Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!
Pam asks: A few months back, I had to say “goodbye” to my ’89 Corolla and “hello” to a 2002 Honda Accord with 200,000 plus miles on it. Other than that, it’s a beaut. I’m needing to buy tires for it, and have no clue what might be a good for it – and hesitate to take counsel from the tire dealerships around here Western PA – simply because I haven’t heard much good about them. If you might have some wisdom to offer, I’d sure appreciate it.
My reply: Well, the first thing to do is find a tire store that doesn’t give you the skeevies! Even if you have to drive a bit out of your way, it’s worth the drive to avoid being taken for a ride (or worse, subject your car to shoddy/incompetent work). I would begin by asking people you trust where they get their tires; that ought to give you a few leads at least. And no harm can come from going into some of these stores and talking with the guy behind the counter; if you get a good feeling, that’s good. If you get a bad feeling, that’s also good – because you haven’t committed to anything. Just thank them and leave!
On the tires themselves: You didn’t mention the attributes you valued most. For example, a “sport” tire will give you sharper steering feel as well as increased high-speed cornering grip. But “sport” tires also tend to impart a firmer (some will say rougher) ride and sometimes are noticeably noisier, too.
In addition, they tend to wear faster – because of the different materials used to give them the “sporty” attributes.
Other tires are designed to last a very long time – and/or to give a smoother/softer ride. But you don’t get the sharpest steering response and high-speed handling isn’t as adroit.
Some tires are designed to give better traction in wet and snow; others less so.
And so on.
So, shopping for tires is kind of like shopping for clothes. Different clothes for different conditions/situations. Shorts and T shirts are great in summer… not so much in December.
Accordingly, I’d begin by asking myself which attributes I want from a tire most of all – and let that criteria (e.g., steering response – or long tread life) winnow down the selection.
Your car may have come from the factory with “sport” tires – but perhaps you don’t especially care about high-speed handling and would prefer longer tread life and a smoother ride.
You can decide to not buy the “sport” tires – to get the smoother ride and longer tread life. Or you might want your car to be “sportier” feeling – and so replace the factory all-seasons with a sportier tire.
Beyond that, the decision comes down to brand/price. Some tire brands have a better reputation than others, just as some car brands have a better reputation than others. I would “due diligence” before you buy, checking consumer resources web sites for complaints about specific brands of tire. My personal experience with Michelin, Kumho, Sumitomo and Yokohama tires has been positive – but your mileage may vary.
The other big thing to keep in mind is the age of the tire.
Sometimes, new tires can be old tires. Not used tires, but old. They have been sitting on the rack for a long time – and you don’t want old (even if new) tires because rubber ages even if the tire has never been mounted on a wheel.
Ask about – and check for yourself – how old the tires you’re about to buy are. Each tire has a date code stamped on it (see here) that will give you the info. A few months is fine; a few years is – obviously – not.
Hope this helps – and keep us posted!
Got a question about cars – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!
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Oh Boy, my favorite subject to debunk in my business. First the straight answers from experience with my own customers:
1. Unless you have waited until your tires are bald or have exposed belts (ie tires that must be replace within the next 60 minutes) STAY AWAY FROM THE TIRE SHOPS. These have become a specialized kind of crook who’s time at bat should be over, permanently.
2. Write down the 3-part tire size that is on the sidewall of your current tire (xxx/xx-xx).
ORDER YOUR TIRES ONLINE at sites such as Tire Rack, Discount Tire Direct, Car Shoez, etc.
3. The best all-season tire most of my customer order is: GENERAL ALTIMAX RT43 50-60K Mile rating.
4. Have your tires shipped directly to your favorite mechanic/service garage for mounting and balancing.
No sales tax, NO Tire Tax, usually No disposal fees, No Tire-Store excuses about voiding warranty without getting a front end alignment, and my favorite, NO bullshit Nitrofil Con-Job.
5. Ask your mechanic to install NEW valve stems, they are about .25 apiece.
6. Examine your old tires for alignment wear vs. underinflation wear, which is usually what Tire Stores will try to pass off as “bad alignment” wear. Your mechanic can & should be checking ALL your steering and chassis joints for wear while changing your tires anyway!
7. You will get more info about the tire you want on ONE PAGE of a tire store website than you will get all day from a local Tire Store! Plus, YOU get to choose what you buy, NOT what some greedy, conniving crook has stocked up on locally and has to pay inventory tax on if he doesn’t sell fast enough!
8. You never have to touch the tires, new or old, to get what you want, at the price that fits YOUR budget.
9. Tires are warranted by the manufacturer, and the websites honor these warranties as well as making extended road-hazard warranties available to you at YOUR discretion.
10 This method puts YOU in control of your tires from start to finish, which should ultimately boost your confidence in what you are riding on day in and day out.
11. If you already shop on-line using Amazon Prime, you can also get your tires shipped for free. If not, many websites (and E-Bay Sellers) offer free shipping options!
12. My customers will sometimes even order an extra pair and have me store them for the next pair that they will need changed out.
Additional note: If your car has Aluminum rims insist that they be balanced with stick-on weights on the back inside rim surface. Use of clip-on weight on any non-steel rim will cause corrosion blisters to penetrate the tire/rim bead area cause slow leaks and pitted rim beads! Insist that your mechanic remove any existing corrosion blisters from the rim bead before mounting your tires! Bead Sealer WILL NOT stop corrosion blisters from leaking and growing larger, and is only intended to fill and seal small pits and scratches AFTER the rim bead has bee scoured clean.
Most of the chains will have prices similar to tire rack’s these days if you check their websites and come in informed and knowing what tire you want. Tire Rack still probably has the most tire info to decide what tires to get. Of course with tire rack you get to have the tires installed in an actual shop ideally with better skilled people than a tire store. But we’re talking an ’02 Accord here something any busy tire store is unlikely to screw up and has seen untold thousands of times.
No offense Brent, however, they actually can, and do, screw up anything, and everything. When a customer rolls in with new tires and ball joints or wheel bearings about to fall out, you begin to get the real picture. I only wish I was making this shit up. The age of car is apparently no consequence, and in fact, older cars are often mistreated, more than not. They actually screw up untold thousands, and the ones I catch are only a drop in the bucket! Busy does not mean competent or qualified, it just means busy, and is often the ideal condition for stupid careless shit to occur. Your assumptions are pretty commonplace, is precisely why I warn people against just that.
I don’t expect a place like say “Discount Tire” to check the ball joints and tie rod ends. I do that. I want a lower price and less hassle about getting a set of tires mounted. That’s what I want, tires mounted on wheels. If I could somehow do that without even bringing the car in that’s what I would do. Anyway they aren’t likely to screw up mounting tires on typical transportation appliance. You’re off into another ball game expecting a dedicated tire place to go around inspecting the mechanical condition of the cars.
But get this, I went to a real mechanic to get tires from tire rack mounted and they put two of the directional tires on backwards. And that was after previous good experiences with them.
Now a place where real screw ups can occur would be like the goodyear and firestone franchises that do more than tires. Where they will look for ways to upsell people and their staff may not be competent to handle that ball joint replacement. Perhaps these are the places you’re talking about? They vary widely with the ability of the franchise owner. There was a good goodyear place out by where I grew up but the owner died and then it went downhill IMO as the wife and kid didn’t seem to have the knack for the details of the business you and I care about.