One might wonder how a Tire Rack sales specialist searches for a Winter / Snow Tire & Wheel Package for their own vehicle. I drive a 2014 Honda Civic Si and will be putting new tires and wheels on it this winter. Deciding on what to purchase is tough, even for someone who is always #thinkingabouttires.
The first thing to do is to search by your vehicle's year, make and model. You'll also want to see how small of a wheel safely fits your application. Using a smaller wheel allows for more tire sidewall. Keep in mind, I'm not changing out the outer diameter of the factory 18" tire, rather making the rim size smaller and adding more sidewall. This is called "downsizing" and helps in winter conditions when moving through packed snow and on ice. The second thing to consider is going to a narrower tire. A narrower tire allows the tire to slice through the snow, getting more pounds per square inch on the ground and in a more concentrated area. Currently, I am using a 16" wheel and a 205/55R16 tire.
Wheel selection mostly comes down to personal taste. There's often a debate on whether to use a steel wheel or alloy option when it comes to driving in winter conditions. To learn about the differences between the two types of wheels, take a look at "Alloy vs. Steel Wheels in Winter Tire & Wheel Packages." To gain the rally style appearance I desire for my vehicle, I am going to use the Sparco Terra.
Selecting the proper winter tire is extremely important. Understanding the different performance categories and the traction levels they provide is important to selecting the right tire. In Northern Indiana, I need a tire that delivers the most amount of grip in all winter conditions, including ice, slush and snow.
As someone who has the privilege to test winter tires during our testing, being able to compare options after driving on tires back-to-back really gives me the feel for the amount of traction each tire can deliver. During recent testing, the Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 outperformed the other tires. However, the Yokohama Iceguard iG52c was a close second. We have not tested the tire on the dry pavement for ride quality or in the wet yet, but personally, I buy winter tires for traction, not ride quality. The Blizzak WS80 is my choice.
One question often asked is what air pressure to use when downsizing, as I am doing with my set-up this winter. I will actually use the same air pressure that the manufacturer recommends, which is 32psi front and rear. Downsizing wheels and going to a narrower tire doesn't change the air chamber of the tire. In fact, the amount of space is nearly the same as the factory tire. The pressure also carries the load of the vehicle, so the factory pressure will go unchanged.
Now that I have found the right Winter / Snow Tire & Wheel Package for my vehicle, it's time you begin shopping and find yours today!