Who is Gavin?

I have always had a passion for all things automotive. My summer job in high school was at a local library and getting in trouble for thumbing through car magazines when I should have been sorting fiction from non-fiction (how I loathe the Dewey Decimal System to this day).

I've always been a VW fanatic. My dad had a Rabbit and gave that up for a brand new Jetta in '81 when my brother and I came along. Also, I remember my Mom's "taxicab" MKII Golf hauling us around throughout the 1980s.

Besides owning a couple of GTIs in my day, I learned to drive on the MKII, and a few years ago gave up my MKIV 1.8t for a brand spanking new MKVI. I have the same difficulty most enthusiasts have with a new vehicle: "How can I make it better?" To date, I've replaced the wheels and tires, and fiddled with the plumbing on my intake. By far, the wheel and tire change is the best upgrade you can do!

On top of being a part of our tire evaluation team, I've attended several race schools. If you have any VW or GTI questions regarding tires, wheels, suspension or brakes, be sure to let me know.

The Truth About Warranties

Thursday, July 26, 2012 by Gavin Carpenter

Resolving warranty issues on tires is tricky business. 

Anyone would like to utilize a manufacturer's defect or treadlife warranty if they could. However, is it an issue with the tire or improper maintenance of the vehicle and/or tire?

When was the last time you checked the inflation pressure of your tires to make sure they were inflated properly? Did you check the inflation placard? Has your car's alignment and suspension been properly inspected? 

An easy self-assessment is to look at the tire and make sure that all four tires are worn to the same tread depth across the tread pattern. If this is the case, get in touch with Tire Rack's customer service department by calling 800-428-8355 ext. 360. 

Another way to determine whether or not a tire may be covered is to look at the below disqualifying conditions:

  • Puncture
  • Injuries to the sidewall or tread that do not penetrate the carcass
  • Running a tire underinflated or flat
  • Impact damage
  • Shoulder wear that's commonly caused by underinflation, hard cornering or alignment issues
  • Uneven wear due to mechanical issues, which can include: feathered tread rim edges, cupping, diagonal wear, misalignment, worn or loose bearings
  • Failed or improper tire repair
  • Ozone cracking
  • Bead damage or improper mounting

The above list includes a few of the general specific items that could cause issues. Some manufacturers have a road hazard warranty on some of their tires, including Kumho and Continental.  For some additional information on warranties, read "Treadlife/Mileage Warranties."

Key to Safe Teen Driving with Tire Rack and Kumho Tires

Thursday, July 12, 2012 by Gavin Carpenter

Kumho, Mid-Ohio School, KeyBank and Tire Rack are hosting a teen driving school this Thursday and Friday, July 12th and 13th at the Notre Dame Joyce Center. Teens with a valid learner's permit or driver's license can register here.

This program includes classroom instructions, as well as a chance to get some experience in wet braking and emergency lane changes. Students will also have the opportunity to get behind the wheel of a Honda skid car which simulates driving in wet or icy conditions.

If you miss out on this event, Tire Rack also sponsors Street Survival.

Wheels for 2013 Subaru BRZ and Scion FR-S in Stock SCCA

Friday, June 8, 2012 by Gavin Carpenter

Good news for those running stock class in SCCA that have their Subaru BRZ or Scion FR-S.

Enkei Racing Series is making a version of their popular RPF1 wheel in a 17x7" size with an offset of ET42. Weighing in at a scant 14.5 lbs, the wheel will be a great choice for both vehicles. The 5-100 bolt pattern wheel is available in both the black and bright silver finish.

Enkei RPF1 Bright Silver Paint
RPF1 Bright Silver Paint
Enkei RPF1 Black Paint
RPF1 Black Paint

While we aren't expected to receive this wheel until the fall, it will definitely be worth the wait. Especially If you're going to compete in the stock class. Feel free to check out all of the wheel options for your BRZ or FR-S.

Is 255/65R18 Your O.E. Size?

Friday, May 18, 2012 by Gavin Carpenter

If you own one of the following vehicles with 18" wheels using the 255/65R18 tire size, this posts for you:

  • GMC Acadia
  • Chevrolet Traverse
  • Buick Enclave
  • Saturn Outlook

All of the Lambda platform GM vehicles above come stock with, or have been optioned to have, the 255/65R18 tire size. Did you know that a 265/60R18 works just as well, and gives you some great alternate tires to consider? Take a look at a few of the options listed below:

The Lambda platform crossovers can be frustrating to purchase new tires for if you don't want to pursue the tires GM supplies as Original Equipment. All of the tires on the above list offer a quiet ride, all-season performance, good wet grip and excellent handling for your crossover.

As always, be sure to check the tire size your vehicle has before shopping.  Some of these vehicles have 17" and 20" wheel options depending on the trim level. 

Michelin Pilot Super Sport: Year in Review

Friday, May 11, 2012 by Gavin Carpenter

I have taken my Michelin Pilot Super Sports into their second "summer" on my 2010 VW GTI. Here in South Bend, we were blessed with an early start to summer with warm temperatures beginning in March. I've clocked in just over 11,000 miles and the tire is still impressing me.

There hasn't been a sign of any degradation in the performance. Usually wet traction is the first to go and they're still bar-none the best tire I've used in wet. Last year, I had to pick up my sister-in-law from the airport during a torrential downpour, and gave her quite a scare when I wasn't driving "enough below the posted speed limit." While I was driving at an appropriate speed, the tire just provides so much confidence on wet roads.

For being as sticky and responsive as they are, these Michelin performance tires provide a great ride quality and quiet ride. I've only noticed a little tread noise on certain surfaces such as chip-and-seal, but a good tire won't hide bad road repairs.

My one observation is that it's important to check the wear of the tires where the Bi-compound rubber joins. You may see a difference in how the rubber looks between the two compounds. The outer shoulder has a slightly darker color to it, and the inner has a "grayish" hue to it. You can really see the difference in how the two compounds adhere by looking at the tire after driving through a damp parking lot. The inner compound will have more debris stuck to it.


New Michelin Pilot Super Sport
New Pilot Super Sport
Michelin Pilot Super Sport after 11k miles
Pilot Super Sport after 11K miles

To see if the Michelin Pilot Super Sport is the right fit for your application, shop by vehicle.

Tire Rack Carries Toyo

Tuesday, May 1, 2012 by Gavin Carpenter

Tire Rack is now a Toyo Tires Motorsports Dealer.

We have received our initial order of Toyo Proxes RA1, Proxes R888, Proxes TQ and Proxes R1R tires in our Indiana and Nevada warehouses (since both locations offer tire shaving and heat cycling services). In case you're not familiar with Toyo's line-up, listed below are four of the their more popular options:

  • Proxes RA1 - Dry Racetrack & Autocross Only tire that offers long wear and good resistance to heat cycles. Autocrossers love this tire, especially for its consistent performance throughout its treadlife.
  • Proxes R888 - Toyo's new-generation Streetable Track & Competition tire for driving enthusiasts participating in road racing, track days and high-performance driving schools. The tire's advancements in casing and tread design improve dry performance while maintaining wet traction and control.
  • Proxes TQ - The Proxes TQ is a Drag Racing Radial tire developed for drag racers looking for Top Quality performance at the dragstrip from a tire that's also streetable. Proxes TQ tires are designed to provide drive-to-the track-and-back versatility while delivering drag racing looks and traction.
  • Proxes R1R - An Extreme Performance Summer tire that's engineered to elevate performance in dry and wet conditions. Developed from Toyo's years of grueling on-track experience, the Proxes R1R also has a good reputation for performing well in cooler, dry conditions. And like all Extreme Performance Summer tires, this Toyo tire isn't intended to be driven in near-freezing temperatures, through snow or on ice. It's also essential these tires be stored indoors at temperatures maintained above 15 degrees F.

For a complete listing of Toyo tires we carry, take a look here.

Accutire ABS Coated Air Gauge

Wednesday, April 11, 2012 by Gavin Carpenter

Having adequate air in your tires is nothing to overlook. You wouldn't want to take a long trip with your gas tank on empty now, would you? An underinflated tire is more prone to early tread wear, bad fuel economy and also affects the handling and braking of the vehicle.

A handy tool to keep in your glove compartment is a tire pressure gauge to ensure you can check your tire's pressure at any time. An outstanding option to consider is the Accutire ABS Coated Air Gauge. The following are some of the key benefits and features to the ABS Coated Air Gauge:

  • Registers pressure levels from 5 to 150 psi on an easy-to-read digital LCD display
  • Rubber handle for easy grip
  • Powered by a permanent lifetime lithium battery
  • Top recommended tire pressure gauge in a popular consumer publication

To gain a better understanding of how to properly check and adjust your tire's inflation pressures, read "Checking Tire Inflation Pressure."

Klassic Wheels by Axis

Thursday, March 29, 2012 by Gavin Carpenter

Axis is no stranger to the sport compact tuning market. Since 1997, this California-based company has been building specialty wheels for many different import applications. 


Their latest design for 2012 is the Klassic. This wheel may end your search if you're looking for an affordable wheel with a European mesh style. The Klassic is a one-piece, low-pressure cast aluminum alloy that comes with the center cap included. Axis has designed a top-quality wheel in the Klassic, as the wheel offers a nice fit and finish.


Available in a 17" diameter, the Axis Klassic is a proper fit for a variety of applications, including many BMW, Infiniti, Nissan, Toyota and Volkswagen vehicles. The Axis Klassic is available in three different finishes:

Axis Klassic Black w/Machined Lip
Axis Klassic Black w/Machined Lip
Axis Klassic Gold w/Machined Lip
Axis Klassic Gold w/Machined Lip
Axis Klassic Silver w/Machined Lip
Axis Klassic Silver w/Machined Lip


Take a look at all Axis wheels available, as well as their OG line.

Enkei Tuning Series Raijin: God of Thunder

Monday, March 19, 2012 by Gavin Carpenter

New for 2012, Enkei Tuning Series has released the Raijin, named after the Japanese god of thunder.


Enkei did a fantastic job of creating a beautiful, functional wheel. The face of the spokes have just enough of a cut to create some contrast on the wheel, while the concave center adds a touch of softness.

Raijin wheels come in an 18" diameter and are available in a black painted, hyper silver and gunmetal painted finish. The Enkei Tuning Series Raijin wheel offers the following features and benefits:

  • 14-spoke
  • One-piece, cast construction with MAT Technology
  • Snap-in center cap
  • Exposed lugs
Enkei Tuning Raijin Black Painted
Enkei Tuning Series Raijin Black Painted
Enkei Tuning Raijin Hyper Silver
Enkei Tuning Series Raijin Hyper Silver
Enkei Tuning Raijin Gunmetal Painted
Enkei Tuning Series Raijin Gunmetal Painted


Breyton Wheels for Porsche?

Tuesday, March 13, 2012 by Gavin Carpenter

Up until last year, you could have a Breyton wheel on any car you liked, as long as it was a BMW. Then Breyton introduced BE by Breyton, which brought many other European vehicles into the fold except for one major player: Porsche.

Breyton Race GTSR-PF
Breyton Race GTSR-PF Black
Breyton GTSR-PF
Breyton Race GTSR-PF Silver

In order to match the performance requirements for Porsche vehicles, Breyton went to the next level with the Race GTSR-PF. This ultra-lightweight forged wheel is currently available exclusively for Porsche vehicles in a 19" diameter and weighs between 18 and 19 lbs., depending on the wheel's width. 


The wheel is offered in a very clean anodized silver and anodized black aluminum finish with an undercut lip design. The wheels also accept the O.E. Porsche center caps and you'd be able to reuse your Original Equipment lugs.


To see a complete fitment guide for your vehicle, visit our Upgrade Garage.

Sparco Assetto Gara Spectrum

Thursday, March 8, 2012 by Gavin Carpenter

Are you looking for a wheel to make your modified vehicle stick out from the ho-hum? Check out the Sparco Assetto Gara aftermarket wheels. 


The Assetto Gara has an array of different colors, including matte graphite silver, red, green, gold, white, bright silver, orange, bronze, black and blue


A few years ago Sparco and O.Z. Racing partnered up and collaborated on an exclusive collection of affordable wheels. The collection features both companies' Italian design heritage and motorsports background.


Popular fitments include Acura, Chevy, FIAT, Honda, Mazda, MINI, Ford and Subaru. If you're trying to get that look like Ken Block on your new Fiesta or Focus, check out the green painted version of the Assetto Gara from Sparco!

Need New Lugs with Your Wheel Purchase? Tire Rack Knows!

Monday, March 5, 2012 by Gavin Carpenter

Tire Rack carries a large variety of aftermarket wheels for many vehicles. While some are designed to reuse your current wheel's stock lug nuts or bolts, other options will require something different if the new wheel's lug seat type is different. Also, you'll need new lug nuts or bolts if the hole in the face of the wheel needs tuner style lugs or if the center cap requires a shorter lug.


When ordering, if an aftermarket lug is needed, your invoice will indicate the quantity, size, seat design, length and size of wrench needed. In some cases, we'll be able to supply a different socket if your Original Equipment wrench will not work. For more information on using the correct lug nuts with your wheels, read "Proper Lug Nuts or Lug Bolts."


Take a look at our Upgrade Garage to see how different wheel styles will look on your vehicle.

Goodyear and the Bondurant School

Friday, February 24, 2012 by Gavin Carpenter

Last week, I had the chance to get behind the wheel of a couple fantastic American sports cars at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving: a 2009 Chevrolet Corvette Z06 and a 2011 Chevrolet Camaro SS, RS package


Just as a side note, Bondurant has been using Goodyear tires exclusively for many years on their cars, when applicable. The main exception is with their Corvette ZR1 program, which is in conjunction with GM, where they use the Original Equipment Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 ZP


A key point taught during the school was weight transfer. We learned how to use it to maximize the grip of the vehicle's tires. One of the biggest concerns I hear from owners of high-horsepower vehicles is the tires just don't hook up in the corners.


Do you have a good car equipped with the right set of performance tires (such as the Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar EMT or Eagle F1 Supercar G: 2 RunOnFlat) and drive with the proper technique? Then the car will go where you tell it when the weight is in the right place - if you need to turn, make sure your weight is where it needs to be.


265/70R17 Tires for the Big 3 U.S. Truck Manufacturers

Monday, February 6, 2012 by Gavin Carpenter
Many GM, Ford and Dodge trucks and SUVs use the 265/70R17 tire size as Original Equipment. Depending on trim level and wheel size, vehicles such as the Chevy Avalanche, Cadillac Escalade, Ford F150 and Dodge Ram use this size. 

If you're looking to put a great tire on your American truck, BFGoodrich, Firestone or Goodyear tires may be what you're looking for. Listed below are options from three performance categories to provide several tires to meet your driving needs. 
  • Highway All-Season tires offer comfort, predictable handling and all-season capability.
  • Off-Road Maximum Traction tires meet the off-road challenges from deep mud, loose soil, slippery rocks and the toughest trails.
  • On-/Off-Road All-Terrain tires allow drivers to travel on many surfaces including snow-covered roads, gravel, stone and sandy off-road trails.
Highway All-Season:

BFGoodrich Rugged Terrain T/A
BFGoodrich Rugged
Terrain T/A
Firestone Destination LE
Firestone Destination
Goodyear Fortera TripleTred
Goodyear Fortera

Off-Road Maximum Traction:

BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain T/A KM2
BFGoodrich Mud-Terrain
Firestone Destination M/T
Firestone Destination
Goodyear Wrangler MT/R with Kevlar
Goodyear Wrangler MT/R
with Kevlar

On-/Off-Road All-Terrain:

BFGoodrich All-Terrain T/A KO
BFGoodrich All-Terrain
Firestone Destination A/T
Firestone Destination
Goodyear Wrangler SilentArmor
Goodyear Wrangler

Whether you're looking for Goodyear SUV tires, Firestone tire dealers or BFGoodrich Mud Terrain tires, shop by vehicle to find the right choice for your vehicle. 

Recommended Installer Map

Thursday, February 2, 2012 by Gavin Carpenter
Good news! When looking for a Recommended Installer on our site, you can now see exactly where they're located with our new map feature. If you're like me, sometimes just having an address doesn't cut it. You can now pinpoint exactly what installer you would like to visit by simply finding them on the map.

When visiting our website, click on the "Installation" tab on the top toolbar, then enter your ZIP Code and find an installer near you. It's that simple!

Bridgestone Winter Tire Driving School

Monday, January 30, 2012 by Gavin Carpenter
This past weekend, a few of my Tire Rack cohorts and I traveled to Steamboat Springs, Colorado to experience the Bridgestone Winter Driving School. The trip was a wonderful experience as we got to learn winter driving skills in their premier program, Fifth Gear, as well as gain additional experience driving on Bridgestone Blizzak winter / snow tires.

Once we arrived at the facility, we were greeted by the training staff and went through an introductory class to learn the fundamentals of winter driving. On top of covering the fundamentals, we also practiced principles in proper control in low-grip situations, advanced skid control, threshold braking and how to maximize weight transfer.

The school is sponsored by Lexus in addition to Bridgestone, so the vehicles used for the weekend were the 2012 Lexus ES 350 (for a front-wheel drive platform) and the 2012 Lexus GX460 (for an all-wheel drive platform). The Lexus tires chosen for each vehicle were:
Bridgestone Blizzak WS70
Bridgestone Blizzak WS70
Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V1
Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V1

There was no comparison test on the track, but might I say, both tires worked very well in advanced winter driving situations. We were forcing the vehicles to oversteer in every turn, forward spin turn, reverse spin turn and the Pendulum turn (Scandinavian flick). If you're looking for winter / snow tires for your Lexus or another luxury brand vehicle, the Bridgestone Blizzak lineup is worth considering.

The Upgrade Garage is Not Just a Wheel Simulator

Thursday, January 19, 2012 by Gavin Carpenter
Have you ever wanted to know what a certain wheel looked like on your vehicle before you bought it? Well, check out our Upgrade Garage and view a complete fitment guide for your vehicle, as well as easily switch between product category results with one click.

If you follow the link above and enter your vehicle's year, make and model you'll see what wheels are available by clicking the "wheels" arrow.

Upgrade GarageThe Upgrade Garage is also a fantastic place to check out other performance upgrades for your car. Wheels and tires are only the beginning. 

You can also find an assortment of brakes, suspension products, bulbs and engine performance upgrades like the AIRAID air intakes and Hypertech Power Programmers.

If you don't see what you're looking for, create an account and you can save vehicles in your garage to revisit at a later date to see what's new! You can also add items to your wish list from any of the search results pages.

Shop for a complete performance upgrade and never have to enter your vehicle make, model and year again. 

Test of the Titans

Wednesday, January 18, 2012 by Gavin Carpenter

It's the middle of January and customers are already calling in about Max Performance Summer tires. Nothing can brighten the day of a tire specialist more than the sweet smell of summer rubber in the winter!

As a sales specialist that tries not to be too hasty in recommending a tire, I like to have the opportunity to test it, get customer feedback and give the tire time to "stretch its legs" in the real world and see how it stacks up for the long haul. The following tires are heavy hitters in the Max Performance Summer performance category. They're streetable, trackable and still comfortable enough to work on a commuter vehicle or a high-end supercar. Last June we had the opportunity to test each tire and see how they perform against one another:

To summarize, each tire performed well during the test, however the Michelin Pilot Super Sport did very well in comparison. The Bridgestone Potenza S-04 Pole Positions came in second, with the Continental ExtremeContact DW in third and the Pirelli PZero at the Conti's heels. Take a closer look at the results by viewing this chart that's a part of "Clash of the Titans: Testing Two New Max Performance Summer Heavy Hitters."

Bridgestone Potenza S-04 Pole Position
Bridgestone Potenza S-04
Pole Position
Continental ExtremeContact DW
Continental ExtremeContact
Pirelli PZero

Here's a look at what some customers are saying about their experiences with each tire:

Bridgestone Potenza S-04 Pole Position:
"...These tires were everything I needed them to be. A vast improvement over last year's run with the all season ultra high performance tires from Pirelli. Nothing wrong with the Pirellis just not as good as these tires in highly spirited driving in the mountains. These S-O4 pole position tires were quite, sticky, and performed when I needed them." -- Tire Rack Consumer Review, 2003 Audi TT Coupe Quattro

Continental ExtremeContact DW:
"Tire Rack's test results and customer survey results are accurate: the best qualities of the DW are very good ride quality, extremely low noise, and superior wet traction. It took about 1,000 miles to break these in, before which the ride felt slightly too smooth. Since then, the drive has firmed up a notch and gotten more sporty..." -- Tire Rack Consumer Review, 2008 MAZDA3

Michelin Pilot Super Sport: 
"Made my Porsche so much better! Dramatically improved ride comfort and decreased noise level. Like a totally different car." -- Tire Rack Consumer Review, 2007 Porsche 911 Carrera

Pirelli PZero:
"...After reading all the good test results I was expecting a good tyre and boy did it deliver , the precision of this tyre is mind boggling , it gives such a good feel through the steering and the grip is just immense , it rides very well for a Max performance tyre..."
-- Tire Rack Consumer Review, 2004 BMW 645Ci Coupe Sport Package

Michelin Pilot Super SportLast year was the first year the Bridgestone Potenza S-04 Pole Position and Michelin Pilot Super Sport were available, so I had some reservation on recommending either without some customer feedback. This year, you can count on me recommending both, but the Michelin is definitely my top pick due to its poise and comfort as a streetable tire and also as a tire that can take what you and your car can dish out on the track or street. The Bridgestone Potenza S-04 Pole Position is a close second. The Continental and Pirelli would be the top picks if you're looking for a slightly more comfortable tire, but are willing to sacrifice in the area of performance.

Interested in more results from our testing? Watch our test results video from this summer's "Clash of the Titans."

Fit for a Fit: General AltiMAX Arctic

Thursday, January 5, 2012 by Gavin Carpenter

General AltiMAX ArcticThis past New Year's weekend, my wife and I took a trip to spend time with some friends about 45 miles from our home. We expected food, fun and festivities, however what we got was an unexpected 4" of snow and freezing mist on the plowed roads.

Thankfully, we put a set of General AltiMAX Arctic winter / snow tires on her Honda Fit a couple of months ago when she took a road trip to New York. This was my first winter driving experience in the Fit and I'm glad we made the decision to go with the General AltiMAX Arctic.

The following reasons are why we decided to install the General AltiMAX Arctic tires on the Honda Fit:

These General winter tires came in handy when we encountered one of those "surprise" winter driving situations. My wife's car zipped through the snow while others were slipping around.

Since the General AltiMAX Arctic is a studdable winter tire, we can stud your set for a cost of $15.00 per tire. If you choose to stud the tire, please be mindful of the studding laws in your state and that there is a brief break-in period.

Bridgestone Blizzak WS70: Second Winter Review

Friday, December 30, 2011 by Gavin Carpenter
Bridgestone Blizzak WS70Back in November, I installed my Bridgestone Blizzak WS70 tires with their respective wheels on my car for their second winter. Having purchased the tires for their deep snow and ice traction, they came in quite handy with the nasty lake-effect snow we got hit with last winter in South Bend, Indiana.

The winter of 2011 has been very mild to this point, so I'm finding that the tires don't handle the best on clear roads when the temperature is above 40 degrees. Clearly, I didn't buy the tires for their handling prowess in the twisties and performance in mild temperatures, but rather for their extreme winter grip in deep snow and on ice. I'm noticing every now and again that my traction control kicks in a little bit when I take an off ramp on a wet day. Now that I have a few miles on the WS70s, I'm also noticing a little bit more tread noise, particularly on wet roads. 

I'm very loyal to the Bridgestone Blizzak snow tires, and once these WS70s have plowed through their last snow drift, I'll purchase a set of their next generation of Studless Ice and Snow tire. The Blizzak WS70 has been a great winter / snow tire so far, but if I had my druthers, I hope the new model offers a little more stability and lower noise when there's no snow on the ground. 

Currently ranked second in our Tire Survey Results, the Blizzak WS70 is an excellent option for coupes, sedans, minivans and crossover vehicles looking for traction on winter's roads.