All about me

Before I start talking about everything else, let me tell you a little about myself.  I have been working at Tire Rack since 2005. 

I first visited the South Bend headquarters in 2003 as a customer looking  to buy a set BMW wheels and tires.  I was impressed with the showroom and test track, and I thought it would be fun to work here.  That idea stayed with me, and within a couple years I joined the team.

Like most of us here, I am a car enthusiast.  I really enjoy the tire testing we do here, especially the track tests, and it is fun to talk to enthusiasts from all over the country and around the world.

How to Choose the Correct Track Tires

Thursday, June 5, 2014 by Ben Rooney

Are you heading to your first driving school or lapping day? Or are you already a track veteran who's looking to go even faster? Whenever you go to the track, having the right set of tires is essential to going fast, being safe and having fun.

What type of tires do you need to bring for a track event? Depends on the type of event, the expected conditions and the resources available to you.

Take a look at your available options:

Street Tires 

Some people run their cars on the track with the same tires they use on the street. If you're already driving high performance tires, that set may work for you on the track. This scenario works best when you're attending beginner driving schools, casual lapping days or other events where the focus is more on polishing your skills rather than setting fast lap times. Street tires are not recommended for track use, and driving them in a track environment will most likely void their warranty. Keep in mind that if you overdrive them into corners, you could easily render them useless after only one day at the track. An example of this type of tire is the Michelin Pilot Super Sport.

Pros of Running Street Tires:

  • Convenience
  • Price
  • Can drive to the track safely.
  • Most street tires perform well in the rain.

Cons of Running Street Tires:

  • Performance - These tires aren't as fast in dry conditions as track tires.
  • Longevity
  • Getting home - What happens if you lose a tire on the track? Do you have an option for getting home?

Extreme Performance Tires

These options are really a subset of street tires, but they're designed to take the abuse of occasional track days. They have more focus on dry traction and responsive handling. Extreme performance tires can be used on an enthusiast oriented daily driver, or mounted on separate wheels for track use. An example of this tire is the Yokohama ADVAN Neova AD08 R.

Pros of Extreme Performance Tires:

  • Grip - Better performance than regular street tires.
  • Durability
  • Value - Last longer at the track than normal street tires.
  • Convenience
  • Versatility

Cons of Extreme Performance Tires:

  • Competition - Drivers are at a disadvantage compared to drivers who use dedicated track tires.

Streetable Track Tires 

There are some tires that are essentially track tires, but can be driven to and from the track. They would wear out very quickly if driven daily on the street. These tires will generally have enough tread pattern to handle damp pavement, but will be very prone to hydroplaning. An example of this type of tire is the Pirelli P Zero Trofeo.

Pros of Streetable Track Tires:

  • Grip - These tires will outgrip extreme performance tires.
  • Convenient - If you can swap wheels at home, but your car won't carry a second set of wheels to the track, this can be the perfect solution.
  • Versatility - Some of these tires can work as an intermediate tire for damp or drying track conditions.

Cons of Streetable Track Tires:

  • Give up a little grip compared to the most specialized options.
  • Few miles of use as a street tire.
  • Hydroplaning can be an issue if caught in the rain.

Specialized Track Tires

Track tires provide the ultimate in grip. They discard most streetability characteristics in order to deliver the very best lap times. With lots of grip and shoulders that are generally more square, these tires can be more challenging to drive at their limits. They should be mounted on separate wheels and installed at the track. An example of this type of tire is the Hoosier A7.

Pros of Track Tires:

  • Performance - If you are racing to win, track tires are the way to go.
  • Easiest way to turn faster lap times.

Cons of Track Tires:

  • Track tires won't work in the rain. You need a separate set if rain is a possibility.
  • More challenging to drive at the limit.
  • Often requires suspension modification or a specialized set-up.

Track Day Magic with Continental's ContiForceContact

Thursday, May 22, 2014 by Ben Rooney

Recently, our tire testers got the opportunity to drive on Continental's ContiForceContact, a new entry into the Streetable Track & Competition performance category. While this option isn't quite a racing slick, it's definitely built with the track in mind. This class of tire allows an enthusiast to drive his or her car to the track and then compete in the event on the same set of tires.

The ContiForceContact was matched up against some stiff competition in the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup and Toyo Proxes R888. It displayed impressive levels of grip and handling, and unusually good wet weather traction for the category. Progressive breakaway and neutral handling balance made this tire very driver-friendly. This tire can thrill you during hot laps with its precise handling and confidence-inspiring demeanor, while still being able to get you to and from the track, rain or shine.

While Streetable Track & Competition tires aren't for everyone, they are for drivers who want to get more from their car at the track than even the most capable road tire can delivery. Developed at the world famous Nurburgring circuit, the Continental ContiForceContact brings together Continental's racing and passenger car tire technologies.

Current size selection is limited, so we're hoping to see more sizes in the future. If your size is not currently available, check out other Streetable Track & Competition options.

For a complete recap of our test, read "Continental ContiForceContact: Track Day Magic."

The 2014 Tire Rack One Lap of America is Underway

Tuesday, May 6, 2014 by Ben Rooney

Springtime at Tire Rack means it's time for the annual One Lap of America challenge. Inspired by the legendary Cannonball Run, this year marks the 31st running of the event. The 2014 schedule consists of 3,200 miles of driving and 19 timed events over the course of eight days.

Besides the page on our site that features details about this year's incarnation of One Lap, we'll also be posting updates on Facebook.

To take part in this grueling test, contestants equip their vehicles with some of the stickiest street tires available, typically from the Max Performance Summer and Extreme Performance Summer performance categories. Cars, drivers and tires will be tested over a wide range of conditions and events, so they'll need to display consistency, versatility and durability.

If you were entered into the event, what tires would you install on your vehicle?

Your Questions About UTQG Ratings Answered

Wednesday, April 23, 2014 by Ben Rooney

What does "UTQG" stand for? Uniform Tire Quality Grade. It consists of a numeric treadwear rating, a letter traction rating and a letter temperature rating.

Should I use these ratings to decide what tire is best? Short answer: No. While they contain some useful information, UTQG ratings are generally not sufficient to judge the actual quality of a tire. This is especially true of the treadwear rating. The treadwear number is determined by the tire manufacturer. Each uses their own scale, and they have a surprising amount of leeway when setting the wear number.

If the treadwear number is lower, does that mean the tire has more grip? Not necessarily. Advances in compounding have allowed manufacturers to increase both treadwear and traction compared to older models. Assuming that a tire with a lower treadwear rating has better traction is like assuming that a car with worse fuel economy has more power. It is sometimes true, but not always the case.

What about traction rating? The traction rating only determines traction under one specific condition (locked-wheel braking on wet pavement). UTQG traction tests do not evaluate dry braking, dry cornering, wet cornering or high speed hydroplaning resistance.

If I live in a hot climate, should I be looking for an "A" temperature rating? Only if you plan to drive at high speeds. The testing for this rating is designed to evaluate the tires ability to withstand heat buildup caused by high speed operation. It does not accurately assess how well or poorly a tire will fare with regards to high ambient temperature. Tires with an "A" rating can exceed 115 mph in the lab test. Tires with a "B" rating can attain speeds between 100 and 115 mph. And tires with a "C" rating can reach speeds between 85 and 100 mph without failure. These ratings are similar to the speed ratings given to tires, though the methodology isn't identical.

Where can I go for more details about the methodology and ratings involved in UTQG testing? For more details and tables about testing procedure and ratings, read "Uniform Tire Quality Grade (UTQG) Standards."


Dunlop Direzza DZ102 Replaces DZ101

Thursday, April 10, 2014 by Ben Rooney

Dunlop recently replaced the popular (but aging) Direzza DZ101. The new model, Direzza DZ102, retains a similar sporty look to the DZ101 while providing enhanced performance. The DZ102 keeps a similar price-point, making it a very good option for drivers seeking an affordable performance tire.

Direzza DZ102 tires combine sleek styling and impressive handling to deliver head-turning performance in warm, dry and wet conditions. It features a specially formulated Silicarbon Matrix compound (combines silica and carbon black) to enhance traction. This compound is molded into a directional tread design featuring broad shoulder blocks and three notched central ribs to promote responsive handling and stable cornering.

While we haven't tested this tire yet, the initial reviews look good. Take a look at what one customer writes:

"So far I think they are great, road noise is comfortable and what I expected coming from the DZ101. Going through turns I felt the sidewalls held up nicely, the ride was very compliant and felt precise to me. Bottom line, I would recommend them to a friend."

Be on the look for upcoming test results to see how this tire compares to other options in the Ultra High Performance Summer category.

Max Performance Summer Tires for 2014

Friday, March 28, 2014 by Ben Rooney

Here in South Bend, Indiana we are nearly thawed out from a brutal winter and it is time to start considering what tires to run this summer. For enthusiasts with cars that are driven on the street as opposed to the track, this usually means selecting a tire from our Max Performance Summer category. Max Performance Summer tires feature advanced ultra low profile, high speed options that combine computer developed designs and unique materials with precision manufacturing techniques to provide an unsurpassed blend of dry and wet traction and handling.

If you're shopping for a set of tires from this performance category, here are your top picks:

King of the Hill: Michelin Pilot Super Sport

The Pilot Super Sport does everything well: wet traction, dry traction, steering response, braking and even treadlife is better than average for the category. This tire is designed to allow sports cars, sporty coupes, performance sedans and supercars to achieve their full potential in dry and wet conditions. Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires are competitively priced and usually cheaper than the previous generation Pilot Sport PS2.

Top Tier Value: Bridgestone S-04 Pole Position

The Bridgestone S-04 Pole Position is a leading member of the most recent generation of Max Performance Summer tires. While their raw grip is not quite equal to the Michelin Pilot Super Sport, they have excellent traction in wet and dry conditions, are extremely stable and provide confident handling. Bridgestone has been pricing them very aggressively, and in some sizes, you'd almost be crazy not to buy a tire this good at such a low price.

Lots of Grip, Not Yet Hyped: Yokohama ADVAN Sport V105

If you're the type of enthusiast who likes to do things a little differently from the rest, this may be the tire for you. The Yokohama ADVAN Sport V105 has not yet made a big splash in the marketplace, but it has exceptional grip. I'm also a fan of the responsive handling that its stiff sidewalls provide. To see how the tire performed during our in-house test, read "New Yokohama ADVAN Sport V105 Tested."

View all Max Performance Summer tires we offer and find the one that will make your summer driving a blast!

Introducing Continental's New Track Tire, the ContiForceContact

Monday, March 17, 2014 by Ben Rooney

Continental has brought their Streetable Track & Competition tire, the ContiForceContact, over from Europe. Developed at the world famous Nürburgring circuit, the ContiForceContact is built to deliver extremely high levels of dry traction along with precise steering response and predictable cornering behavior. It is designed to allow driving on the street, though caution should be taken when driving in heavy rain. While it is built to resist hydroplaning, the tire is not recommended for high-speed driving on extremely wet roads/tracks with standing water where there is the risk of hydroplaning.

The ContiForceContact competes with other Streetable Track & Competition tires such as the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup and Pirelli P Zero Corsa System. It offers exceptional performance at the track while allowing drivers to drive to and from the track without changing their wheels and tires. With a treadwear rating of 80, the ContiForceContact isn't intended for long service on the road. The tire would work best on a set of wheels used for track days and performance driving events, or on a second car that is driven primarily for fun. 

ContiForceContact tires are molded with approximately 6/32" of tread depth in their grooves and are left unshaved for use on damp tracks. While the tires do not require shaving for dry track use, their durability and lap time performance will improve if shaved to approximately 4/32" deep tread to begin competitive road racing/track use in dry conditions, however this will sacrifice treadlife.

To learn more about tire shaving as an effective means of permitting more of a tire's performance capability, read "Shaving Tires for Autocross / Track Use / Competition."

Are Sumitomo Tires Good?

Tuesday, March 11, 2014 by Ben Rooney

Customers often ask me about the Sumitomo brand. The tires are often very attractively priced, but many drivers are not as familiar with this brand as they are with some of the traditional names like Goodyear and Michelin. Are they really a great value, or are they too good of a price to be true?

How is Sumitomo pronounced?

This one stumps many people, however the pronunciation is actually easier than it looks at first glance. I find that breaking it in half makes it much easier. "Sumi" is pronounced pretty much how it looks: soo-me. It rhymes with Zoomy. Then the second half, "tomo" rhymes with Romo.

Where do they come from?

Sumitomo is a Japanese company. They're part of the Sumitomo Group, which has many diverse businesses under its umbrella. Sumitomo manufactures in a number of Asian countries, including Thailand, China and Japan.

Are they good?

Yes, Sumitomo makes a good tire. Like any manufacturer, Sumitomo makes a number of different models to fit different driving styles and customer needs. Are you in the market for high performance handling and excellent wet and dry traction? Try the Sumitomo HTR Z III. Do you need something a little bit sporty, but with the ability to handle cold weather and some light snow? Sumitomo's HTR A/S P01 might fit your needs. As long as you choose a tire that suits your application and driving style, they offer a very good combination of quality and value.

Why haven't I heard of them before?

You probably have and don't know it. Sumitomo builds tires for other brands as well. The most notable is Dunlop, which is one of the oldest names in the business. They do not do as much marketing of their own tire brand compared to many of the other brands. So while they fly a little bit under the radar, they have plenty of expertise in building tires.

Take a look at all offerings available from Sumitomo.

What Are the Quietest Tires?

Wednesday, February 26, 2014 by Ben Rooney

For many customers, having a tire that rolls down the road in a quiet and civilized manner is very important. If you're logging many miles, especially cruising along on highways and interstates, tire noise that's only slightly annoying around town can quickly become monotonous. So one of the questions we are frequently asked is, "What are the quietest tires for my car?"

If the Michelin Primacy MXV4 is a fit for your vehicle, the tire is a great and quiet option. It has done very well in our testing, including earning top marks for quietness while driving on our road loop. Among our customers, it has maintained exceptionally high ratings for both quietness and ride comfort. With just shy of 20 million miles worth of survey data, its 8.8 out of 10 survey average for quietness is exceptionally good. The tire provides drivers with an all around luxury option.

Available in a wide variety of popular sizes and typically carrying an H- or V- speed rating, the Primacy MXV4 will fit most passenger cars on the road today. If you're looking for a quiet tire, shop by vehicle to see if the Michelin Primacy MXV4 is available for your application.

What Does It Mean When an Item is on Back Order?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 by Ben Rooney

I often get asked when an item listed on "Back Order" will be available. When we list it this way instead of with an estimated date, it means that the manufacturer has been unable to give us an estimate of when the item will be back in stock.

If you're willing to wait to receive the back ordered item, then it makes sense to place an order. When the item comes in stock, orders will be filled in the order that they were placed. There are times when the first shipments we receive are limited quantity, so putting your order in early can sometimes mean that you will receive the item sooner than if you just wait to see when it shows up as "In Stock."

We will touch base approximately once a month to advise on the status of a back order. With the ETA being uncertain, we understand that your circumstances may change, or that the wait might end up taking longer than what can work for you. You are always free to cancel a back order or to change to an item that is more readily available.

For more information on an item being on back order, visit this page from our website.

Need Tires for a Classic MINI?

Thursday, January 30, 2014 by Ben Rooney

With the trend for larger wheel diameters, it can be hard to find tires for some of the classic vehicles that used small-diameter wheels. The legendary MINI is a victim of this trend, with virtually no tires available in its usual 10" wheel diameter.

However, there is still at least one excellent option for enthusiast owners: the Yokohama A008. This sticky, handling-oriented tire will enhance the sporting character of your classic MINI. Currently available in the 165/70R10 size with an H-speed rating, this tire is perfect for any sporty driving, including some track and autocross use.

The A008 has been very well liked by the enthusiasts who have installed a set on their vehicle. See what drivers are saying about their experience with the tire.

"These tires are brilliant. The car was transformed, and handles significantly better on the tires these replaced, or my recollection of any MINI tires I had run in the past. Overall, I don't believe there is a better choice for a Classic MINI (unless snows are required)!" -- Tire Rack Consumer Review, 1978 MINI Classic

"Very good tire. It performs well on this little car!" -- Tire Rack Consumer Review, 1978 MINI

"Great tire with lots of good stickiness. Grip is very good. The soft compound makes for good ease into long sweeping curves. 100 predictable!" -- Tire Rack Consumer Review, 2002 MINI Cooper Standard

If you have an old MINI sitting in the garage on aged, dried out tires, breathe some new life into it with a fresh set of sticky tires and rediscover how much fun it can be.

Don't Leave Home Without It

Wednesday, January 15, 2014 by Ben Rooney

Whether you're traveling across town or cross-country, it's always good to have some basic supplies to deal with roadside emergencies. If you don't already have them, the Accutire Excursion Road Kit is an excellent all-in-one solution.

It features an emergency warning triangle, jumper cables, air compressor, first aid supplies, gloves, duct tape, cable ties, hand-charged flashlights (no need to worry about a dead battery if it sat unused for years) and basic hand tools. View a complete list of what the kit includes here.

A basic set of tools like this can be a big help if you encounter any mishap on the road. Trim or bodywork coming loose? Duct tape and zip ties may hold it in place until you get somewhere for a proper repair and prevent further damage.

What happens if you come out to your car and find a flat tire? If the leak is slow, the compressor can pump it up enough to allow you to limp to a service station.

If your car battery is dead after a roadside stop, your hazard lights may not work. The kit's warning triangle lets other motorists know you're stranded, and the jumper cables will allow you to get a jump start.

This kit is an excellent set of basic supplies. There are a couple of things that I would consider adding: a tire plug kit to permit short-term repair of a punctured tire before re-inflating and a compact mylar blanket that provides a lot of insulation in a pinch.

Go Play in the Snow

Friday, January 10, 2014 by Ben Rooney

This winter I put a new set of Michelin X-Ice Xi3 tires on before our first serious snow of the year. The Xi3 provides a nice balance of excellent ice and snow traction with reasonable road manners. Winter here in Indiana spans many months, however we can often experience long stretches without snow and ice.

Having a fresh set of winter / snow tires on my car takes nearly all the stress out of winter travel. As long as the snow isn't too deep for the car to get through, I trust myself to get through most conditions without an issue. I've been using snow tires on my cars for years, but it has been a while since I had to purchase a new set. And of course, the technology is always improving. This new set is a big upgrade over my previous set of winter tires.

X-Ice Xi3 tires feature Michelin's FleX-Ice silica-based winter tread compound that provides firmness at higher temperatures for wet and dry road stability, while it remains flexible at lower temperatures to enhance packed snow and ice traction. The compound is molded into a directional tread design that helps evacuate water and slush for improved hydroplaning resistance. Snow platform indicators are molded into the X-Ice Xi3's tread grooves to make the driver aware of when ice and snow traction will be reduced as the tire's tread reaches the point where the remaining tread depth becomes less effective in deep snow.

If you've been grinding it out to the bitter end on your old winter tires, a fresh set will be a refreshing change. And if you have not used winter tires before, they will give you a completely new perspective on winter driving. Have fun and drive safely!

You Really Do Need Four Snow Tires. Running Just Two Isn't a Good Idea.

Thursday, January 9, 2014 by Ben Rooney

We always try to educate drivers about the need for matching tires on all four corners of their vehicle. Ideally, all four will always be the same, but the biggest chance for unstable or downright dangerous handling comes from mixing winter tires with non-winter tires in snowy and/or icy conditions.

You can see our test of a mixed set of snow tires below, demonstrating potential hazards under controlled conditions. Real world experience bears this out. I just heard from one of my colleagues about a customer who needed two additional winter tires to complete a set of four.

The customer came to our Indiana distribution center this past weekend wanting to purchase two more Firestone Winterforce tires for the rear of his vehicle. He had purchased a pair of 205/70R15 Winterforce tires elsewhere and had them installed on the front axle of his front-wheel drive Buick. After having the tail end pass him and exploring a ditch, he came to us looking for two more to complete the set. He is now a convert to the wisdom of 4 matching snow tires.

To see exactly what the customer experienced, watch "Why Gamble With Winter Tire Selection When Four of a Kind Always Beats Two Pair?"

The front-wheel drive car experiences oversteer as the front wheels turn, while the rear wheels want to keep going straight. On a rear-wheel drive car, with snow tires on the rear only, the results are different, but also not good:

To learn more about why you should install a set of winter / snow tires on your vehicle, read "Four Winter Tires...The Only Way To Go."

2013 Winter Ice Rink Test Results

Thursday, December 12, 2013 by Ben Rooney

Our latest winter / snow tire test is now available online. We pitted Dunlop's new Winter Maxx against the Michelin X-Ice Xi3, Bridgestone Blizzak WS70 and Continental ExtremeWinterContact.

In my previous post, "Dunlop Launches Impressive New Winter Maxx," I mentioned that the Winter Maxx was impressive in our testing, and now the official results are available for you to view. The Bridgestone Blizzak WS70, the long-time class leader, earned top honors for acceleration on the slippery ice rink. Dunlop's Winter Maxx was only 0.01 second behind, a nearly indistinguishable difference.

In 12 - 0 mph braking, the Continental ExtremeWinterContact stopped in the shortest distance. Again, the Dunlop was right behind the leader, with only a half-foot longer stopping distance. The Michelin X-Ice Xi3 and Bridgestone Blizzak WS70 tied in a finish for third.

Dunlop Winter Maxx

Bridgestone Blizzak WS70

Michelin X-Ice Xi3

While the Michelin X-Ice Xi3 was not on top when it came to ice traction, it had the highest overall average when road manners, wet traction and dry traction were considered. Continental's ExtremeWinterContact limits the trade-offs to get good winter traction. The Bridgestone Blizzak WS70 and Dunlop Winter Maxx are both somewhat more focused, providing very good ice traction, but are not able to match the wet grip and clear road driving refinement of the best in the category.

For a complete recap of our test, read "Testing Studless Ice & Snow Tires: Winter Season Specialists."

H&R Sport Cup Kit and Touring Cup Kit: What's the Difference?

Thursday, December 5, 2013 by Ben Rooney

When lowering your car, tuning the shocks to match the springs is essential to achieving the best possible ride and handling. The H&R Cup Suspension Kit is a popular option for drivers who want to lower their vehicle with a matched set of dampers and springs. Suspension gurus at H&R make your life easy by doing all the trial and error themselves, and providing you with a carefully researched package of lowering springs and custom-valved shocks.

You may notice that for many vehicles there's a "Sport" and "Touring" version of the Cup Suspension Kit. What's the difference?

Briefly, the Touring Cup Suspension Kit usually lowers the vehicle about 1.5" and is intended to preserve a smooth ride while giving sportier handling and a lowered stance. The Sport Cup Suspension Kit will provide more lowering, generally about 2", for a more aggressive stance. This will close even more of the gap between the fender and tire and provide a firmer ride.

If you consider yourself an average or moderately enthusiastic driver looking for a nice upgrade to the look and handling of your car, the Touring version is probably right for you. If you're a more hardcore enthusiast looking for the most aggressive stance, the Sport version is likely to be what you are looking for.

To view all suspension products available for your application, shop by vehicle.

Winter is Almost Here...

Thursday, November 21, 2013 by Ben Rooney

...and snow tire season is already upon us. Even though most parts of the country have only experienced a little snow and harsh weather, we are already well into the heart of winter tire shopping season.

As I've mentioned before, winter / snow tires start arriving in stock at the end of the summer, and by the time December arrives, some of the most popular winter items may be sold out. So, if you don't already have your winter tires for this year, don't procrastinate. Purchasing your tires early in the season will ensure you get the option you want.

Winter / snow tires provide you with confidence to handle the worst winter conditions. They make your trips a comfortable driving experience that will put your mind at ease...and maybe even allow you to have some fun! Today's high tech winter tires utilize tread designs and features such as multicell rubber compound in the Bridgestone Blizzak to give you traction in snow and ice that is considerably better than what you can achieve from all-season tires.

If you want to find what winter options are available for your application, shop by vehicle and enter your make, model and year information.

What is a Mud and Snow Tire?

Thursday, November 14, 2013 by Ben Rooney

The term "mud and snow" can cause confusion when talking about tires. If a tire is mud and snow rated, it will carry the "M+S" or "M&S"  branding. But what does that really mean? Is a tire with the "M+S" branding intended mostly for mud? For the snow? Off-road?

The mud and snow branding is really a very general indication that a tire is built to handle some bad weather. Any tire conforming to some very basic requirements for void area and positioning of grooves in the tread pattern can be branded "M&S" at the manufacturers discretion.

In theory, even most summer-only performance tires could qualify for the mud and snow branding, but in the interest of reducing confusion, tire manufacturers generally only use this mark on tires that are intended to offer at least some level of winter capability. Despite the name, most mud and snow branded tires are not specialists in mud nor snow.

If you need a tire for serious muddy conditions, look into purchasing a specialized mud tire. There is no special branding to indicate a mud tire, but they are easily identified by their large, widely spaced tread blocks. They're marketed for off-road use and their names will often include references to mud or off-roading.

When looking for a tire specifically for snow use, look for the mountain/snowflake branding that indicates a tire is truly designed to excel in winter conditions. Should you need help identifying the sidewall markings on your tires, read "Sidewall Markings."

Dunlop Launches Impressive New Winter Maxx

Monday, November 11, 2013 by Ben Rooney

Among the new winter / snow tires available this season is Dunlop's Winter Maxx. Positioned in the popular Studless Ice & Snow category, the Winter Maxx has been very competitive in our testing against the current leaders in the category, the Bridgestone Blizzak WS70 and Michelin X-Ice Xi3.

On the road, they were more stable and responsive than the Graspic DS-3 that they replaced, and on the ice rink they were some of the best in this year's testing. Test results will be published later this month, so stay tuned.

At the left you can see a photograph of the Winter Maxx's tread pattern. Typical elements like angled tread blocks, plenty of void area and horizontal biting edges are present.

In addition, Dunlop has made extensive use of siping for the Winter Maxx. Note how nearly the entire face of the tire is covered with tiny serrated-looking lines. Those small cuts in the treads are called sipes.

By using interlocking zig-zag sipes, Dunlop is able to pack in a very high density of siping without unduly compromising the tread-block stability required for stable, consistent road handling. Each sipe provides additional edges when the tire is trying to 'bite' into the snow to provide traction. But when subjected to cornering loads, the sipes interlock, acting like a solid tread block and providing a more stable feel when cornering than a tire with such heavy siping would usually offer.

The sipes work in combination with the rest of the tread design and the specialized winter compound to create a top-notch winter performer. For more detailed information about the Winter Maxx, and to shop for available sizes, view here.

Steel Wheels for Volkswagen Vehicles

Monday, November 4, 2013 by Ben Rooney

Starting this year, we now offer a new 16" steel wheel for Volkswagen applications. It's similar to the wheel it replaced, but is designed to accept the ball or radius seat lug bolts that come with your VW. These wheels are economically priced at $58 each* and are intended for use with Winter / Snow Tire & Wheel Packages. The wheel isn't designed to fit Original Equipment hubcaps. For those who would like to purchase hubcaps, view our aftermarket wheel covers.

The 16x6.5" wheel will fit most smaller Volkswagens, however it does not fit larger models like the Passat, Tiguan and Touareg. Audi and VW often share fitments, but the newest Audi models tend to have brakes that are too large for these wheels, while many older Audi models can use them. To check availability for your specific year, make and model, shop by vehicle.

Following the link above will allow you to enter your vehicle's information and browse options available for building a winter package. If you need only the wheels, click the "Skip to Wheels" option at the top of the list of available tires. To learn how we know what wheels are an option for your vehicle, read "How We Know What Fits."

*Prices subject to change