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."

Winter / Snow Tire & Wheel Package vs. Buying Winter Tires Only

Wednesday, February 11, 2015 by Gary Stanley
You've decided that dedicated winter tires are the right choice for you. After doing your research, you decided to go with either the Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 or Michelin X-Ice Xi3 to increase your driving confidence and safety. Next, you must decide if you want to simply purchase tires to mount on your current wheels, or buy a Winter / Snow Tire & Wheel Package.  
While initially more expensive, a complete tire and wheel package offers many advantages versus simply swapping winter and summer tires off the same set of wheels each season. Here are some of those advantages to consider:  
  • A Winter / Snow Tire & Wheel Package is shipped ready to install either by yourself or an installer. 
  • The cost of mounting fees over the life of a set of winter tires may make buying wheels less expensive than mounting tires each season. 
  • Most aftermarket wheels cost less than Original Equipment wheels.  
  • You can bolt on your package at your convenience and avoid waiting in line at a tire shop.  
  • Save the wear and tear on your expensive factory wheels that winter salt and sand dish out.
  • Protect your expensive factory wheels from winter's damaged roads and potholes.

If you're not convinced of the advantages of winter tires compared to all-seasons, be sure to take a look at "Ice Traction Comparison Between All-Season and Winter Tires."   

Where Do I Get My Tires Installed?

Friday, February 6, 2015 by Marshall Wisler

Tire Rack is a mail order company that ships products from their Indiana, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, Nevada and Colorado distribution centers. Regardless of where you might be located, standard ground shipping can typically have our products delivered in just 1-2 business days.

When purchasing a Tire & Wheel Package, your items will come mounted and balanced and ready to install at your home. However, if you're purchasing tires to be used on your existing wheels (the most common type of purchase), you will need to choose someone locally to perform the mount and balance. 

While you are not required to ship them to one of our preferred partners, Tire Rack has built a large network of installers that can install your tires for predetermined rates. These Recommended Installers can be seen during the checkout procedure or by viewing them directly on our site. 

All of our Recommended Installers are carefully screened to ensure they have the right equipment and experience to satisfactorily serve our customers. In fact, to be come a Recommended Installer a company must:

  1. Use proper mounting and balancing equipment including touchless or rim clamp, European-style tire changers and high-speed computer spin balancers.
  2. Employ properly trained technicians capable of safely performing damage-free installations.
  3. Be an automotive business that can offer additional services to customers (alignments, complete repairs, auto detailing, etc.)
  4. Possess a positive attitude and the ability to treat Tire Rack's customers with the highest level of professional courtesy.

For a list of recommended partners and their installation rates, take a look at our Recommended Installer program. 

What You Need to Know About Low Profile Tires

Thursday, February 5, 2015 by Turk Turkleton

"I have 245/45R17 low profile tires on my car, and I want to make sure these new tires I'm looking at are low profile, too. Also, can I replace low profile tires with 'regular' tires?" These two questions are asked often by customers we deal with when discussing tire options.

If the tires you're looking at purchasing are the same size, in this example it would be 245/45R17, then they will have the same dimensions and the tire's profile will be at the same level. 

The term "low profile" is a relative term. It does not describe a specific type of tire. If you consider 245/45R17 to be low profile, then every single tire available in that size is low profile as well. Some will say anything lower than 50-series, some will say anything less than 40-series is considered low profile. It doesn't really matter what you consider to be low profile, what really matters is that you have the right size tires. Yes, a 245/45R17 is lower profile than a 245/50R17 tire, but they aren't interchangeable.

Some people want to take their Original Equipment (still using 245/45R17 as an example), and put a "lower profile" tire on their car and drop it to 245/40R17 to lower their vehicle. While going from a 45-series to a 40-series will give you a lower profile tire, it will also change several other things. The lower profile also decreases the overall diameter of the tire, which will cause a harsher ride, increase your probability of damaging a tire and change the accuracy of your speedometer and odometer. The propensity for damaging a tire comes from the decreased load carrying capacity of the smaller tire.

Other people will go the opposite direction with this and say that they don't like the ride of these "low profile tires" and they want something that isn't low profile. While taking that 245/45R17 and moving up to a 245/50R17 may sound enticing to get a smoother ride and protect your wheels from potholes, this may not be a good idea either. That change in size gains you almost a full inch of overall diameter, a 4.4% increase. This may not sound like much, but it is outside the 3% variation range that is normally recommended, so it will affect your speedometer and odometer adversely. The other part of this is that while some vehicles may be able to handle a one inch diameter increase in tires, most can not. Vehicles are being built to more exact tolerances these days, and often times there simply isn't enough room to turn a bigger tire inside your wheelwells without rubbing.

If you want a lower profile tire for aesthetic reasons, what you need to do is get a larger set of wheels. A 245/40R18 is lower profile but the same diameter as a 245/45R17. If you want a higher profile tire to get a smoother ride, you should get a smaller set of wheels and something similar to 245/50R16, which is higher profile with the same diameter. When you want a higher profile tire to fill your wheelwell out better, you're going about it the wrong way. You should lower the suspension of your car to close that wheel gap.

New Miata Track Wheels and Fitments

Wednesday, February 4, 2015 by AJ Vest

Whether you're a weekend warrior or haul your car to the track occasionally, there are new wheels and great fitments available for the Mazda Miata. Many enthusiasts have been asking for wide wheels with low offsets for their Miata and several manufactures have responded to those requests.

Kosei recently released two new wheels, the K5R and K8R. These new designs keep to Kosei's tradition of offering lightweight, value-priced wheels. Each wheel goes through a low pressure cast with shot peened finish for strength. Miata drivers will rejoice at the aggressive 15x8 +20 and 15x9 +35 offerings that are now available. 

Enkei Racing Series is offering the RPF1 in a 15x8 +28 offset in bright silver and black finishes. This wheel offers Enkei's MAT technology (flow formed) for near forged strength while keeping weight down to a mere 11.3 pounds.    

Advanti Racing has introduced a 15x8 +25 and 15x9 +35 wheel called the Storm S1. This wheel is gravity cast with flow formed finish process, making it a very strong wheel while retaining lightweight properties. The 15x8 wheel weighs 11.5 pounds, while the 15x9 option weighs 12.15 pounds. Both options are offered in a matte grey and black finish and provide exceptional value.   

Kosei K5R

Enkei Racing Series RPF1

Advanti Racing Storm S1

While these aggressive fitments are available and may require vehicle modification, they can be found by searching by vehicle to find a track wheel for your Miata.  

How to Calculate Your Installation Cost at a Recommended Installer

Tuesday, February 3, 2015 by Ben Rooney

Installing a TireOur Recommended Installer's page is designed to help make installing the tires you get from us simple and convenient. To learn about choosing an installer, take a look at "Updates to Our Recommended Installer Page Help You Find Your Ideal Installer."

All of our Recommended Installers take part in our Price Pledge program, meaning that they promise to accurately display their installation costs on our site and stick to them. Not all installers have the same prices, but they all must adhere to the prices they publish.

Enter your ZIP code to see the list of installers in your area. All of the pricing for mounting and balancing is based on the tire's aspect ratio, which is the middle number of the tire size. If your tire size is 205/55R16, your aspect ratio is 55. Therefore, you would look at the pricing line for "50-55 Series" tires. If you are not sure of your tire size, it will be indicated on the side of your tires.

Here is an example of an installer pricing guide. This is for installation at our South Bend headquarters. Note that the basic installation/balance pricing is on the left hand side.

The right hand column of an installer listing is for "Additional Services." Not all of these will necessarily apply. Valve stems are normally replaced when changing tires. Some cars may have valve mounted tire pressure monitoring sensors (TPMS). In that case, disregard the valve stem charge. You may need to have the sensors serviced, in which case you would include the pricing for TPMS service instead.

Tires for larger trucks may be subject to additional cost, and the same goes for run-flat tires. Be sure to factor these charges into the cost if applicable.

Many shops will have a disposal fee to handle proper recycling of your old tires. This does not apply if you are keeping your old tires or disposing of them yourself. Some shops will have a shop fee to cover miscellaneous materials and shop overhead.

When reading the tables, you will often encounter N/C or N/A. N/C means that the service is included at no cost with the regular installation price. N/A means that the service is not offered by that installer. For example, if the line for Run-Flat Tire Service reads N/C, that means the shop installs run-flat tires for the same price as regular tires. If it says N/A, that means the installer does not handle run-flat tire installation.

If you need additional services not listed on the basic pricing table, click on the installer that you are interested in. You will see an expanded view with more services listed, as well as the contact information for the installer. If the service you want is not priced on the expanded table, you can check with the installer directly.

While there are many items to consider, our Recommended Installer page puts everything right in front of you so you can easily compare costs among the different installation options.

Is the General AltiMAX Arctic the Best Studdable Winter / Snow Tire?

Tuesday, February 3, 2015 by Gary Stanley

General Altimax ArcticWith recent snow falls still making news, many of us our reminded that we still have many weeks (and months in some areas) of winter driving left this season. To see if February is still a good time to purchase winter tires, take a look at "Is it Too Late to Buy Winter / Snow Tires?"  

The Bridgestone Blizzak WS80, and Michelin X-Ice Xi3 and Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V1 tires are outstanding, cutting-edge designs that offer the best ice and snow traction on the market today. For those looking for a more value-oriented option on a tight budget, consider the General AltiMAX Arctic. This Studdable Winter / Snow tire has a tread pattern that is aggressive enough that it actually works pretty well, even without studs. Check out how the General AlitMAX Arctic compares, both studded and not studded, in our test "Winter Testing at the Arctic Circle: Studdable Winter / Snow." 

General AltiMAX Arctic tires meet the industry's severe snow requirements and are branded with the mountain/snowflake symbol. If you decide to maximize this tire's traction by having them studded, it's important to note that there are special break-in procedures for studded tires.  

General produces the AltiMAX Arctic in a large variety of sizes to fit coupes, sedans, minivans, passenger-oriented light-duty pickup trucks, SUVs and crossover vehicles. Odds are that this great winter tire is available in a size to fit your application. Shop by vehicle to check pricing and availability!

What's the Best All-Season Tire for Ice and Snow?

Wednesday, January 28, 2015 by Turk Turkleton

All-season tires are a great option for many drivers. They are suitable for drivers who live in an area that receives occasional light snow, and/or freezing temperatures a few times throughout the year. Some all-season tires, such as the Continental ExtremeContact DWS, even provide above average snow capabilities that are a benefit in winter months.

However, if you reside in an area that sees significant amounts of snow and temperatures are below freezing for a significant amount of time, we always recommend using a set of four dedicated winter tires. The traction difference between an all-season and winter tire is so great and worth the investment for safer driving.

Take a look at the top-rated all-season tires in different performance categories for winter use*:

To view all options available for your vehicle, including winter tires, shop by vehicle.

*Based on consumer survey results as of 1/23/2015 

Taking Your Mazda Miata to the Next Level

Wednesday, January 28, 2015 by AJ Vest

The Mazda Miata has long been a crowd favorite with driving enthusiasts. While it's an amazing vehicle, the level of excitement can be taken to the next level with the right equipment.   

Tires are a top priority and the Dunlop Direzza ZII Star Spec and Hankook Ventus RS-3 (Version 2) are both favorites. When we tested each last fall, the ZII Star Spec handled amazingly well in all conditions. It delivered excellent grip, steering and braking response and driver feedback. For the driver not interested in near race-level grip from their tires, consider the Bridgestone Potenza S-04 Pole Position and Michelin Pilot Super Sport.   

For wheels, Kosei has many great offerings. The Kosei wheel line has been a favorite due to its history of being a durable wheel that is lightweight, at a very affordable cost. In the photo (a Miata I once owned), the wheels are black, because I spent an evening "plastidipping" my Kosei K1 wheels for a different look.

When considering suspension options for the Miata, the sky is the limit. For a good budget combo, combine a Koni Sport shock with an H&R sport spring and set the adjustable perch to your liking. The H&R sport spring offers a nice spring rate, while the Koni shock offers the ability to adjust its rebound. Koni and H&R recognizes this set-up and offers this combo as a kit for many vehicles, including the Miata. When setting the spring perches to its lowest setting, fender modification using a fender lip roller may be required to clear larger tires or more aggressive offset wheels. Sway bars should also be considered and Eibach, H&R and Hotchkis all offer options in varying degrees of stiffness and adjustment.  

There is some debate on what is best within the Miata community when it comes to brakes. While I feel aggressive brake pads are a personal opinion, many track-orientated drivers will use the Hawk HPS brake pad on the front and Hawk HP Plus pads in the rear combined with a Brembo or Centric rotor. Goodrich G-Stop Brakeline Kit with ATE Blue brake fluid will increase pedal feel. The ATE fluid will be resistant to heat and brake fluid boiling when on a road course. This set-up is very well balanced. 

A Miata prepped to this level falls into the SCCA Street Touring class and will be an absolute blast to drive. 

Four Common Winter / Snow Tire Myths and Facts

Tuesday, January 27, 2015 by Gary Stanley

With many drivers looking to purchase their first set of winter / snow tires, we've been receiving many questions about the overall performance of snow tires. To help customers better understand winter tires, take a look at the following myths about these tires.

Myth #1: Snow tires are only needed on the drive axle of a vehicle. 

Fact: Dedicated winter / snow tires are meant to be installed on all four wheel positions. Using just two winter tires can cause very unstable handling, especially during cornering, emergency maneuvers and at highway speeds. This is the most common, yet most dangerous, myth of all. Check out the following video for more information on why mixing winter tires is an accident waiting to happen.

Myth #2:  Bridgestone Blizzak tires turn into all-season tires after they are half worn, so they are no better than all-seasons at that point. 

Fact: It has been over a decade since any Blizzak tire used an all-season compound. Even those old tires didn't "turn into all-season tires" at 6/32". Their more aggressive tread patterns and siping still provided better snow traction than all-season tires. Regardless, the more recent generations of Bridgestone Blizzak tires have a winter compound in both layers of their dual layer tread compound. 

Myth #3: Snow tires "burn up" or wear out very quickly on dry roads. 

Fact: Driving on cold, dry roads in normal winter driving conditions will not prematurely wear out winter tires. Rather, it's warm temperature driving that will cause them to wear out much more quickly. These tires are designed for temperatures below 50 degrees Fahrenheit and work best at lower temperatures. Prolonged warm weather driving (typically caused by leaving snow tires on year-round) will lead to premature wear, but driving on cold dry roads will not harm your winter tires.

Myth #4: All snow tires have very poor handling and slow steering response. 

Fact: The Performance Winter / Snow category addresses this issue. If you live in an area that receives mostly light and occasionally heavy snow, and wish to maintain much of the quick steering response and handling your vehicle offers, you'll want to consider tires from this performance category.

Note: These tires do give up some snow and ice traction compared to Studless Ice & Snow tires. For help deciding which category fits your needs best, take a look at "Choosing Between Performance Winter / Snow Tires and Studless Ice & Snow Tires."

Continental TrueContact: A Competitive High Mileage Option

Monday, January 26, 2015 by Marshall Wisler

The Standard Touring All-Season tire market is a competitive place filled with multiple options from many reputable manufacturers. Traditionally featuring speed ratings of S and T, the goal of a Standard Touring All-Season tire is not to provide the most crisp handling or on-center feel, but rather to provide good all-season traction, a quiet and comfortable ride and long life. Make no mistake, tires in this performance category will not set any track records, however they will be one of the more practical items to choose from.

Earlier this year, Continental released the TrueContact and it features a 90,000-mile treadlife warranty, and thus far, has proved to be very popular with consumers. Featuring good all-season traction and having done well in our internal testing, the TrueContact has been a very strong seller and adds to Continental’s great all-season line-up. This is a tire that meets all the criteria of a good all-season option and slots itself into the mid-price point segment in many popular sizes.

Take a look at what some customers are saying about their experience with the Continental TrueContact:

"I love this tire and what a great tire for the price. My Subie feels well planted and secure with these tires. They are excellent on wet and dry surfaces, and absorb road imperfections exceptionally well." -- Tire Rack Consumer Review, 2015 Subaru Forester 2.5i Limited

"Tire does everything claimed and then some: traction, quietness, comfort, directional response and enhancement, smoothness -- you name it! This is the most remarkable tire I have owned!" -- Tire Rack Consumer Review, 2011 Honda Odyssey EX-L

Shop by vehicle to view all options available for your application.

Tires for Your Eighth-Generation Honda Accord

Friday, January 23, 2015 by Cy Chowattukunnel

The second car I ever owned was a 1978 burgundy Honda Accord 5-speed. Ever since owning this vehicle, I've been an Accord fan. Honda has done an awesome job in constantly improving the Accord, and the eighth-generation (2008-2012) model is a car that can do just about anything!

If you already own one of these Accords, there's no reason to get a new one. With proper maintenance, your vehicle is good for many more miles. Part of that maintenance includes replacing your tires. Depending on the trim level, your Honda Accord came with either 215/60R16, 225/50R17 or 235/45R18 Original Equipment tires. The following are replacement tire options for your 2008-2012 Accord:

215/60R16 Tire Options

If your Honda is equipped with the 215/60R16 (LX and LX-P sedan) size, then your O.E. tire is the Dunlop SP Sport 7000 A/S. The Dunlop has a track record of average treadwear. If your parameters are wet grip, overall handling, treadwear, low noise and ride compliance, a great replacement choice is the Continental PureContact with EcoPlus Technology with the Michelin Premier A/S a close second. The PureContact has better steering response, so it's easier to make an evasive maneuver, as well as better snow grip. Another option to consider, that's a great bang-for-your-buck tire, is the Fuzion Touring.

215/60-16 Continental PureContact $107*
215/60R16 Continental PureContact with EcoPlus Technology
215/60-16 Michelin Premier Assurance A/S $136*
215/60R16 Michelin Premier

225/50R17 Tire Options

The 225/50R17 Michelin Pilot HX MXM4 is Original Equipment on the LX-S, EX and EX-L, but not the EX-L V6 Coupe. Optimal choices to replace the Pilot HX MXM4 would be the Continental PureContact with EcoPlus Technology and Michelin Premier A/S. If you're looking for a good tire at a low price, then be sure to consider the Kumho Ecsta PA31.

225/50-17 Bridgestone Turanza Serenity
225/50R17 Continental PureContact with EcoPlus Technology
225/50-17 Pirelli Pzero Nero All Season
225/50R17 Michelin Premier

235/45R18 Tire Options

Were you lucky enough to purchase the EX-L V6 Coupe? Honda chose the 235/45R18 Michelin Pilot HX MXM4 to handle the vehicle's torque. If you're in need of replacing the tires on this vehicle, select the Continental ExtremeContact DWS if you live in a northern climate and the Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3 if you do not need to worry about light snow conditions. The ExtremeContact DWS is a great overall tire at a reasonable price that offers above average snow grip for its performance category. The Pilot Sport A/S 3 offers amazingly good wet and dry grip, but is average in the snow. A great tire to consider at a low price is the Goodyear Eagle LS-2.

235/45-18 Continental Extreme Contact DWS $181*
235/45R18 Continental ExtremeContact DWS
235/45-18 Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3 $198*
235/45R18 Michelin Pilot Sport A/S 3

Shop by vehicle to view all options for your Honda Accord.

Meet You at the Starting Line

Wednesday, January 21, 2015 by Tire Rack Team

The Tire Rack SCCA Starting Line school kicked off its 2015 season in Los Angeles, California recently. A partnership between the Sports Car Club of America and Tire Rack, the school allows enthusiasts a professional, all-inclusive entry into the world of performance driving.

While at the school, you’ll develop key concepts of all forms of motorsports while working with a professional performance driving instructor certified by Evolution Performance Driving School. Along with receiving instructions from accomplished autocrossers, the Starting Line package also includes:

  • SCCA membership
  • Helmet
  • Regional event entry
  • National Series event entry
  • Magazine subscriptions

Before you take the course, your vehicle will need to pass a technical inspection and will be checked to ensure it has functioning brakes, throttle return, properly installed and tightened wheels and that all loose items have been removed. Tire preparation is also key, as underinflated tires can results in increased wear and even damage while autocrossing. To keep tires in good condition, and to give your vehicle a quicker response, students are generally advisable to inflate their tires 5-10psi more than what is recommended for normal driving.

The class is not only educational, but a ton of fun. Take a look at what some participants have said about their experience with the program:

“It's amazing how much faster you can get in just one day with the direct feedback from the instructors. What's more, everyone had a blast playing with cars all day. It was worth every penny.”

“I've always been into racing and this is really the first time I've gotten to experience it firsthand. The instructors were great, I learned a lot through out the day and was able to put it all together on the course they set up for us. Over all great experience and tons of fun. Would recommend it to anyone.”

Create your own experience and sign up for a Tire Rack SCCA Starting Line class today!