March 23, 2015 by Marshall Wisler

Today is a great day to be an automotive enthusiast. Perhaps more than ever before, road courses across the country are opening their gates to any and all drivers looking to experience the thrill of driving on a track. Combine this level of access with the increased performance of today's vehicles and it's possible to have more fun than ever before for less money than you might think. 

Before embarking on your first track quest with your local SCCA chapter or car club, it is a good idea to keep a few things in mind and run through a checklist to make sure you and your car are properly prepared. Having tested products for the Tire Rack for several years, graduated from several schools and also participated in many open track events on my own time, I suggest the following:

#1 Brakes! Brakes! Brakes!

There is no higher failure rate for any vehicle system on a road course than the braking system. Factory brakes pads and fluid are not up to the task of providing stops from triple digit speeds repeatedly during a common 20-30 minute session. This is especially true for heavy, high horsepower vehicles such as many modern muscle car offerings. In short, a 4,200 lbs. Chevy Camaro SS trying to stop from 120mph will require much more braking force than a 2,500 lbs. Mazda Miata stopping from 100mph on the same straightaway. Keep in mind the braking needs of your specific vehicle when selecting aftermarket replacement products. Take a look at the offerings from Hawk, as they have a very broad market coverage. 

#2 Tires

For your first track session, I do not recommend using full-on competition tires. While competition tires are key to going fast and being competitive in class structured series racing, they aren't something I like to see used by first-time or novice track drivers. Not only are R-compound tires expensive and short on life, they also tend to have less progressive breakaway points than street tires. At the limit, these tires are more difficult to manage and can be less predictable if you find yourself in trouble. Furthermore, the high grip level of R-compound tires can easily mask weak driving fundamentals. For an introductory track driver, choose a tire from the Extreme Performance Summer category. These tires are more competitive than most Original Equipment tires and also feature compounds and patterns that hold up far better to the high heat levels generated on the track. 

#3 Understand Your Vehicle and the Way it Behaves

Most vehicles produced today are set up to understeer. This is done so that when the casual driver finds themselves in trouble, they can simply let off the gas and bring the vehicle back into a neutral state rather than fight tailout antics common with oversteer. While your tires should be making some noise if you're driving properly and quickly on a road course, it is important to listen to what they are telling you. A brief chirp or bark is to be expected under cornering or heavy braking, but if the tires are howling and begging for mercy you are wasting money and time. If you find that the car is understeering into a corner, simply have patience, relax off the gas a bit and unwind your hands gradually. If the car is not wanting to turn, turning the wheel more will not help, but rather chew away at the outside edge of your tires. Having the ability to listen to your vehicle and understand what consequences your inputs have will make your experience more enjoyable and keep your cost of consumables lower.

#4 Go Out and Enjoy Yourself

Other than the tire and brake upgrades suggested above, there is not much that needs to be done to enjoy your street car on track provided that it is in good mechanical condition. Try not to over think suspension and a whole host of other aftermarket upgrades. These items may prove useful in time, but aren't necessary for your immediate enjoyment. Learning how your car behaves in stock form also helps you plan for modifications ahead and understand the difference they will make. Try to remember that you aren't racing for a trophy or podium spot and simply enjoy the atmosphere and thrill of being on track with other cars at speed. Be competitive if possible, but safe! 

Check out our competition events and driving schools and sign up for one today!

Preview: BFGoodrich g-Force Rival S

Monday, March 23, 2015 by Ben Rooney

This spring, BFGoodrich is introducing the new g-Force Rival S. Building on the successful design of the original g-Force Rival, BFGoodrich is expanding the line to include the S version. The primary difference is a softer compound that will come up to operating temperature faster and yield higher maximum grip. This is ideal for autocross competitors, time attack participants or anyone who needs maximum grip for short periods of time.

The g-Force Rival S does not replace the original g-Force Rival, which remains a better choice for cars that run longer track sessions like driving schools, lapping days and budget endurance races like 24 Hours of LeMons and Chump Car. The Rival S claims enhanced wet traction, but the biggest emphasis is on dry traction, and neither tire is recommended if serious wet traction is required. The Rival tread pattern is not ideally suited for wet weather performance, though they can certainly be driven in the rain if the driver exercises due caution.

g-Force Rival S tires retain a 200 treadwear number, which will keep it legal for most street-tire racing classes. It will be legal for SCCA Solo national events once the required six sizes covering four wheel diameters are available.

We look forward to putting the BFGoodrich g-Force Rival S through its paces once the weather warms up here in South Bend!

Best Time to Switch from Winter Tires Back to Summer Tires

Monday, March 23, 2015 by Gary Stanley

It has been a long, cold winter for much of the United States this year. With the recent warm-up in some places, it's understandable that many drivers using winter tires are tempted to swap them off for their summer or all-season tires.  

Why the rush to remove winter set-ups? Many drivers are concerned that their winter tires will wear out quicker during the warmer temperatures. This can be true in prolonged hot conditions, and is the primary reason why winter tires should not be used year-round. However, a few days or even a week of normal driving in warmer temperatures will not damage your snow tires nor cause rapid treadwear with casual driving.  

Keep in mind that temporary warm-ups do not guarantee the end of winter driving. In much of the snowbelt and northern Midwest, it's not unheard of to experience snowfalls in April. We always advise those looking to prematurely change back to their summer tires to remember why they purchased winter tires in the first place -- safe and confident driving. If you haven't used winter tires in the past, be sure to take a look at "My Story on Winter Tires."

When should you switch back? 

If you own a set of all-season tires, you can consider making the change when daily low temperatures are consistently above freezing each night and the longterm forecast shows no threat of heavy snow. If summer performance tires are your fair weather tires of choice, hold off until all threat of snow and freezing temperatures are gone. Summer tires perform poorly in near-freezing temperatures and offer almost no snow traction. They perform best in warmer temperatures that are above 50 degrees Fahrenheit. It is not worth taking the chance of getting caught in snow simply to have your "fun" tires on a week or two sooner. 

Be sure to do a thorough inspection of your fair weather tires before putting them back into service. Take a look at "Tire Replacement" to see if your tires can last another season.

March Madness Means Autocross Season is Coming!

Friday, March 20, 2015 by Cy Chowattukunnel

Our hometown Notre Dame Fighting Irish are known for their football team, but that may be changing after Notre Dame's amazing comeback victory over North Carolina in the ACC Tournament. What a game! Many of us at Tire Rack can't wait to see how the Irish do this week in the Big Dance.

And with March Madness here, you know what that means...autocross season is just around the corner. If you would rather zip around pylons instead of dribbling through a full court press, it's time to start prepping your car.

With the recent class and rule changes, SCCA Street and Street Touring competitors must run tires with at least a 200 UTQG. With these new rules, consider the following 200 UTQG Extreme Performance Summer for the upcoming season: the new Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R, the new BFGoodrich g-Force Rival S, Dunlop's Direzza ZII Star Spec and the Hankook R-S3 (Version 2).

Extreme Performance Summer Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R
Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R
Extreme Performance Summer BF Goodrich G-Force Rival S
BFGoodrich g-Force Rival S
Extreme Performance Summer Dunlop Direzza Z2 Star Spec
Dunlop Direzza ZII Star Spec
Extreme Performance Summer Hankook R-S3 (Version 2)
Hankook R-S3 (Version 2)

We'll test the newer tires against their peers in May, so stay tuned for results. And, while we may not be able to help with your bracket, we've got the tire information you need!

Yokohama ADVAN Sport A/S: A Solid Ultra High Performance All-Season at a Good Price

Wednesday, March 18, 2015 by Marshall Wisler

Last year, Yokohama introduced an addition to their Ultra High Performance All-Season line-up with the ADVAN Sport A/S. Unlike previous Yokohama models, this tire features an asymmetric tread pattern that allows it to be rotated side-to-side, as well as front-to-back on non-staggered applications.

During our internal testing, the ADVAN Sport A/S held its own against some of the higher-rated tires in the field in the dry and wet. Also, we took the tire to Sweden last year to see how it handles wintry conditions. The tire offered responsive handling, but wasn't as strong as tires like the Continental ExtremeContact DWS. For a complete recap of our testing, take a look at "Testing Ultra High Performance All-Season Tires: Single-Focus Specialists or Well-Rounded Athletes?"

With a 50,000-mile treadlife warranty and a very low price-point, this tire is quickly becoming one of the categories hottest sellers. Offering broad market coverage and a long list of sizes, the Yokohama Advan Sport A/S is a good choice for consumers looking for a tire with a high-speed rating, responsive feel and more treadlife than a performance summer tire.

New Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R vs Bridgestone Potenza RE-11A

Wednesday, March 18, 2015 by Gary Stanley

Bridgestone is a leader in the area of research and development in the tire industry. It's no wonder that their Potenza RE-11, and its successor, the Potenza RE-11A have been top-rated Extreme Performance Summer tires since their initial releases. If you aren't familiar with this category of tires, take a look at "What are Extreme Performance Summer Tires?

Now with the introduction of the Potenza RE-71R, Bridgestone has raised the bar once again. Some older enthusiasts may remember the original Potenza RE-71 tire from the 1980s when it was first used on a Porsche 959 Supercar.

The "R" in the RE-71R name stands for "Revival" and the new RE-71R is a tire worthy of the name's heritage. In Bridgestone's internal testing, they found that the RE-71R was 1%-1.5% faster during track lapping sessions on road race courses, and even quicker in autocross testing. 

 Bridgestone Potenza RE-11A
Bridgestone Potenza RE-11A
 Bridgestone Potenza RE- 71R
Bridgestone Potenza RE- 71R

The new Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R carries the same 200 UTQG wear rating, but is expected to have a bit shorter treadwear than the older Potenza RE-11A. Also, expect a slightly stiffer ride and an increase in tread noise on the street.  As a reward for these tradeoffs, the new RE-71R has quicker steering response, better on-center feel and most importantly, it has higher levels of dry grip and wet traction. This makes the new RE-71R up to the task of competing with the current crop of performance tires that are frequently used in SCCA racing, like the BFGoodrich g-Force Rival and Dunlop Direzza ZII Star Spec.  

Get an edge over the competition on the track with the new Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R!

Bridgestone DriveGuard Run-Flat: Not Just for BMW and MINI

Thursday, March 12, 2015 by Marshall Wisler

Traditionally, run-flat tires have been used mainly for limited vehicle types as specified by certain manufacturers for Original Equipment use. Prime examples of this is are BMW 3 Series vehicles since the mid-2000s, the new MINI Cooper and all fifth-generation and newer Chevrolet Corvettes. These vehicles once represented a small portion of the market that relied on the use of run-flat tires to keep the vehicle mobile due to the lack of a spare tire and jack kit. The expectation of a run-flat tire is that it can support the weight of the vehicle without air pressure and provide extended mobility to get you to your destination without being stuck on the side of the road. 

With the introduction of the DriveGuard, Bridgestone looks to not only capture market share on this segment, but also introduce run-flat technology to markets who would have otherwise never considered it. While the DriveGuard may not ride quite as softly as a traditional tire, it has made huge advances from earlier generation run-flats in terms of its ride comfort and longevity. Given the tire's competitive price-point, attractive mileage warranty and capable all-season ability, it may be something for you to consider if you have any fear of being stranded or do not have a spare tire and wheel assembly. 

The only requirement for using a run-flat is that your vehicle must be equipped with tire pressure monitor sensors. This represents most vehicles produced in the last decade and all vehicles manufactured from 2008 and onward.

To date, the Bridgestone DriveGuard has been released in 32 sizes allowing for broad market coverage in wheel diameters from 15"-19".  

Measuring Backspacing

Wednesday, March 11, 2015 by Turk Turkleton

When you're shopping for aftermarket wheels, you'll see a range of backspacing, offset and width measurements available for your vehicle. When looking at wheels, sometimes we'll have the measurements from your stock wheels, but sometimes we do not. This may lead you to wonder, "How are these measurements going to change the stance of my car?" While all of the wheels listed for your vehicle are guaranteed to fit, without knowing what you currently have, it's tough to know how far in or out your new wheels will sit. If the offset is not stamped on the back side of your wheel and your research has you still feeling empty, you can measure the backspacing of your current wheels at home.

Here's how:

  1. Remove one of your wheels, just as if you were changing a spare tire.
  2. Put a jack stand under your vehicle to support it while the wheel is off.
  3. Place the wheel, face down, on the ground (preferably on a towel or blanket so you don't scratch it)
  4. Get a straight edge that will span from lip to lip (see red in diagram below).
  5. Measure from the bottom of the straight edge straight down to the mounting face of the wheel (see green in diagram below).

If the wheels you're looking at have the same width and a higher backspacing measurement than you currently own, the wheel will sit further back in the wheelwell. If the width is the same and the backspacing is lower than your current wheels, the wheel will stick out further. 

Big Savings on Big Snow Tires

Wednesday, March 11, 2015 by Cy Chowattukunnel

If you have a lifted 4x4 truck, Jeep or SUV with 35" mud tires, you may think you're ready for the worst conditions, but you're not. Four-wheel drive will obviously help you accelerate and ground clearance will help with deeper snow, however your mud tires are holding you back. 

In order to have great snow grip, a tire must have the right compound, and large amounts of biting edges and sipes. Your mud tires lack all these design traits. Therefore, when it comes to packed snow and ice, your 4x4 truck or SUV may go but will have trouble stopping and turning. In the past, when it came to getting the appropriate tires for winter, the only solution was to downsize back to your smaller Original Equipment size that doesn't look right on your lifted vehicle. 

Now with our closeout 315/75R16 Yokohama Geolander I/T G072 marked down to $157*, you've got the right solution with a 35" Studless Ice & Snow tire. Imagine what you can do with four-wheel drive, tons of ground clearance and awesome snow grip!

*Limited stock, prices subject to change

You Can Get All-Terrain Tires for the Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8

Tuesday, March 10, 2015 by Ben Rooney

Yokohama Geolandar A/T-SIt's notoriously difficult to find tires for the original Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8. Staggered sizing and short sidewalls means very few choices, and none of those choices are intended for serious off-road use. And while most SRT8 owners don't plan to venture off the road, a Jeep is still a Jeep! There is always some temptation to head for adventure off the beaten path.

The newer Grand Cherokee SRT8, running 295/45R20 on all four corners, isn't much better for finding off-road tire options. However, the vehicle will fit the slightly larger 305/45R20 size. While it isn't a common size, it does provide Cherokee SRT8 owners the option to install the Yokohama Geolandar A/T-S.

Consistently ranked in the top ten in survey results in the On-/Off-Road All-Terrain performance category, the Geolandar A/T-S provides a nice mix of solid road handling with traction capability on loose surfaces. It's also designed to deliver long mileage and promote even wear while providing year-round traction, even in the snow.

If you want to let your SRT8 show its Jeep side, then take a look at the Yokohama Geolandar A/T-S.

Best Tires for the Toyota Sienna Minivan

Monday, March 9, 2015 by Gary Stanley

The Toyota Sienna has been one of the most popular minivans for over a decade. It's no wonder, as the Sienna is a spacious, comfortable, safe and reliable vehicle with great resale value.

If Toyota's family hauler of choice has a common complaint among many of its drivers, it is that many have found the Original Equipment tires to be lacking. Two of the most important attributes in a tire are its traction in wet and snow and its treadwear. Sadly, these are two of the areas where the original tires on the Sienna fall short. Fortunately, there is a good selection of replacement tires for the Toyota Sienna that have much longer wear and make significant improvements in safety by increasing wet and snow traction.

2004-2010 Toyota Sienna 

215/65R16 and 225/60R17 are the most commonly used tire sizes on the 2004-2010 models. In these sizes, take a look at the General AltiMAX RT43 for an affordable option that offers very high ratings in traction and treadwear. For more information on this tire, read "The All-Season General AltiMAX RT43 is Number One." If you're looking for the current top tire in its class for the Sienna, then you'll want to purchase the Continental TrueContact.  

 General AltiMAX RT43
General AltiMAX RT43
 Continental TrueContact
Continental TrueContact

2011-2015 Toyota Sienna

For the newest generation of Sienna, the most commonly used tire sizes are 235/60R17 and 235/55R18. The Continental TrueContact is available in both sizes. Also, you'll want to consider the Michelin Premier A/S and Bridgestone Dueler H/L 422 Ecopia

 Michelin Premier A/S
Michelin Premier A/S
 Bridgestone Dueler H/L 422 Ecopia
Bridgestone Dueler H/L 422 Ecopia

Shop by vehicle to view all options for your Toyota Sienna.

Introducing the New Bridgestone Potenza RE-71R

Tuesday, March 3, 2015 by Marshall Wisler

The Extreme Performance Summer tire market is an incredibly competitive category where manufacturers must stay on the top of their game in order to win the purchase of the consumer. Perhaps more so than in any other performance category, customers selecting from this field understand the value of a tenth of a second.

As of March 1, 2015, Bridgestone has officially rolled out its new Extreme Performance Summer tire, the Potenza RE-71R. Unlike Bridgestone's previous offering, the RE-71R features a directional tread pattern and seemingly less tread void than the Potenza RE-11 it replaces. While it's a bit early to speculate, the larger and uninterrupted tread blocks of the Potenza RE-71R may lead to faster times in the dry.

Starting with a clean-sheet approach and a virtual slick tread, all of the new design features were fine-tuned to maximize performance, traction, handling and control. The newly developed tread compound enhances grip by increasing contact with the road surface. This compound is molded into a directional design featuring a continuous center rib flanked by massive shoulders to provide a constant rubber-to-road contact that enhances steering response and cornering stability.

Testing will begin once the snow clears and we'll provide data as it becomes available.

BBS SR vs. All-New O.Z. Racing Omnia

Tuesday, March 3, 2015 by Gary Stanley

Not long ago, BBS released a lower priced option with their SR wheel. Rather than lower the quality, BBS kept costs low by offering just a few select sizes and simple finishes. The results were phenomenal for drivers as they got a great deal on a high quality wheel at a low cost compared to similar European-made wheels. If you aren't familiar with the BBS SR, take a look at "New Finish Now Available for Value-Priced BBS SR."  

Following the success of the value-priced BBS SR, O.Z. Racing released their own cost-effective wheel, the Omnia. Like the BBS SR, the O.Z. Racing Omnia is made in the same factory as other O.Z. Racing wheels. O.Z. Racing also kept costs down by offering limited sizes (17x7.5 and 18x8 only), which means fewer costly wheel molds to produce. While the BBS SR is available in a couple of different finishes, the new O.Z. Racing Omnia is produced in only a bright race grey finish.

 OZ Racing Omnia
O.Z. Racing Omnia

Looking for something a little different than the BBS SR and O.Z. Racing Omnia? Not a problem, be sure to check out all of the other O.Z. Racing wheels that fit your vehicle by using our online wheel search. With this search, you can view all of the wheel brands and styles that are guaranteed to fit your vehicle.  

The Best All-Terrain Tires for On-Road Use

Monday, February 23, 2015 by Marshall Wisler

Maybe you like the look of an all-terrain tire, or perhaps you may be looking for a tire with a bit more biting edge than a traditional Highway All-Season, or you might even be a driver that explores light off-road use with your truck or SUV. If you fit any one of these examples, you represent a huge portion off the On-/Off-Road All-Terrain tire market.

While some all-terrain shoppers are simply looking for the most aggressive tire for off-road use, many others are looking for a product that also has excellent street manners for the time spent on the highway or city streets. The On-/Off-Road All-Terrain market is quite vast and features a wide array of products designed for different types of drivers.

Before purchasing the most aggressive looking tire you can get your hands on, remember that tires with large amounts of spacing between their tread blocks can become quite noisy at speed and tend not to wear quite as well as their more subtle counterparts. If you're looking for a more subtle option, take a look at the Firestone Destination A/T and Michelin LTX A/T 2. While both of these tires are classified as On-/Off-Road All-Terrain tires and have more biting edges than a Highway All-Season, they take a more modest approach and make a good amount of sense for a consumer looking for a mix of off-road performance and daily livability. These tires may not win you a podium spot at a rock crawling competition, but they will serve you well day in and day out; and for that reason they have been longtime favorites in our consumer surveys.

Coming Soon: Bridgestone RE-71R Extreme Performance Summer Tire

Monday, February 23, 2015 by Ben Rooney

Bridgeston Potenza RE71RThe Extreme Performance Summer tire category has become increasingly competitive in recent years. Bridgestone's Potenza RE-11 has been one of the most popular and well-reviewed tires, but they can't afford to rest on their laurels. The Potenza RE-11A provided a refresh in select sizes to enhance their competitiveness against their newest rivals. And while the RE-11A is currently at the top of the class for customer survey ratings, Bridgestone is already preparing to release an all-new design.

The RE-71R features a design with all-new compound, construction and tread design. How will it stack up against the competition? We're not sure yet, as Bridgestone has not started delivery. It also doesn't help that our test track is currently buried in snow! But rest assured, we'll be testing them as soon as we can. Slinging BMWs around a racetrack on ultra-sticky tires? Well, it's a tough job, but someone's gotta do it!

Stay tuned for future updates on this new, exciting tire from Bridgestone.

Kosei K1 Racing Versus New Kosei K5R

Monday, February 23, 2015 by Gary Stanley

Are you looking for a strong, lightweight wheel for autocross events? In the past, you would look no further than the Kosei K1 Racing wheel. Designed for track use, the Kosei K1 Racing meets many of the demands of the weekend warrior racer. Whether you are a driver participating in HPDE track days, driving schools or even just autocrossing, the Kosei K1 Racing is both light, durable and an outstanding value for the price. All good things eventually come to an end, and the production of the Kosei K1 Racing wheel is no exception. There are still a few sizes of the K1 Racing still in production, but many sizes have been phased out. 

Fortunately, Kosei designed a worthy successor to the popular K1 Racing with the new Kosei K5R. Just like its predecessor, the new K5R is lightweight, attractive and its flow formed construction should be just as durable as the K1 Racing. The new Kosei K5R is available for many popular 15x7, 15x8, 17x7, 17x8 and 17x9 applications, as well as offered in two different finishes.

 Kosei K5R Silver
Kosei K5R Silver Painted
 Kosei K5R Light Grey
Kosei K5R Light Grey Painted

Both finishes look great, but if you have a race application or a vehicle that tends to put off a lot of brake dust, you may want to lean towards the light grey painted finish, as the color is a bit darker to help hide the brake dust.  

While both the K1 Racing and K5R are popular as track wheels, they also make great street wheels for many drivers. In fact, I used the Kosei K1 Racing wheel on my Mazda Miata almost exclusively as a street wheel. You can read about about my experience with the wheel by taking a look at "Kosei K1 Racing Wheels for Mazda Miata."  

Just keep in mind that K5R wheels do not come with a cosmetic center cap as they are not needed for racing or fair weather street use. If you'd like a center cap for cosmetic reasons or for all-season driving, an optional center cap is available for most applications.

Shop by vehicle to check for pricing and availability.  

Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac: An All-Around Winner

Tuesday, February 17, 2015 by Turk Turkleton

In the tire business, there are trade-offs for everything! Whether you have to trade performance handling for snow and ice grip, or trade comfort for performance handling, balancing these trade-offs can be tough.

The Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac is a tire that balances many of the trade-offs that drivers of four-wheel drive vehicles desire. Most often, four-wheel drive trucks and SUVs come with highway or touring tires that provide a nice smooth ride, but don't offer the aggressive tread pattern for off-road driving, especially in mud, gravel and very deep snow. This leads many drivers to the On-/Off-Road All-Terrain performance category. For some people, tires in this category do not offer enough tread, meat or aggression. That would push them to choosing an option from the Off-Road Maximum Traction (mud-terrain) category. If you don't mind the noise and need something that can push you through all the mud and hardcore off-road terrain you can find, then this category is perfect.  

What about those of us that like the aggression of the mud-terrain tires, but have to deal with snow and ice during the winter months? That's where the Goodyear Wrangler DuraTrac really shines! I have these on my Jeep for this exact reason. In South Bend, Indiana, we see some pretty nasty ice, snow, sleet and slush.

I love the look of heavy-duty mud tires, but I know they aren't siped properly to handle well on ice or packed snow. The DuraTrac has very good siping for winter, and is even marked with the mountain/snowflake symbol on most sizes. Another benefit of the DuraTrac is the relative road noise. The tread may be more aggressive than an all-terrain tire, but the road noise level isn't really any higher since the tread surface that contacts the road while rolling is fairly flat. If you want to take your winter performance to the next level (the tire has the option to include studs to enhance ice traction), take a look at Goodyear's Wrangler DuraTrac.

Staggered Tires: Why or Why Not

Tuesday, February 17, 2015 by Ben Rooney

I had a question from a customer that surprised me the other day. After doing this for as many years as I have, I tend to think that I've heard it all. We were talking about an older BMW, and he asked me if the original tire sizes were staggered. I replied that they were not. His follow-up question was, "Well, why not? It's not like the car is all-wheel drive."

There are a couple of assumptions in that simple question, and they are a mixture of true, false and revealing statements.

Assumption #1: All-wheel drive cars do not or can't have staggered tires.

Assumption #2: If a car can have staggered tires, it should or is expected to.

Assumption #1 is somewhat accurate, but isn't set in stone. Many AWD systems will wear prematurely if there is too much difference in the rolling diameter of the tires. And, it's hard to get staggered tires with perfectly identical diameters. They are usually close enough that it looks identical, but the actual revolutions per mile may be too different than a given AWD system can tolerate.

With that said, there are some vehicles that come with staggered tires from the factory. And in fact, the first example off the top of my head comes from within the BMW marque that we were discussing. The X5 is AWD (or xDrive in BMW-speak) and many of them have staggered 20" or 21" sizes.

Assumption #2 is the one that really surprised me. Staggered wheels and tires have become more common in recent years, and it seems they've become ubiquitous enough that some people think of that as the default configuration. This still blows my mind!

The default configuration for a car or truck is to have all four tires the same size. This set-up has a number of advantages. First, It is easier to find tires when one does not have to look for something that is available in two different sizes. The tires can be rotated from front to rear to help maintain even treadwear.

Next, there is less chance for confusion. I've seen staggered set-ups installed with the back on the front and vice versa; and I've seen customers assume that if they check the size of one tire, that all four tires will be that size. Also, a full-size spare or extra tire can be used on any position of the vehicle.

With that said, there are a few reasons to go with staggered tires. One is weight bias. If you have a car that has a large majority of its weight over one axle, that axle should have bigger tires. See Porsche 911s with their rear-engine weight bias as an example.

Two is power. If you have a rear-wheel drive car that has a lot of horsepower, you may need bigger tires on the rear to help put that power to the pavement. Why not just make all of the tires bigger in that case? The size of the front tires is often limited by the fact that the front wheels have to steer left and right. Too wide of a tire may rub when the steering wheel is turned. Super-wide tires in front can also aggravate the tendency to hydroplane when hitting puddles, and may make the steering feel unduly heavy.

Three, and often the most relevant, is style. The staggered look, with big tires on the back, is generally considered to be cool. I think part of that is driven by the fact that it's usually the more exotic cars that need staggered tires: rear or mid engine, high horsepower, RWD. These attributes describe some of the most iconic cars in history, from the Ferrari F40 to a Top Fuel dragster. Such is the cachet of wide rear tires, that I will often have customers with FWD cars ask for a RWD-style staggered set-up, causing Isaac Newton to spin in his grave at 8,500 RPM. (For the right way to stagger FWD, take a look at "Automotive Oddity: Correctly Staggered Tires on a Front-Wheel Drive Car")

In the case of the old BMW, it had balanced weight distribution and horsepower, that by today's standards is moderate, and the staggered-tire style trend was not nearly as widespread in the late 1980s. Therefore, there was no reason for it to diverge from the normal tire configuration. I didn't bend my customer's ear with all of these musings, but a highly condensed version was enough to give him the general idea.

Best All-Season Tires for the Honda Civic

Tuesday, February 17, 2015 by Gary Stanley

If you're the owner of a newer Honda Civc, then you probably already know that the Original Equipment tires are tuned for a quiet and soft ride. However, they're not among the best choices for all-season traction in wet and snowy conditions. While it is great to have the best tires, many drivers prefer to have affordable tires that represent a good value for their hard-earned dollars.  

Most recent generations of the Honda Civic typically use one of three common tire sizes: 195/65R15, 205/55R16 and 215/45R17. Many Civics use 195/65R15, but there are quite a few higher trim levels that use 205/55R16, so be sure to check your actual tire size that is on your car. If you aren't sure where to find your tire size, check out "Sidewall Markings."  

Top choices for 195/65R15 and 205/55R16 

 PureContact with EcoPlus Technology
Continental PureContact with EcoPlus Technology
 Michelin Premier A/S
Michelin Premier

Top choices for tire size 215/45R17 

 Pirelli Cinturato P7 All Season Plus
Pirelli Cinturato P7 All Season Plus
 General AltiMAX RT43
General AltiMAX RT43

Each of these tires have been carefully selected due to their combination of all-season traction, ride quality, treadlife and value. All four tires are also rated and reviewed quite favorably in our survey results.

Even if you have a Honda Civic with one of the smaller 15" or 16" wheels, you can purchase larger wheels and tires. To learn more about installing larger tires and wheels on your Honda Civic, read "Plus Sizing 101."