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.
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!
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.