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.
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.
Looking over Borbet's line-up, it seems like there's some confusion - the brand is Borbet, the wheel is the Type CG, so why does the cap say "CW"? Actually, CW is another brand within the Borbet family. They specialize in wheels for less common vehicles like vans, trucks and motorhomes. Since we do not carry the full range of CW wheels, we include the Type CG and Type CWC under the Borbet brand.
Both the CG and CWC are specialized to fit Sprinter vans, which are unique applications not covered by many wheel manufacturers. Their thick, closely spaced spokes provide a solid structure to support the weight ratings required for Sprinters. There are several varieties of Sprinters, and some have different bolt patterns, so make sure to use our shop by vehicle feature to ensure a correct fit.
With a history going back to 1881, Borbet is a very well-respected wheel manufacturer. It has supplied wheels for BMW, Audi, VW and Ford among others. Their styles tend to be somewhat conservative, but it's hard to argue with the quality and consistency they have achieved in the challenging business of making alloy wheels.
This year, enthusiasts are treated to an impressive new crop of Extreme Performance Summer tires. One of the most publicized new releases has been the BFGoodrich g-Force Rival. The Dunlop Direzza ZII, replacing the well-liked Direzza Sport Z1 Star Spec, is another hot new entry into the category.
Slightly less publicized, but no less worthy of attention are the Bridgestone Potenza RE-11A and Yokohama ADVAN Neova AD08 R. Yokohama and Bridgestone have been two of the class leaders and are answering the new challengers with upgraded models for this summer.
All of us here were eager to take these new tires out for a comparison. Driving them on the street was a useful test of what it would be like to use them on an everyday car. Taking them on and off the entry and exit ramps gave us a chance to get a hint of what their performance capabilities would be. All four tires gave excellent steering response and handling on the road, though each exhibited its own personality.
On the track, we had the chance to push these tires to their limits in both wet and dry conditions. Each one found slightly different areas to shine, whether it be wet or dry traction, ultimate lateral grip, responsive steering or confidence-inspiring stability.
Each tire could find a niche depending on the type of performance that's desired. To see a detailed report of how these tires stacked up, read "Testing Extreme Performance Summer Tires: The Boys of Summer Are Here" and watch the test video below.
Kosei has a long history of building lightweight wheels at affordable prices. Their latest offering is the K4R. This 9-spoke wheel has been available for over a year, so we have been able to collect some real world feedback from customers who have put this wheel through its paces under demanding conditions. Below you will find quotes taken from customers about their experience with the Kosei K4R:
"I bought these for my fourth-generation Civic racer, as they are nearly half the weight of the wheel I had before. They are an excellent quality wheel and seemed to take the punishment of racing in their stride."
"Fitment is great, as is improved handling - with the lighter unsprung weight (~4lbs. a corner) the car glides better over rougher surfaces and is more planted. Took it to MSR Houston roadcourse on 6/21 and had a blast...no issues whatsoever with the wheels on the track."
It's a tribute to the design and engineering expertise of Kosei that they can make a lightweight wheel that holds up both to the extremes of the race track and the punishment of winter weather. To accomplish this at a price that is highly affordable (range from $144 to $199 depending on size) is even more commendable. Wheel weight is between 11 and 16 lbs. depending on size and vehicle application.
The K4R is available in a limited number of fitments, so before you finalize your wheel buying decision, shop by vehicle to confirm if the K4R will fit your car.
Summer is here, which for many of us means a vacation, often in the form of a road trip. If you're heading out by car, make sure your tires and other essential systems of your vehicle are ready for the road. Feel free to take a look at our handy road trip maintenance checklist. It gives a short list of things to check to make sure your car or truck is ready to carry you as far as you want to go.
In addition to the basics, here are a couple other items that might help prepare you for your travels:
Continental's ContiComfortKit - A spare tire is the preferred solution to a flat tire for most people, but there are situations where changing a flat may be uncomfortable, impractical or dangerous. Some vehicles may not have space to carry a spare, especially when packed with gear for your adventures. For a quick solution to minor punctures, seal and re-inflate your tire with this handy compressor and sealant kit. The compressor runs off of the vehicle's 12 volt power supply and can be used for inflation with or without activating the sealant cartridge. The compact (9"x 7"x 4") dimensions occupy a minimum amount of cargo space.
Are those tires worn out? Do they look like they have the right pressure? Exactly how much tread is left? Take the guesswork out of your answers with the new digital Tread Depth/ Air Gauge from Accutire. Reads your pressure from 5-99 psi in 1/2 lb. units and measures tread depth in 1/32" increments. Make sure to check the tread depth on the inside, middle and outside areas of the tread; sometimes alignment settings can lead to uneven wear. A car with too much negative camber may have a tire that looks fairly new on the outside shoulder and is down to the cords on the inside edge.
View our accessories to find the products you'll need for safe travels this summer.
Tire testing is one of the most enjoyable parts of my job. It's also a big part of what sets Tire Rack apart from other online retailers. While we can't drive every tire on the market, we make an effort to drive as many of the leading tires as possible in each market category.
When you call Tire Rack to purchase your tires, you'll speak with an expert who has a wealth of experience driving on a wide variety of tires.
Every couple of weeks, while the weather is nice, we take four identical cars, mount each one with a different tire, and run back-to-back testing on both the road and track. Road testing allows us to sample ride quality and noise characteristics while experiencing handling characteristics relevant to everyday driving. Since the testing is on public roads, we drive at moderate speeds and do not test the limits of the tires' capability.
After road testing, we move on to the more exciting segment of the test: the track evaluation. Hot lapping in wet or dry conditions on our test track pushes the tires to their limits and is especially valuable for enthusiast-oriented tires.
All of our sales specialists take part in the driving portions of testing, while a few members of our tire information team handle the instrumented testing to measure braking distances on wet and dry surfaces. Look for our latest test results as soon as they are ready. We have results pending for the Grand Touring All-Season and Extreme Performance Summer category that should be going live in the next few weeks.
The Honda Fit has proven to be very popular in the subcompact segment, providing economy, utility and an engaging driving experience. When it comes to replacing tires on a Fit, what are the best options?
Fits come in both a regular and Sport version. The base Fit comes standard with 175/65R15 tires mounted on 15" wheels. Its Original Equipment Dunlops are adequate, but other options are available for customers looking for increased comfort, fuel economy or sporty handling.
Fit owners who are installing custom wheels that are 15x6.5 or wider will find that the original tires are only recommended to fit on wheels up to 6" wide. Those with wider 15" wheels can use 195/60R15. This tire size will fit wheels up to 7" wide, which includes all the 15" wheels we currently offer for the Fit. They are slightly wider and any difference in height is negligible - keeping speedometer readings within 1.5% of factory.
The Fit Sport uses 16" wheels, mounted with unusually sized 185/55R16 tires. Drivers looking for a wider variety of options would do well to consider 205/50R16. Those looking to emphasize the "Sport" in Fit Sport could then choose popular all-season performance tires like the Michelin Pilot Exalto A/S or Continental ExtremeContact DWS. The 205/50R16 size is 20mm wider than the original tire and retains the stock diameter to within 0.1". 205/50R16 offers a wide variety of options.
Looking to customize your Fit with larger diameter wheels? Sizes up to 17" will fit comfortably. 18" options are available, but may require minor modification to work without rubbing. View our wheel selection to find the right option for your Fit.
The Extreme Performance Summer category is targeted specifically for driving enthusiasts who demand the ultimate in grip and handling. These drivers may take their cars to autocross races, lapping days and other amateur motorsports events. For any racing class that requires true street tires, this is the class of tire to use.
Bridgestone's Potenza RE-11 has been very successful in this category, posting fast lap times and gaining high marks for its everyday usability. While it is currently the highest rated tire in our customer survey data, Bridgestone is aware they can't be complacent in this competitive class of tires. With competitors like BFGoodrich and Dunlop launching new tires, customers will have a wide variety of excellent options.
For 2013, Bridgestone is introducing the Potenza RE-11A in select sizes. This tire is an evolution of the Potenza RE-11, with revisions to enhance its performance and keep it at the forefront of this hotly contested market segment. The tire features a slightly revised tread pattern and a compound that combines silica content with a new long-link carbon black.
RE-11 sizes that are not being replaced by the RE-11A will continue to be available. View the RE-11A sizes that will be available this year and see if one is a match for your vehicle.