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.

Aftermarket Lighting is a Bright Idea

Wednesday, December 21, 2011 by Gavin Carpenter

Do you remembFile:KITT Nose on at Toronto Auto Show 2011.jpger KITT, the sweet car that David Hasselhoff drove in Knight Rider? Oh yeah! With the sweeping red lights in the grille, the four fog lights down low on that all-black 1982 Pontiac Trans Am. Sweet action! 

You, too, could make your Trans Am, Honda, BMW or even your Geo Metro into KITT, minus the supercomputer, with Hella's LEDayFlex Module Daytime Running Lights. However, the lights only come in white and don't sweep back and forth. But you can imagine, can't you?
Photo courtesy of Tabercil

The LEDayFlex Module Daytime Running Lights are currently en vogue with Audi and Ford on many of their current model year vehicles. With a little ingenuity and good placement, they'll look like they were installed by the factory.

The kits are available in 5-Lamp, 6-Lamp, 7-Lamp and 8-Lamp modules. I'm particularly pumped about these kits because they can update an older model vehicle with LEDs. The light modules have safe metal housings which protect the enclosures from the occasional errant rock.Hella LEDayFlex 8-Lamp Module Daytime Running Lights

The LEDayFlex lights include the lighting chains, control units and mounting instructions.

To finish off the look, PIAA has the 2100XT Clear Fog Kit and 2100XT Clear Driving Kit. Both kits include two lamps, wiring harness, relay and switch.

If you're interested in a different option for your vehicle, take a look at all lighting kits available.

Enkei Racing PF01 Wheels. Thanks to MAT!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011 by Gavin Carpenter
Last April, I discussed putting new wheels on my vehicle. After making my decision and driving the new setup for some time, I'm quite pleased with my selection. 

I went with the Enkei Racing PF01 for several reasons. First, is the brand's reputation. Several F1 teams, including the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team use them. For many SCCA and NASA members, as well as road-going folks, Enkei is synonymous with a low-cost, quality wheel. 

Second, is the strength of the wheel. Many of Enkei's wheels, including the PF01 and the RPF1 are gravity cast wheels and use Most Advanced Technology (MAT) in forming the rim of the wheel. I didn't come up with the name MAT, but "shaving the wheel weight while adding strength to the rim" turned out to be a messy acronym. Here in the Midwest, I encounter a variety of driving surfaces and have hit my fair share of potholes and they've proven to stay true, so far. Thanks MAT!

Finally, is the wheel's weight. There is a noticeable difference in weight from the factory 17" Bridgestone Blizzak WS70 on my stock 17" VW Denver wheels and that of the 18" Enkeis with Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. The 18" PF01 comes in at about a pound for every inch of diameter and the tires at 22 lbs. each, or roughly 40 lbs. per corner. My stock wheels weighed approximately 50 lbs. with tires. This gives me a huge loss in unsprung weight, giving me an advantage in handling and braking. The ride quality of the 18" setup is rougher than the stock 17", but then again, I put them on my GTI and not a Golf.

Developed for many fitments including certain Honda, Mazda and BMW models, the PF01 is available in the following finishes: 
Interested to see what the wheels look like on your vehicle, visit our Upgrade Garage.

Enkei Racing PF01 (Black w/ Mach Lip)
Mouseover Text Here
Enkei Racing (White w/ Mach Lip)

I also toyed with the idea of purchasing a nice set of BBS rims, the CH in particular, but the cost dissuaded me a little bit from going that route. So, what do you think about the Enkei rims? Please note this is a photo from our Upgrade Garage, as my car was in desperate need of a wash at the release of this post.

 2010 gti enkei pf01

New Wheels

Friday, January 21, 2011 by Gavin Carpenter

Enkei Classic Enkei92 (Gold w/Machined Lip)Winter is half over. Tax returns will be on their way, and some will have a little bonus in the mail from Uncle Sam. What to do with that little extra green? How about a new set of wheels from Tire Rack?

Springtime is the right time to put new wheels on your vehicle and give your car a fresh new look. 

Take a look at our new wheels from American RacingEnkei Performance Series, Enkei Racing SeriesEnkei Tuning Series, O.Z. Racing, MSW and Focal.  Don't miss or newest lines from Helo and the ultra-retro Enkei Classic wheels.  

Visit our Upgrade Garage to find a wheel that fits your vehicle.

I Love this Tread Depth Video

Friday, November 12, 2010 by Gavin Carpenter
I just spoke with someone a few minutes ago regarding tread depth, and I remembered that Tire Rack has an interesting video regarding the subject.

Panic Stopping: How Much Tread Depth Do You Need?The video answers the question, "When should I replace my tires?"  Most states set the legal limit at 2/32", or at the top of Lincoln's head on a penny. What many folks don't know is, at 4/32" your wet braking really starts to suffer.

This time of year, you are probably going into the snowy or rainy season depending on your location. You may want to check your tires before going too far into the season...or through the intersection.

Watch the video "Panic Stopping: How Much Tread Depth Do You Need?" here.

Stay on top of your tread depth by using the nifty measuring device we carry — the Dill Digital Tread Depth Gauge.

Recommended Installers

Wednesday, November 10, 2010 by Gavin Carpenter

You've found the tires you're looking for and you need someone to put them on.

Tire Rack has a network of thousands of independent recommended installers willing and most certainly able to install your shiny new wheels and tires. You can find one near you easily by entering in your ZIP Code.

We've done the hard part. We found them, compiled all of their info such as address, phone number, what equipment they use, and what services they perform.
Think of it as one of those matchmaking sites, but for your car.

Searching by Wheel Diameter

Tuesday, November 9, 2010 by Gavin Carpenter
There is a search function on our website for you experts out there. I don't recommend doing this search unless you know a few things first, and are willing to to a little "leg work" on your own to make sure you get what you're looking for. 

The search is called "Tire Sizes by Diameter." You absolutely, positively, need to know the dimensions of your wheel and the dimensions of your wheel wells, as well as the clearances you need for full articulation.

So if you're a hot rodder, rat rodder or are into customizing your vehicle and completely deviating from the norm and willing to assume risk and responsibility, you can search by wheel diameter and see what works.

In your search, be sure to click on the "specs" tab for the particular tire you are looking at to see all of the dimensions before adding to your cart.

Yokohama Geolandar A/T-S is Where It's At

Wednesday, October 20, 2010 by Gavin Carpenter
Yokohama Geolandar A/T-SA good tire to consider for your light truck/SUV this winter if you want it to also pull double-duty as a good all-season tire is the Yokohama Geolandar A/T-S

I regularly recommend these Yokohama SUV/light truck tires, and they have worked well on both my brother's Dodge Ram 1500 4WD and a Toyota 4Runner owned by one of my closest friends.

I have tested the tire in real-world driving experiences with both aforementioned vehicles and it is not only a very capable, well perfoming tire but a very comfortable tire considering its more aggressive all-terrain tread.

The Geolandar uses a silica-enhanced tread compound, which in tire speak means the tire will do very well in wet and in wear. 

The tire also has aggressive side biters that add to the aggressive appearance and give the tire a little more edge in off-road and deep snow conditions.

My friend's 2006 4Runner Sport came with the O.E. Dunlop Grandtrek AT20, and the Geolandars definitely looked beefier and did considerably better in deep snow and ice conditions.

The Ram had worn Cooper tires, and the Geolandars gave the vehicle a more civil ride and had much better on-/off-road performance.

Check out the review data and see what you think of this great all-purpose tire!

O.E. Oh! Are they ho-hum?

Thursday, September 9, 2010 by Gavin Carpenter

If you've had bad experiences with Original Equipment (O.E.) tires, consider an aftermarket tire.

Most of the time, an aftermarket counterparts to your Original Equipment tires will outperform and outlast your O.E. tire and will often come at a lower price.

Popular Tires to Move From and Into

Keep It Covered: Winter Tire Storage Solutions

Wednesday, September 1, 2010 by Gavin Carpenter

If you are considering a new winter wheel and tire package, or already have a winter tire and wheel setup and need a way to store and carry them, consider the Tire Rack Tire Tote.
Tire Rack Seasonal Tire Tote w/ Logo
The totes come in sets of two and feature:

  • Heavy-duty shell
  • Easy-to-carry handle
  • Easy slip-over construction to keep dirt and dust off clothing and vehicle's interior
  • Easily stackable
  • One size fits tires 22" to 31" in overall diameter and up to 295mm section width
  • Tire felts available for added wheel protection
Another handy storage tool once you get the tires home is the wall-mounted Tire Storage Rack to keep the tires out of the way until spring.

Studded Winter / Snow Tires

Thursday, August 26, 2010 by Gavin Carpenter
Are you considering Studded Winter / Snow Tires for the winter? Take a look at these:
A good comparison of these three tires was done in our tests last year in Sweden. Watch the video and read our test results to see how they performed.

All three of these Studdable Winter / Snow Tires will greatly outperform any all-season tire in deep snow and ice.

Another type of Snow Tire to consider is a Studless Ice and Snow tire:To see how Studless Ice and Snow tires compare to Studdable Winter / Snow tires, watch this test results video.

Hankook Optimo H727 in a Nutshell

Tuesday, August 17, 2010 by Gavin Carpenter
If you're looking for a high treadlife, comfortable, all-season tire, the Hankook Optimo H727 may be the tire for you.

Made by Hankook Tires, a company that has been in business since 1968, and one of the largest tire manufacturers in the world, the H727 is designed as a Standard Touring All-Season tire.    

Hankook Optimo H727     Hankook Optimo H727

Reasons to consider the Optimo H727:
The H727 is comparable with the Goodyear Assurance TripleTred, Yokohama AVID TRZ, and Pirelli P4 Four Seasons.

Check out the Hankook reviews here.  

Like Breyton wheels, but don't have a BMW?

Friday, August 6, 2010 by Gavin Carpenter
Breyton has been designing and manufacturing aftermarket wheels for BMW vehicles for quite some time now.  With a few exceptions such as the Pontiac G8, you could not find these gorgeous wheels for your vehicle.

Until now. 

BE by BreytonWe now carry BE by Breyton -- a wheel line that holds true to the same trends of style and performance that have distinguished Breyton from the rest. The wheels are designed by Breyton, but optimally tuned with the domestic or European model in mind. 

The GTS-AV maintains similar lines to the Breyton Race GTSR-M, and is available in both a black painted, or hyper silver finish.

BE by Breyton GTS-AV (Black Painted)
    BE by Breyton GTS-AV (Hyper Silver)

The wheel is available in many Audi, Honda, Ford and VW applications. See if your vehicle will accept BE by Breyton wheels.

Torqued off about needing torque?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010 by Gavin Carpenter
If you need a torque wrench to make sure your new wheels and tires are on your vehicle correctly, we have a solution.
Tire Rack Adjustable Torque Wrench (Light Duty for Home Use)Tire Rack's Adjustable Torque Wrench may be just what you need for light duty installations at home.
The chrome-plated wrench is made of hardened steel and accurately measures up to 150 fft/lbs. of torque.  The click-type design helps you to avoid busting a nut or damaging the wheel or hub assembly of your vehicle.
A good addition to the wrench is a Thin Wall Socket to keep your wheels from being marred.

Give it a spin.

Hey, need a lift?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010 by Gavin Carpenter
So you just bought a new Tire & Wheel Package and are raring to put it on yourself.

If you're like me and want to outfit your garage with a killer lift, or if you switch between a summer and winter tire rig, a good investment is a good jack and stands.  

A short while ago, TiTire Rack Aluminum Service Jack and Jack Stand Setre Rack started carrying an aluminum Service Jack and Jack Stand Set for all you do-it-yourselfers. A short while after, I purchased one such set and it has worked out superbly. 

The beauty of the jack is the Quick Lift System that gets your car up in the air in a hot second. So much so, that it can get to its maximum height of 19.5" in 12 strokes or less. It only weighs a scant 50 lbs, and has a swell two-piece handle that comes off the jack quite easily, but not too easily.

Get more information on this amazing product here. 

A bright idea.

Thursday, June 17, 2010 by Gavin Carpenter
Did you know we carry replacement bulbs?

If you enter your vehicle’s year, make and model in our Upgrade Garage, we may have the means to illuminate your future, or at least a couple dozen feet in front of you.

I have used a couple bulbs in the past.PIAA The PIAA Xtreme White Plus is by far my favorite, and the best bulb we carry.  Not only did my visibility increase, but I also got a few good comments from my friends on how clean they looked without making my car look like I had tinted or cheezy-looking aftermarket lighting.

The other bulb that I used is the Hella HB3/9005 High Performance bulb. HellaIt works well as a standard replacement bulb and lasts a long time. I got a couple of years of use out of my Hellas.

Depending on your vehicle, both of these manufacturers have headlight bulbs, tail light bulbs, accessory bulbs and even full lighting kits. It's vehicle dependent, but PIAA also offers different tinted bulbs.

Where are my DWS tires?

Wednesday, June 9, 2010 by Gavin Carpenter
A common question we are getting lately is, "where are my Continental ExtremeContact DWS tires?"  Continental ExtremeContact DWS

Due to the unexpectedly high demand of this tire, and the demands on production, Continental is running just a little behind. How behind? A few months for some sizes.

Several sizes are listed as back ordered: "Items shown with an inventory status of "Back Order" are on order from the manufacturer and an approximate in-stock date has not yet been determined. If you select an item with "Back Order" status, we will contact you when more information is available (no more than once per month). Our on-line order tracking feature will include updates to the estimated in-stock date."

Continental is working diligently to improve supply. Because increasing production means creating new molds and re-configuring manufacturing facilities the time to make the changes are lengthy. 24 sizes are in limited supply. We are receiving partial shipments on most sizes but customers have placed orders for more than for which we have definite availability dates. We will receive tires for all orders placed but for some customers we do not have specific dates. Continental expects to have adequate supply with in the next couple of months.

If you have placed an order you can find the status on our Tirerack.com or by contacting us over the phone or by email. We will also contact you when there is a change regarding the availability of tires for you order.

The great news is that because of Continental's efforts we have 62 sizes of the ExtremeContact DWS tires in stock now!

If we are out of your size and you are able to wait, then they are definitely worth the wait, they are a great tire. But, if you need something in the near future, a back ordered tire may not be the one for you.

Rather than wait, why not consider other options? Other tires to consider that I've tested and do well, if not a little better than the Continental ExtremeContact DWS in my opinion are the Bridgestone Potenza RE960AS Pole Position or the Michelin Pilot Sport A/S Plus. Both offer better dry handling but suffer a little bit in the cold weather handling department.

Now I do realize that the tires above demand a little more of a premium price tag, but are well worth it in my opinion.  Others to consider that fair very well and keep the price down are the Dunlop SP Sport Signature, the Goodyear Eagle GT or the Yokohama AVID ENVigor.

It's better to be safe and have tires with adequate tread depth than to wait months and drive on unsafe tires. There are other tires out there.

Give Me 'Mo! Sumitomo, that is.

Friday, June 4, 2010 by Gavin Carpenter
Last week I was pleasantly surprised by the new tire out by Sumitomo, the HTR A/S P01. Usually I am a little pensive with the economy market tires, but these were a pleasure to drive. They were responsive, comfortable, and my testing was done during the "wet" portion of track rides and my road course time was a bit damp as well. 

If you're looking for a good, economical tire this would be the one to go with.

Sumitomo HTR A/S P01 (H&V)

Tires As Shoes: Part Three -- What Price?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010 by Gavin Carpenter

Spring has sprung here at Tire Rack. Every spring I hit the test track to push the tires we sell to the limit, as well as get some time on our "road course" to see how they handle the daily grind. 

Here's a couple handy video's to see the tests in motion:

Road course:    

Test Track:

So why am I telling you about tire testing and my subject title says, "What Price?" Because evaluating tires gives me, as well as all the other product specialists, a hands-on opportunity to know what price vs. value is.

Just like shopping for a pair of running shoes, you don't want to get a pair of shoes that isn't lightweight and comfortable, or boots that leave you cold and wet instead of warm and dry. You don't want a tire that is slippery when wet, or gives you a jarring ride.

When I test the tires, most of the time the more expensive, premier models outperform some of the more value-oriented products. Now, don't get me wrong, some of the more inexpensive tires like the Dunlop Direzza Z1 Star Spec or the General Altimax HP are killer tires, but these are exceptions to the norm.

A while ago we posted an article on the website that addresses this better than I can. When you have a chance, check it out.

I hope my shoe to tire analogy helps.   

Tires As Shoes: Part Two -- What Is the Purpose?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010 by Gavin Carpenter

As stated in a previous post, I recently purchased a 2010 Volkswagen GTI. 

What GTI tires, or what shoes for that matter, should I get? 

If I were to be the weekend warrior with my local SCCA it would be to my benefit to consider an Extreme Performance Summer tire, or even a track and competition, R-compound tire with a nice set of lightweight racing wheels. Using our handy shoe parallel, would I put running shoes on my car?

In my neck of the woods, weather changes with the beating of a butterfly's wings, and something with versatility may be more financially feasible. (I'll get to that point in my next post.) How about the equivalent of a cross training shoe, an Ultra High Performance All-Season tire?

I like taking long road trips on the weekends with my fiance and don't want her to complain about the rough ride of my new car. Maybe I should consider something like an oxford shoe in the Grand Touring category?

I will use the line of Michelin Radial Tires as a visual example because they have a very comprehensive list of tires in their line. (Some of these tires do not come in a size that would work for my vehicle.)  There are also many other tires in each category that will allow me to fine-tune my selection.

Streetable Track & Competition: Track shoe=Pilot Sport Cup. 
These tires are sticky! Not something to drive everyday, but they hook-up on the track to leave the competition staring at your bumper. 
Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 

Max Performance Summer: Running shoe= Pilot Sport PS2. 
About as much fun I'll have on the road during warm weather, but not the tire for driving to and from work unless I feel like a new set every couple of summers.
Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 

Ultra High Performance Summer: Tennis shoe= Pilot Exalto PE2. 
Sporty performance, but practical tire wear.
Michelin Pilot Exalto PE2 

Ultra High Performance All-Season and
High Performance All Season: Cross trainer= Pilot Sport AS Plus
Practicality has set in. I still like having fun, but want some more life in the tire, and want the tire to work when it gets cold.
Michelin Pilot Sport A/S Plus

Grand Touring All Season: Oxford=Primacy MXV4
Sporty styling on the sidewall, but more oriented towards long rides and longer treadlife.
Michelin Primacy MXV4

Passenger All-Season: Walking shoe= HydroEdge
About as basic as tires can get. They are designed for high mileage and for maximum practicality. 
Michelin HydroEdge

Studless Ice and Snow: Snowshoe=X-Ice XI2
In an area that gets deep snow, ice, and cold temperatures this will forge through the worst.
Michelin X-Ice Xi2





New Vehicle needs new shoes

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 by Gavin Carpenter
So last month I picked up my "brand spanking new" 2010 VW GTI in Carbon Steel Grey.  The car came from the factory with the 17" Denver alloys with the Continental Pro Contact tires, and I need me some new meat already to keep my glued to the road in corners.
Which brings me to my question, "What wheels and tires work best on a GTI?"

A good place to start is the Tire Rack website.  When I recommend a new setup for someone I start by looking at what wheels they're interested in.  The handy "upgrade garage" lets me enter in all of the specifics of the car.  After entering in the specifics of the vehicle I start with wheels.

Things I keep in mind in shopping for a wheel:O.Z. Superturismo LM (Matte Graphite Silver)
  • Performance comes from lowering the weight of the wheel as much as possible.  It reduces the unsprung weight, which increases the efficiency of braking and acceleration.
  • I also want to maintain some semblance of style as well.  A 19" wheel may look real cool, but more weight=less fun.  I usually recommend 18" or smaller.  A 17" wheel and tire setup will give the lowest weight, but aren't necessarily head-turners. 
After I browse the wheels (I really like the O.Z. Racing wheels by the way)
I move onto tires, where the rubber meets the road.  Tires I've tested that I'm considering are the Bridgestone RE11, Yokohama ADVAN Neova AD08, and Dunlop Z1 Star Spec.  All three did well, the RE11 is the most live-able of the bunch, but the AD08 performs so well and the Z1 Star Spec is the best bang for the buck.
Decisions, decisions...