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Tires

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Many people take tires for granted, but they add to the overall performance and safety of your car. Since part of car ownership means replacing your tires when needed, itís a good idea to know what to look for and how to take care of them. We get the story on buying tires.

   BUYING TIPS

The Basics

  • A few tips on how to determine if you need new tires:

    • Many tires have bars of rubber molded into the tread. If the tire is worn down enough that you can see this bar, it’s time to replace them.

    • Check your sidewalls for any cracks, bubbles or knots. All mean it may be time for a new set.

    • If your driving conditions have drastically changed, like if you have moved to a different climate, you may need to re-assess your tire needs.

    • If your treads are low, you may hydroplane in rainy or snowy conditions, which will cause you to lose control

    • An average tire should last for 50,000 to 60,000 miles of regular driving.

  • The most common everyday tire, whether you drive a car, minivan or an SUV, is the all-season radial.

  • The kind of car you drive can determine the type of tires you should get. For cars and minivans, you have a few options:

    • All-season tires are the most common and usually have a good, long tread life, provide a comfy ride and are OK in moderate amounts of snow or mud.

    • Touring tires focus more on handling and performance than all-season tires, and perform best on dry pavement.

    • Performance tires are standard equipment on sports cars, but they don’t last as long. They allow your fancy sports car to realize its potential while looking great. There are also go hi-performance and ultra hi-performance tires, which increase high-speed handling and stability.

    • Winter/snow tires are only a consideration if you live in certain parts of Canada and the north-eastern United States. Many people have two sets of tires, one for snow, and one for regular season.

  • Light trucks and SUVs have similar options to cars, as well as a few more:

    • All-season tires come standard with most. The tread pattern provides a smooth, quiet ride and gives you adequate traction in most conditions. It’s a good, everyday tire.

    • Street/Sport Truck tires upgrade your vehicle’s handling and look with low-profile and large rim tires. They’re more for style purpose and aren’t recommended for snow and ice conditions.

    • All-terrain tires are one step up from the all-season, for use in muddy or rocky conditions, and are still perfectly fine for highway conditions.

    • Mud-terrain tires are meant for off-roading. They give you grip and traction in deep mud and loose dirt, but on normal pavement and highway, they give you a noisy (and fuel-inefficient) ride.

    • Winter/snow tires, like on cars, have treads for optimum performance in conditions like snow, ice, slush and freezing rain.

  • Some people opt to take their vehicle back to the car dealership for new tires. Typically, the dealership will install original equipment tires, which can cost you twice as much as the tire shop down the street.

  • Most reputable tire dealers can tell you the best tires for your car, but if you have any reservations, your car’s tire specifications are listed somewhere on your vehicle (usually inside the driver’s door or in the glove box).

  • Manufacturer’s guarantee that tires last a certain amount of mileage or time, which is called the tread wear warranty. Most dealers offer a competitive guarantee as well. If the tires wear out before the warranty ends, the manufacturer will replace them on a prorated basis. Always compare warranties before you buy and find out who will do what and for how long.

  • Make sure you find out if any extra services are included when you purchase your new tires. Things like tire rotation, wheel balancing and free flat repairs can make a difference to the service value.

Other Considerations

  • Under-inflated tires cause the engine to work harder. It's like riding a bike with low tires. It's harder to pedal because of the increased rolling resistance.

   TEST CRITERIA

We tested four sets of all-season radials (all on the same make and model car). With the help of some certified, top-notch driving instructors we drove around on a course of tricky pylons and obstacles, and a wet track to really put these tires to the test:

  • Falken (Tread Wear Warranty: 100,000 km): $105 each
  • Bridgestone (Tread Wear Warranty: 100,000 km): $121
  • Yokohama (Tread Wear Warranty: unlimited within 6 years): $134
  • Michelin (Tread Wear Warranty: 140,000 km): $166

Stopping Test

Since being able to stop on a dime is so important, we checked the braking power of each set by measuring the stopping distance from a speed of 60 kmh to a full stop. Here are the results:

  • Yokohama = 16 meters
  • Michelin = 14.7 meters
  • Bridgestone = 14 meters
  • Falken = 11.25 meters

Driving Test

  • On the course, the Falken was the big winner for handling, performance, and ride.

   OUR TOP PICK

Our closed-course test showed that the Falken tires, the least expensive of our test products, were the best for stopping, handling, and performance for our particular car model.

 

 

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