Winter tires with all-seasons mismatched. Is it safe?

Thursday, October 21, 2010 by Mac McNabb
I just participated in a mismatch test with winter tires on the rear of a BMW 328i and it was eye-opening. A test was set up on our test track to see how all-season Michelins (Michelin HydroEdge) on front with Dunlops (Dunlop Graspic DS-3) on rear would handle in an emergency maneuver.

The cars with all four all-seasons or winters both handle similar through the slalom, with the winters having a bit more time in transition from left to right and vise versa. It wasn't less grip, just felt more like jello under the wheels than rubber in interchanges. Nothing you couldn't get used to. It was about 55 degrees out.

The trick was when we tried to go 40 mph through the slalom with the mixed set-up and 60 mph around the large skid pad. It was controllable (although the oversteer was pretty intense) until we had to go back the other direction after the large skid pad and lift off. I would say there was about 50/50 chance of complete loss of control with the oversteer.

What I found was that it wasn't a problem with grip, the winter tire did just fine when it was on a car with all four winter / snow tires. The problem was the difference in how the tire reacted to direction change and lift-off over steer. With all four tires reacting at the same pace (think spring rate or squirm) it was in phase with itself. Think of a building in an earthquake...that tread squirms and reacts to the input of both the car and the road and sways accordingly. With the front and back reacting differently (one a steel skyscraper and the other concrete), it really threw the car out of whack and on my test with our professional driver driving (I was the passenger) we did a 270 degree spin at 50 mph...after three hard oversteer switchbacks. Interesting to see it in action. So don't mix drastically different tires on a car. Winter to all-season,  all-season to summer, etc. It felt fine at normal driving but that first emergency maneuver and you are in the ditch or worse!

What to do in the winter if you start to drift?

Saturday, October 16, 2010 by Mac McNabb
Tire StackI have been talking to alot of drivers about tires, contact patch and controlling a slide. Of course, during the winter is when this is most likely, so I thought that I would provide a few tips on how to keep the car under control if you start to have the rear slide out.

Option 1: Brake.

What will happen? More than likely if you brake, you will spin. All driving, whether you think about it or not is about controlling the contact patch. Weight in a vehicle is somewhat fluid, and when you accelerate or decelerate the weight shifts. In a corner, if you start to slide and you tap the brakes, the weight shifts forward and physics kicks in. No car is smart enough to fix that even with VSC (vehicle stability control). Straight-line braking, on the other hand. is much more simple, and it has to do with just modulating tire spin. So if in a corner and the rear slides out, don't apply the brake immediately.

Option 2:  Let off the gas.

See Option 1. This is the same scenario only a bit milder. It would be better than jabbing the brakes, but more than likely will still induce the car to continue to slide and eventually spin.

Option 3:  Steer into it and slowly decrease throttle.

Remember the movie cars when Doc is trying to teach Lightning how to drift in the dirt? That was pretty accurate; you have to control the slide by steering into it and holding on. (I have three boys ages 3-7 so that movie is burned into my mind.)

Most people find this a bit counter-intuitive. Honestly, I started learning this craft as a young driver with a 1979 Camaro in snow-covered parking lots with my dad. I have had the opportunity to do a few driving schools and drive a SKID car, and it was surely trickyStudent drivers but helpful. All emergency maneuvers, just like performance maneuvers, take your car to the limit and controlling it in both situations requires the same skills. If your local law enforcement allows it, try it out carefully in a large parking lot near home and get a feel for how steering into a corner actually helps keep control!

If you can't find a safe place to do this, give the Mid-Ohio Driving Schoool a try. If you have a teen, enroll them in a Tire Rack Street Survival school and give them great experience in their own cars learning to control the vehicle at the limit and learn emergency maneuvers!

What is the best way to prevent steering wheel shake?

Saturday, October 16, 2010 by Mac McNabb
Always try the easiest thing first!

You are going to need a few tools:A wire brush and cordless drill help, along with some anti-seize lube.
  1. Jack up the car and put jack stands under frame or proper location.
  2. Clean the back of your wheel pad where it contacts the hub (wire attachment for cordless drill easiest!).
  3. Clean the hub/rotor surface (cordless drill works here, too!).
  4. Put a small dab of lube on the face of the wheel pad.
  5. Torque the lugs with the car in the air (not on the ground).  Torque in a star pattern and try a 3-step process for best ride.
Many customers have complained of pedal pulse on brakes. Complaints of a slight shimmy in the steering wheel come up occasionally. Stories of a slight vibration in the car are not uncommon. All of these things can be caused by improperly torqued lugs on your vehicle! Don't be too fast to blame the Centric brake rotors, the Kumho tires or the Road Force balancer used at the shop. It could have easily been a careless shop tech or even yourself that improperly put the wheels back on the vehicle.

Does your steering wheel shake?

Saturday, October 16, 2010 by Mac McNabb
My dad called last night and said, "your mom's car is shaking again..." He immediately thought that the Goodyear Assurance TripleTread tires that were approaching 50,000 miles must be getting old.

Back Story: She just had suspension work done. She had her struts and shocks replaced, a front half shaft, front wheel bearing and THEN an alignment. I, of course, first thought the mechanic's work may be the culprit, because that has been the case before. But then I thought about it, she's got the new parts on her car and the vehicle did drive smoothly for about three days before the steering wheel started to shake. So I ran out to the garage and got my torque wrench and off I went to try and torque her lug nuts.
Every single lug needed to be torqued. I set my wrench around 90-100 lbs., and all of them had at least 25-40 degrees of rotation, with one so loose that it would have surely fallen off today.
Took it out for a ride and smooth as silk.

Always check your lug nuts a day or two after a tire has been removed, and re-torque them. It is very important. If I wouldn't have done that, she would have lost a wheel and sheared off most of her lug bolts on the front passenger side within a few days and most likely wrecked her car.

Two new tires -- on the front or rear?

Thursday, October 14, 2010 by Mac McNabb

This question comes up almost every day, and as winter approaches, it comes up even more.

Yes, mounting two new tires on the rear of your car truly is counter-intuitive. If you never turn a corner at speeds over 5 mph your best tires could go on front. But since most of us turn, have on/off ramps and sweeping corners in our commutes, when replacing two tires they need to go on the back. It's all based on physics. Three things give your tire traction. They are not all equal. Remaining tread depth/void area typically is more than 1/3rd the equation when in adverse weather. Your tread compound and tread shape are the other two things contributing to traction.

If your tires are worn, your ability to resist hydroplaning is greatly reduced. Watch this video.

If your front tires are new and your rear tires are at 30-50% tread depth and it is raining and you are going around a sharp curve at 45 miles per hour. Your rear end starts to slide. What do you do?

1. Lift off the throttle.
2. Tap the brakes.
3. Other.

If you lift, the slide gets worse. If you brake, the slide gets worse. By braking or lifting you have shifted weight to the front, enlarging the contact patches on the front tires and decreasing the contact patch on the rear tires. There really isn't a good way to handle it. Steering through it while keeping the throttle constant is about the only way to have a chance at saving it.

I had the opportunity to drive a skid car at the Mid-Ohio Driving School. It is seriously tricky. The car simulates loss of traction on any specific corner of the vehicle the instructor wants, and simulates a much faster speed than you are actually going. It gave us a good picture of this scenario. Any lift or brake with the wheels turned or in a corner is ineffective.

Tire Rack always recommends that when replacing only two tires, the two newest tires should be installed on the rear axle of the vehicle. Read more.

Why go with Studless Ice and Snow tires?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010 by Mac McNabb
These questions face lots of people each fall:
  • Which tire should I choose for winter?
  • Can I go with the least expensive winter tire?
  • Do I need a performance winter?
  • Should I go with studs or not?
First, let's agree that the best Studless Ice and Snow tire outperforms studded tires on sheer ice. Read these test results: Studless vs. Studded

Next, le'ts talk about a little tire logic: Always prepare for the worst. That is the best policy you can have -- look at your worst consistent driving conditions. 
  1. Do you see ice storms occasionally?
  2. Do you encounter roads before they are plowed?
  3. Is your drive or cul-de-sac rarely plowed or on a steep grade?
  4. Are there bridges or dangerous intersections on your daily route?
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, the most extreme winter tire may be necessary for your daily driving needs. The true Studless Ice and Snow tires take today's technology and help give you the best chance to make it to work or home safely. 

Consider these winter / snow tires for your vehicle:

Bridgestone Blizzak WS70 -- Best-in-class SNOW traction
Continental ExtremeWinterContact -- Current ICE champ in our tire test
Michelin X-Ice Xi2 -- Best-in-class road manners, second place on ice
Dunlop Graspic DS-3 -- Budget solution in the ICE category

Winter Tires for Your Ford Focus!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010 by Mac McNabb
When purchasing winter / snow tires for your '00-'04 Ford Focus, you have the opportunity to downsize to a 14" package with steel wheels available. For the '05-'10 Ford Focus, downsizing to 15" is best.

NOTE: The SVTs follow a different set of rules, 16" minimum for them.

My pick for the best grip in the worst conditions in 185/65R14 would be the Bridgestone Blizzak WS60 as it's best on ICE and hard-packed snow. For the budget pick, the General AltiMAX Arctic would be a great choice.

In 195/60R15, the Bridgestone Blizzak WS70 works great along with the Continental ExtremeWinterContact. The budget pick here is also the General AltiMAX Arctic.

In 205/55R16, it's the WS60 or the Continental ExtremeWinterContact. Here the budget pick is the Firestone Winterforce.

What is the difference between a Studless Ice and Snow tire and a standard winter tire? Rubber compound. The Continental and the Blizzak have a special rubber compound that helps handle the water created when tires run over ice. When your tire touches ice, it melts a small amount of the ice and forms a water layer between your tire and the ice. Studless Ice and Snow tires quickly soak up that water and allow the tire to contact the ice and get traction. Bridgestone calls it a tubular multicell compound, which looks like Swiss cheese under a microscope. Click away and start your search now!

Continental ExtremeWinterContact General AltiMAX Arctic Firestone Winterforce  Bridgestone Blizzak WS70

Are my winter tires good enough for one more season?

Friday, September 3, 2010 by Mac McNabb
Taking a look at tread depth with the naked eye can be a bit misleading. How much tread depth do I need to make it through another season?

Tread Depth -- Why Too Little is Never Enough

The depth of the tread is directly proportional to the traction you will achieve in rain, slush and snow. Knowing that, what are the thresholds?

if you are at 8/32nds you have at least one more GOOD winter left. You should have a minimum of 6/32nds for snow traction. The slush and rain traction would be acceptable until about 4/32nds. If you don't have a tread depth measuring gauge, a quarter or penny can be a good tool.

From the top of the quarter to the top of Washington's head = 4/32nds

From the top of a penny to Lincoln's eye brow = 6/32nds

These methods are not perfect, but will give you a good indication of where you stand. Check out these tread depth gauges, or visit your local installer for exact measurements.

If your winter tires are not making the cut, get searching today!

What makes a Blizzak WS70 winter tire work?

Friday, August 20, 2010 by Mac McNabb
The Blizzak Studless Ice and Snow tire line has been synonymous with ICE traction. Why do some tires do better on ICE than others? There are three things that make a tire work on any given surface:
  1. Tread Design
  2. Void Area
  3. Tread Compound 
Firestone WinterforceCompare the Firestone Winterforce tire to the Blizzak WS70. A great tread design. Check. A void area consistent with winter tires. Check. Rubber compound?

Bridgestone Blizzak WS70
This is where the "rubber" hits the ice so to speak.

The Firestone tires are designed for colder temperatures, but they do not incorporate a special ice compound. The Blizzak WS70 has rubber compounding that is designed for ICE. When your tire rotates on th ice, it melts the ice and creates a layer of water between the rubber and the ice. The Blizzak has a tubular multicell compound that looks like Swiss cheese under a microscope to allows water to "wick" into the tread so the rubber can make contact with the ice.
That is how you do it! Every major tire manufacturer has attempted to replicate this method, some better than others.  The point though, is that a Studless Ice and Snow tire is specifically for ice. They provide the most traction for the worst situations! See what is available for your vehicle.

What Type of Winter / Snow Tire is Best for Me?

Friday, August 20, 2010 by Mac McNabb
Tire StackI know I need winter tires, but what kind is best for me? You basically have three categories from which to choose. Let's start with understanding the conditions in which you drive.
  1. You live in the city. You drive from one parking garage to another, but it gets very cold and you have occasional winter weather. You have a performance vehicle.
  2. You live in the suburbs and work in the city. You have a cul-de-sac that never gets plowed along with quite a few stop lights and turns. It does get icy occasionally.
  3. You drive on mostly groomed roads and just for your daily commute or to get groceries. Nothing aggressive; and the weather doesn't usually get too icy.
If you are a 1, Performance Winter / Snow tires are for you. They will keep the performance feel in your sports car in an aggressive type of situation. 

If you are a 2, you are most likely heading to a Studless Ice and Snow tire. It will give you extra grip on hard-packed snow and ice.

If you are a 3, you are fine with a Studdable Winter / Snow tire, studded or not. Performance isn't an issue, and neither is the ice, so you can go with this more budget-oriented option.

Want to learn more about snow tires? Watch some of our videos to see how tires differ in winter conditions! Then search by vehicle to see what is available.

Best Ford Mustang GT500 Tires!

Thursday, August 5, 2010 by Mac McNabb
Are looking for an alternative to your Original Equipment Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar tires?

Many customers that have had that tire have looked for an alternative. The problem is, with the 255/45R18 and the 285/40R18 stagger, not many options are available!
Continental ExtremeContact DW
In this case, the Continental ExtremeContact DW is available, and a great option! In our tire testing we found it to be great in the wet (the best, actually) and among the best in dry traction.

Priced at roughly 500 dollars less for the set and with amazing results from our testing, the Continental ExtremeContact DW is a perfect solution if it is time for a change. It is a budget solution without compromising performance! See what other customers have said about this tire.

Enter your vehicle info and get started searching!

Are the General Exclaim UHP tires for me?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010 by Mac McNabb
TGeneral Exclaim UHPhe General Tire Exclaim UHP is a great budget tire that performs admirably in the wet. Being a summer tire, it should never be driven in freezing, wintery conditions and its treadlife only lasts 15-25K miles. Because of these inherent features found in Ultra High Performance Summer tires like the Exclaim UHP, it is very important to examine tire categories before you make your tire purchase.
When considering between an Ultra High Performance All-Season or Grand Touring All-Season dtire, you should consider how hard you drive into corners. If you hit corners hard, but want more treadlife longevity, then go for the Ultra High Performance All-Season tires where a 25-35K mile treadlife is normal. Some new models are boasting 40-60K mile treadlife, but that seems a bit optimistic!
Go with a Grand Touring All-Season tire if you're not driving “like you stole it” and you will see a 40-60K mile treadlife with great noise and ride comforts!
So dig in and see which tire category makes the most sense for you!

Are Tire Rack tires for you?

Thursday, July 8, 2010 by Mac McNabb
Yes they are!
  1. The price is right! We have some of the most competitive prices in the industry!
  2. What's my motivation? Our first priority is that you get a GOOD tire, not a specific brand’s tire!
  3. We KNOW tires! Our Performance Test Track Drives, Real World Road Rides and classroom training make us industry experts. That leads to good, honest and unbiased advice.
  4. An expansive independent Recommended Installers! We have developed relationships with thousands of independent Recommended Installers around the country that are happy to receive and install your tires.
Search for tires and get started on your best tire experience yet. Our website is full of great information but if you prefer, our expert sales specialists are happy to help by phone.

I need some custom wheels. What do I need to know?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010 by Mac McNabb
You don’t want to look like anyone else, but you have a classic car and no one has been able to tell you what wheels will fit.

What information can you provide your Tire Rack sales specialist so he can help you find a wheel that will be the perfect fit?

1. Bolt pattern. You can’t just say, “It’s a Ford.” You need to know the EXACT bolt pattern.

2. Backspace or offset. You need to know your current offset. Even if you are going to make a dramatic change, your previous offset can be a good reference point!
Offset diagram
3. Check your clearance. Jack up your car and lower it down onto jack stands so that your vehicle’s suspension is compressed. Turn the wheel left and right and see what type of clearance you have. Make sure you have the measurements on your baseline wheels to give us a starting point and we can go from there. With your baseline plus the clearances at the fully turned points, we can start to paint a picture of what your vehicle will be able to handle.

4. Know your car! Find out what outside diameter maximums your tires can handle or what others have run on similar cars. If your car is fully custom, then mock something up with cardboard and work out the dimensions yourself.

If you have this info, a Tire Rack sales specialist can give you all the options that fit in your range. One more bit of advice, know your vehicle’s weight and we will be able to double check your load rating!

With this roadmap, your ‘32 Ford may be able to have some new wheels after all!

Super Fast Shipping!

Monday, July 5, 2010 by Mac McNabb
You are driving your 2008 Chevy Corvette across the country and you are just past the border of Louisiana and Texas in a small town. . . a tumbleweed distracts you and you don't notice a huge pothole, BAM!

Now you are stuck at a Sunoco with no front or rear right tires and are being quoted two to three days or $350 in freight to get a tire through their distributor. 

So how does Tire Rack get tires to the majority of the U.S. population in 1-2 days? Six distribution centers!

You are only one day away from our warehouse and at ground rates! So if you are in dire need for that Goodyear Eagle F1 GS-2 EMT and you are in the middle of nowhere and you need your tire faster than in two to three days, remember that we are only a phone call away!

Summer tires vs all-season tires. What to pick?

Friday, July 2, 2010 by Mac McNabb
So you bought that BMW 335i and never once thought about the round black pieces of rubber that wrapped those pretty wheels. You didn't even get 20 thousand miles! That was disappointing.

It's time to evaluate what the right tires are. The Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 Max Performance Summer tires grip well, but you are parking garage to parking garage in downtown New York and barely ever see speeds over 45 miles an hour. Why buy the tire with the most grip and high performance levels with only 15-20k in treadlife? In this case, it probably doesn’t make sense.

There is a better way to determine which tires are for you.
  1. How hard do I drive?  If you drive like you stole it, then check A, otherwise check B.
  2. How many miles do you drive? If it is less than 12,000 a year check A, otherwise check B.
  3. How cold does it get where I drive? Greater than 45, check A, otherwise check B.
If you have more As than Bs, summer tires could be a good option. If you are still in the dark, give us a call and we can help break it down even further.

Get your Continental ExtremeContact DWS ordered ASAP!

Thursday, July 1, 2010 by Mac McNabb
So you were waiting out the Continental ExtremeContact DWS until you could order it and have it ship same day? We can help for 62 of the 81 sizes produced. There are 18 sizes for which Continental does not yet have firm availability dates. They are working hard to increase their capacity for this very popular tire.

Today I received an ETA on a Continental ExtremeContact DWS order of September 30, so patience is paying off. A few of the sizes are still not fully off backorder and the farthest date out so far is October. Get them ordered now so you will have them delivered in the next available shipment for your size.

Continental had hoped to have their supply increased to meet demand by August but will not be able to do so for every size.

Alternatives? Sure.Continental ExtremeContact DWSThese are all good options with various strengths.  Check out what your peers are saying!

Can I wait out the BFGoodrich Radial T/A tires?

Thursday, June 24, 2010 by Mac McNabb
You have a beautiful classic car and have successfully devastated its rear tires in a fit of JOY and high-octane fuel burning manifestation otherwise known as a burnout.  What you didn't see coming was a massive backorder on rear tires that you have been sporting on your classic for years. Bye, bye BFGoodrich Radial T/A.

What are your options?
1: Wait.
2: Drive on bald tires.
3: Select a different tire in the same size from the Performance All-Season category.

Firestone Firehawk Indy 500                    Goodyear Eagle GT II
Firestone Firehawk Indy 500                           Goodyear Eagle GT II
If you look at consumer reviews, you will find that many customers actually like the Firestone the most. It definitely is worth checking into! And next time, check with us before you decide to get a huge, smoky monster burnout. We’ll make sure the rubber on the back is replaceable!

And a final note. Remember, it is always reccomended that you replace your tires in pairs or full sets so that proper car control and balance can be maintained.

Is the Goodyear Supercar EMT worth the backorder wait for my Corvette?

Thursday, June 24, 2010 by Mac McNabb
Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar EMTThe Goodyear Eagle F1 Supercar EMT for your late model 2006-2010 Chevy Corvette is on backorder. What to do? Your rear tires are as bald as Mr. Clean and you hydroplane in the morning dew.

I would suggest going to the Michelin Pilot Sport PS2 ZP.  This is the first Max Performance Summer tire with great reviews AND is a run-flat. 

You are looking at about a $100 increase in price. However, the tire’s performance mixed with its longevity will easily eclipse the difference that you will pay. Check out this review by one of our customers:

"The Michelins are like the difference between night and day! They ride smoother and they corner and accelerate like I had hoped the car would when I had the Goodyears. What a difference! I would highly recommend them without qualification. "

Give them a try! You will be happy that you did.

Best performance all-season tire in the RAIN!

Saturday, June 12, 2010 by Mac McNabb
Do you know this phrase by heart? "April showers bring May flowers." Do you live in Florida or the Gulf coast and have the daily afternoon 1/2-hour downpour? Then looking at the rain traction of your tire is very important!

In early June I had the opportunity to drive on four High Performance All-Season tires and critique the wet traction.  What I found was surprising!

The four tires tested were the Michelin Pilot Exalto A/S, the Yokohama AVID ENVigor, the Sumitomo HTR A/S PO1, and the Firestone Precision Sport.

Yokohama AVID ENVigor (H&V)Going into the study, I expected the Michelin to be the victor on the wet racetrack. I was wrong. The Michelin still is one of the smoothest rides, however the newcomers to the group did amazing in the rain.Sumitomo HTR A/S P01 (H&V)

The Yokohama and the Sumitomo were the clear winners. It was apparent on the track when coming off of the skidpad section and into a long sweeping corner that the Yoko and Sumitomo tires stuck better to the ground, while the Michelin and the Firestone allowed significant over steer.

Think of that as "wagging the tail" of the vehicle.  My vote goes to the Yokohama AVID ENVigor or the Sumitomo HTR A/S PO1!