Suspension and Your Ride

Wednesday, August 31, 2011 by Spencer Diaz
KYB Strut-Plus AssemblyThe last time you drove over railroad tracks, how well did your car respond? If it felt like your dampers were shot, it might be time to have your suspension components switched out. Or maybe your dampers aren't shot, but you'd like to change the way your car rides. Tire Rack offers a competitive selection of suspension components tailored to your vehicle's needs.

I personally found this out the hard way. While taking my wife's car, a 2004 Pontiac Grand Am, to get the oil changed, I noticed that the vehicle had a "bouncy" feel to it. The handling was very unpredictable and I could feel every imperfection in the road. 

In looking at damper options, we had our local mechanic install KYB struts in the front and rear of the vehicle. What a difference this made in the way the vehicle rides! One quick tip: always try and change out both the mounts and boots when replacing suspension components. Nothing like new products being held to your car by worn-out mounts!

For those looking to increase their vehicle's performance, consider the options available from H&R. They offer some of the best suspension components for improving handling and performance for many vehicles, including the 09 VW Jetta TDI. In addition to struts, take your suspension upgrade to another level with the H&R Coil-Over Premium Performance Kit. And to gain a better understanding on improving your vehicle's performance, read "Minimizing & Controlling Bounce."
H&R Coil-Over Premium Performance Kit
After you've purchased suspension components and had them installed, don't forget to fill out our Suspension Component Survey. This will provide others with reviews and help them select the proper suspension products for their vehicle.

Heir Apparent: Bridgestone Potenza RE970AS Pole Position

Wednesday, July 20, 2011 by Spencer Diaz
For years, the Ultra High Performance All-Season category has had numerous models that have ranked as some of the best tires on the market. One of these selections, the Bridgestone Potenza RE960AS Pole Position, dominated the category for years. However, with time, many manufacturers developed tires that also met the consumer’s needs in this category. In response, Bridgestone has unveiled the newest edition to their Potenza all-season lineup.
Bridgestone Potenza RE960AS Pole Position
Bridgestone Potenza RE960AS Pole Position
Bridgestone RE970AS Pole Position
Bridgestone RE970AS Pole Position

The Bridgestone Potenza RE970AS Pole Position is the model that will be phasing out its predecessor, the RE960AS Pole Position. While the RE960AS Pole Position excelled in handling characteristics and dry and wet traction, the RE970AS Pole Position is designed to provide additional traction in adverse conditions like snow and ice, beyond what its predecessor could accomplish. In our initial testing, we have found that the newest Ultra High Performance All-Season tire from Bridgestone compares well to the RE960AS Pole Position and holds its own against the competition's best in warm weather climates.

With an initial glance, you can see that Bridgestone maintained the utilization of a heavy directional tread design. This helps retain the outstanding wet traction that the RE960AS Pole Position was known for. Along with this, Bridgestone kept the 40,000 mile treadlife warranty. While some Ultra High Performance All-Season tires provide greater treadwear ratings, customers of the 960 and the 970 will appreciate the increased handling characteristics that the Potenza lineup has been known to offer. Building a reputation as being one of the sportiest Ultra High Performance All-Season tires on the market, the 970 looks to offer its customers a wonderful blend of handling, treadwear and overall traction.

Currently available in 24 sizes, the Bridgestone RE970AS Pole Position has been developed and released for customers with sportier coupes and sedans.

As the RE960AS Pole Position is also available in a run-flat model, Bridgestone offers many Ultra High Performance All-Season tires for your vehicle.

Upgrade to Aftermarket Wheels

Tuesday, July 19, 2011 by Spencer Diaz
Here is a common question that many people looking at aftermarket wheels ask: "Why would I want to swap them out, and will it be of any major advantage?"

The initial reason people like to modify the look of their vehicle with wheels usually starts with a desire for greater aesthetics. Original Equipment (O.E.) wheels for many applications can be cookie-cutter, and adding your own individual flair to your ride requires an upgrade. Modifying your car's appearance with a new set of wheels can give your car the desired style you are looking for.  

Adding a personal touch not only increases the look of the vehicle, but can also enhance it as well. Many, but not all, aftermarket wheels have reduced weight vs. their O.E. counterparts. The initial advantage is in unsprung weight variance. Not only can this affect the overall gas mileage of the vehicle, but also allows the vehicle to respond better, especially on imperfect roads. Lighter wheels allow for less vibrations or adverse feel to resonate in the cabin, which in turn makes for an easier and more stable ride for the passenger.

Additionally, increasing the size of the wheel not only gives the vehicle a more aggressive appearance, but can also affect the handling characteristics. In most cases, when choosing a larger wheel size, the tire size will need to be modified in order to accommodate the difference.  

As an example, a 2006 BMW 325i Sedan Base Model comes stock with 205/55R16 tires and 16x6 wheels. If one were to buy a 17" wheel, the initial choice for tire size would shift to 225/45R17. The average size of a 17" wheel for this vehicle would be 17x7.5. While the overall diameter of the tires remains about the same, the 17" size has an advantage in handling due to the tire's larger contact patch. The contact patch (a tire's "footprint") is relative to the width of the tires, and being that the width is 225 vs. 205, you have gained 20 mm in width. This will work very similar on most vehicles. As you increase the wheel size, the width of the wheel also increases. To compensate, the width of the tire increases and the sidewall gets shorter to make up for the extra inch of wheel height. The wider your tires get, the more rubber you have contacting the ground, thus increasing your handling characteristics. 

Our Upgrade Garage provides customers with the ability to view tires and wheels on their vehicle. With the example provided above, customer A would like a lightweight 18" wheel with a sporty euro design. Since the BMW 325i is a graphite color, he would like to give it a blended look. Deciding on the OZ Alleggerita HLT in the Matte Graphite Silver finish was the obvious option, giving him the clean, multi-spoke look, that will not only add aesthetics to the vehicle, but also save weight as well! Being that he wants an all-season tire that is aggressive in the snow, he chooses the Continental ExtremeContact DWS in a 225/40R18. And the customer is able to view his new wheels on his vehicle to ensure it's the look he desires! 

Note: While building a Tire & Wheel Package in the Upgrade Garage, you select wheels first and then add tires. All packages include Tire Rack's free Hunter Road Force balancing, mounting and all necessary installation hardware.

New All-Season Run-flat from Bridgestone

Thursday, June 2, 2011 by Spencer Diaz
Bridgestone Potenza RE960AS Pole Position RFTLooking for that performance style all-season run-flat, but running out of options? The latest tire being inserted into this category is the Bridgestone Potenza RE960AS Pole Position RFT. Bridgestone implemented the design of one of the most popular Ultra High Performance All-Season tires in recent years and developed it into what may be one of the more popular run-flat tires to come. 
With sporty handling and an aggressive-looking tread design and outstanding traction, these tires will meet the needs of the customer looking for year-round traction in everything from sunshine and rain to light snow. 
Currently, this tire is offered in three size selections:
Tire Test Results show the tire to be a great selection for your vehicle.

Another great all-season run-flat tire to consider is the Pirelli PZero Nero All Season RFT. Developed for sports coupes and sedans, this Ultra High Performance All-Season tire is offered in five sizes, including:
Shop by vehicle to see which tires work best for your vehicle.

Winter Wonderland

Monday, August 9, 2010 by Spencer Diaz
Thinking about winter tires? Wondering what the difference is between a winter / snow tire and an all-season tire, and whether of not you will need them?

The first thing to understand is that it is never really too soon to be thinking about winter weather. While it may still be warm outside, fall is on its way, and with it the first shipment of winter tires comes along. Why look this early? Winter tires are usually only produced once a year, and that's it. Unlike all-season tires, or even summer tires, we will usually only receive a set amount of winter tire applications; then after that it will be another year until we get more. Not a year goes by that someone looking for a specific winter tire has to settle for something different in November because the sales volume for that tire exceeded that of our received shipment. 

Does a winter tire really work that much better than an all-season tire in wintery conditions? Plain and simple, yes. Winter conditions are a complete culmination of freezing temperatures, snow, slush and ice, usually mixed with some blend of unpleasantness that makes road conditions a possible hazard for any driver, no matter the skill. A typical all-season tire will have a rubber compound meant to be a jack-of-all-trades style and formula, thus giving the driver the ability to drive in all temperatures and all conditions, albeit not with optimum traction in each. Its design incorporates some siping (all the little lines located on the tread) that help assist with biting in slick conditions, but these are minimal as winter grip is not the all-season tire's primary concern. Dedicated winter tires, however, incorporate a rubber compound that stays soft in the most freezing conditions. That, along with an exceptional amount of siping throughout the tire, allows it to have many more biting edges than any all-season tire would. 

So, you may be asking yourself, "What kind of winter tires do I need?" That really depends on the vehicle, its size and how you choose to drive. For many vehicles, we offer a choice between Performance Winter / Snow tires, Studless Ice and Snow and maybe a few Studdable tires as well.

While studded tires are only allowed in some states, people looking for studded tire-like grip without studs will go into a Studless Ice and Snow tire. These tires promote features like squared shoulder blocks, deep tread and extra-heavy siping to give the absolute best possible grip for wintertime. They are available in low-speed rated designs as their primary concern is the best possible traction in the worst possible conditions. 

Many of the most popular Studless Ice and Snow winter tires are:These models will shift slightly for light truck and SUV applications, but will adhere to the same primary functions.

The most popular Performance Winter tires are:The difference in performance on all of these selections comes down to what you want most out of the tire itself. Each has its own emphasis, which may include traction, longevity, handling and feel, that will cause one selection to be a better choice for the way you drive than another.

Reading survey results and checking out consumer reviews will help you make these decisions and ensure that you will get the best possible fit for your vehicle.