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.
Before I start talking about everything else, let me tell you a little about myself. I have been working at Tire Rack since 2005.
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.
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!
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:
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."
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.
...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.
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."
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.
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
As the winter season approaches, many tire shoppers have snow traction on their minds. For those who expect serious winter weather, we always recommend using winter / snow tires. However, customers in areas with light snow, an all-season tire may be the tire of choice.
Which one should you choose? A great place to start is Continental's offerings. In recent years, Continental has developed a reputation for strong snow traction in its all-season tires.
For performance oriented drivers, the Continental ExtremeContact DWS provides spirited summertime handling along with winter traction that is some of the best in its class. It dominates the Ultra High Performance All-Season customer surveys in the winter category, along with a very strong overall rating. The tire came in first when we tested it during our time in Sweden.
For drivers who seek a balance between a smooth and quiet ride, long treadlife and solid handling, the PureContact with EcoPlus Technology is Continental's offering in the Grand Touring All-Season category. When we performed our "Testing Grand Touring All-Season Tires" test, the tire was a well-balanced touring tire with impressive wet and winter grip.
Both tires have Tuned Performance Indicators, which feature visible letters molded into the second rib from the outboard shoulder to alert drivers of the tire's performance levels. A visible "DWS" indicates the tires have sufficient tread depth for dry conditions, as well as wet roads and light snow. After the "S" has worn away, the remaining "DW" indicates the tires only have sufficient tread depth for dry and most wet road conditions. Finally, after the "W" and "S" have both worn away, the remaining "D" indicates the tires have appropriate tread depth for dry conditions only.
To see how tread depth is vital to snow traction, read "Will Your Tires Be OK for Winter? Check the Tread Depth."
As winter approaches, drivers may wonder whether their tires will be sufficient to get through the upcoming snowy months. There are three main factors that influence performance in snow: tread compound, tread pattern and tread depth.
Compound is the most basic consideration. If you have a summer tire, you should not run it in snow. If you have an all-season tire, they can be adequate in snow. If you have a winter / snow tire, that is ideal for winter driving.
When it comes to tread pattern, a tire with more biting edges, whether it be in the form of numerous separate tread blocks or sipes molded into the larger blocks, will be best in the snow. Smoother, straighter tread patterns will tend to be less effective in the same conditions.
Tread depth is the most variable factor. Excellent tread depth can be the saving grace for an all-season tire in the winter. Conversely, if the tread is too shallow, even the most carefully designed winter tire will struggle. As a general rule, a tire should have at least 6/32" of tread depth to give good winter service.
Some winter / snow tires have a taller treadwear bar (snow platform) that indicates when the tread is too shallow for proper winter performance. If you're not sure how to read the tread depth of your tires, take a look at "Measuring Tire Tread Depth with a Tire Gauge."
See the image below to get an idea of what a winter tire looks like as it wears down. The left photo shows full tread depth, usually between 10/32nds and 12/32nds of an inch. The middle photo, 6/32", still looks pretty healthy, but this is the point where winter performance will start to degrade. The last photo shows a tire just above the wear bars, still legal for road use but not sufficient to give meaningful winter traction.
Full Tread Depth Tread at 6/32" Barely legal tread
Shop by vehicle to view all winter / snow tires available for your application.
All tires should be broken in with easy driving for the first few hundred miles, however studded winter / snow tires require special care during the break-in period. Proper break-in will ensure that all of your studs stay in the tires and they stay at the proper depth.
When a tire is studded, the studs are pushed into holes much smaller than the diameter of the barrel of the stud. This requires a fair bit of force and a lubricating solution to facilitate the installation. They are inserted so that the barrel of the stud is flush with the surface of the tire and only the small pin is protruding. The force of the installation stretches the rubber slightly and the lubricating solution does not evaporate immediately. This means that the studs may be prone to moving in or out to an improper depth or even coming completely out of the tire.
It's important to drive at speeds of 30 mph or lower for the first 60 miles after installation.This will allow the rubber to grip the studs tightly and the lubricating solution to evaporate.
Whatever winter / snow tires you choose (studded or studless), a few hundred miles of relatively easy driving is recommended to allow the mold release compounds to wear off and the various internal components to begin working harmoniously. The especially gentle break-in for studded tires counts towards this normal break-in period.
For more information on what to do after installing your new snow tires, read "Breaking In New Winter Tires."
During the summer, we test a wide variety of tires in wet and dry conditions. While we can't test every tire in every category, we focus on the newest and most popular tires in order to deliver the most relevant results. Testing in winter conditions is a bit more challenging. Winter here in South Bend, Indiana is unpredictable, and it's rare that we have consistent temperatures and snow surface on our test track in order to obtain repeatable results.
To perform a portion of our winter tests, we go to a local hockey rink to test the latest winter tires on the ice. This facility provides a consistent surface and allows us to fairly compare the tires under controlled conditions. However, ice is only one component of winter traction. In order to offer more insight into which tires are best in the winter, we have taken a number of tires to a testing area in northern Sweden. To learn more about our experiences in Sweden, watch "Winter Testing at the Arctic Circle: Introduction."
Winter results are also added to existing tire tests for all-season tires, such as this test of some of the top Grand Touring All-Season tires. When it comes to winter driving, you can't beat the traction provided by a dedicated winter / snow tire. If you live in an area where all-season tires can get you by, our test results will help you find the right tire. Regardless of where you reside, shop by vehicle to view all options available for your car.
After receiving numerous inquiries from customers seeking a steel wheel suitable for off-road use on trucks, we have added the Black Rock line of steel wheels. These ruggedly constructed wheels are available in a wide range of popular sizes for light trucks and utility vehicles.
Heavier than most other wheels we carry, Black Rock wheels are built for durability in harsh environments and are affordable enough that most owners will not be shy about taking them into off-road conditions. Unlike many inexpensive wheel brands, Black Rock manufactures their wheels in the United States. Taking their cue from Henry Ford, Black Rock steel wheels are available in any color you want, as long as it's black.
While there is only one color choice, there are several different styles and sizes to choose from. Diameters range from 15" to 17". Widths range from 7" to 10". Not all styles or sizes are available for every application, so make sure to shop by vehicle to see which wheels are made for your truck. While you're at it, look at maximum-traction mud tires to pair with a Black Rock wheel to create a true off-road Tire & Wheel Package.
Everyone wants to minimize their costs and I often receive questions about how to reduce the cost of freight. There's no magic bullet to reduce costs in all situations, but there are some things to be aware of.
Shipping costs will depend on weight, size, number of packages and distance. Anything that reduces any of these parameters will generally lower the cost of freight.
Number of Packages
When ordering car tires, order even numbers. Car tires (and smaller truck tires) can be shipped two tires per package to reduce the cost. When ordering small accessories, order them all at once. For example, the freight for two pairs of light bulbs is usually the same as one pair.
Select items that are in stock and make sure they're in the nearest distribution center to you before finalizing the order. Shipping over the shortest distance possible will reduce the cost.
When items are in stock in your nearest distribution center, UPS Ground will often be both the fastest and cheapest. If it quotes one or two days, there is no need to use an express service to receive the items quickly.
Canadian customers near the border can also save on freight cost by shipping to an address on the United States side, or to one of our Recommended Installers if installation is needed.
Size and Weight
There's not much that can be done about the size and weight of the items. The sizes you need are pretty much the sizes you need. However, there is a way to turn the weight of the items you're shipping to your advantage.
For extremely heavy orders over 400 lbs., call (888) 428-8355 x4660 to request a delivery via an LTL carrier. When shipping LTL, delivery to a business address with a loading dock will save you the most money. Only orders of extremely large tires or multiple sets of wheels and/or tires will fall into this category.
When you have standard or optional tire sizes on your vehicle, shopping for tires in your size is easy. Just shop by vehicle, and choose the appropriate option. You should always check your tire size to confirm that the tires on your car match what the computer thinks you should have, just to avoid any possible mistakes.
What if your vehicle is not in our database? You can easily shop by size. However, what if you have two different sizes on your vehicle? Maybe you installed custom wheels that require different front and rear tires but the computer thinks you should have all one size. Maybe you need custom sizes on a vehicle that came with staggered wheels. Whatever the case may be, having two sizes makes the search a bit more complex. You could pull up two different windows, one for the front size and one for the rear. Then you would have to check back and forth to see which ones come in both sizes and add up the price of two fronts and two rears to get the total cost. While this isn't impossible, it's more time consuming and there is more potential for a mistake somewhere along the way.
There is a handy trick to search for matching pairs of tires in two different sizes. When on our site, follow these easy steps:
- Click on "Tires"
- Under the "Shop for Tires" section, take note of the link that reads "Different size for rear tires?"
- A drop down box will then provide you with the option to select two different sizes
The website does all the work for you -- finds all available matching pairs and provides the cost of your order. Shopping for your staggered set-up is simple!
We recently completed our test of the Yokohama ADVAN Sport V105, which will replace the previous ADVAN Sport in most sizes. We pitted it and the new Dunlop Sport Maxx RT against the current Max Performance Summer leaders, the Michelin Pilot Super Sport and Bridgestone Potenza S-04 Pole Position.
The Yokohama ADVAN Sport has been a nice tire, but it lacked the razor-edge handling feel of its predecessor the AVS Sport. It was an impressive tire in wet conditions, but in the dry it was not quite as engaging as we would normally expect from a Yokohama flagship performer.
The V105 continues the trend of strong wet traction for Yokohama in this category, while bringing back a highly responsive steering feel. It sacrifices a little bit of ride comfort compared to the Michelin and Bridgestone, but rewards the driver with precision handling and direct, immediate response.
Some highlights from our test include:
- Best overall track rating for wet track performance, including top marks in steering response, braking modulation and handling predictability.
- Second place in overall dry track rating, behind only the Michelin Pilot Super Sport.
- Best stopping distance in our wet braking test.
Our test conclusion was: A very sporty tire that can hang with the best. To view our full test report, read "Testing New Max Performance Summer Tires: Can the Latest Keep Up With the Greatest?"
We have recently added a feature to our website that allows our customers to upload photos to show off their upgraded vehicles with Tire Rack products, including wheels. When you're shopping for wheels, you will be able to access any customer photos available of the style that you are viewing. You can also view our master photo gallery of both Tire Rack studio photos, as well as customer submissions. We love to see our wheels in their new homes. Photo styles vary from casual snapshots to artfully composed high-resolution images.
One picture that caught my eye while browsing is this image of a black painted Enkei Racing Series RPF1 on a WRX STI. This lightweight, performance oriented wheel is paired with a Dunlop Direzza ZII tire that perfectly complements the mission of the RPF1: going fast and looking good.
The customer has added his or her own custom lug nuts in what looks to be a blue anodized finish, adding a touch of color to the otherwise sober black of the car and wheel. And look at that mirror finish. This Subie seems to have spent plenty of time in 'makeup' getting ready for its glamor shots.
Customers can also include their own story about their wheels, tires and car to go along with the picture. When visiting the Photo Gallery, you can simply click on "Read My Story" to see what the owner has to say about their wheels and tires.
Want to upload your own photos and help other customers with their shopping? Visit our Photo Gallery, check the requirements and start uploading your photo.
From the same group that brought us the popular RIAL brand, we are proud to carry Anzio wheels, too. They offer European design and construction at prices that are extremely affordable. We are currently offering four different styles: Light, Turn, Vision and Wave.
The Light is a 7-spoke design in a silver finish that would go well on sport compact cars. It comes in some of the common 5-lug bolt patterns, but is also available in 5x108 and 4-lug patterns that aren't as commonly available. Sizes range from 14" to 17" and introductory prices range from $84 to $119*.
Turn wheels are a split 5-spoke design that cover many of the same smaller diameters as the Light, but adds 18" applications. The 5-spoke pattern is versatile and can look good on a wide variety of vehicles. Introductory prices go from $84 to $143*. Initially arriving in silver, the Turn will also have black finish versions available.
The Vision is a motorsport-inspired design with branching spokes. This style is common to European wheels and has become popular across a wide variety of brands. It will cover sizes from 14" to 18" with silver and matte grey finishes available.
Anzio's Wave is a sculpted 5-spoke pattern available only in a silver finish. Sizes range from 14" to 17" with pricing from $86-$124*. The range of applications and bolt patterns are similar to that of the Light.
Shop by vehicle to view all wheels available for your application.
*Prices subject to change
Michelin's Defender was introduced to replace both the HydroEdge with Green X and Harmony tires. According to Michelin, the Defender combined the best attributes of the two tires it replaced. Sounds great in theory, but how would it work out in practice?
Early reviews were good and the tire did well during our in-house test. However, how would it hold up over time? Now, with over one million miles of customer survey data reported, it's safe to say that the Defender is a success.
I usually like to withhold final judgment on where a tire will fit into the survey results hierarchy until it has at least a million miles reported. Since most tires do well when they are new, it may take some time for any flaws to appear in the survey results. Many new tires have shot up to number one on the survey results, only to find their true home somewhere toward the middle of the pack once a larger number of miles were reported.
Other tires may eventually eclipse the Defender as the top tire in the Standard Touring All-Season category, but it looks like the Defender will be holding one of the top spots for quite some time.