By on October 5, 2009

Shoe shopping?

Doug writes:

My girlfriend drives a 1998 SL2 with 185/65/15 tires. One of the four tires has started to dry rot enough that I have to add about 5 psi every two weeks to keep it near it’s neighbors. FWIW the sticker recommends 30psi front and 26psi back but I’ve found the car rides better if I inflate to ~35psi front and ~32 psi rear. The difference is especially noticeable going over speed bumps which are common in my neighborhood and around town. The reality is that the car sees regular use but in mileages that are low enough that dry rot will end a tire before the tread is gone. I don’t need super long tread life. I am however concerned about it being a truly all season tire. Snow depth here is a non issue but dustings of snow, ice, heavy rain, light rain, frequent rain, did I mention rain, oh and dry roads are common. Seriously we are in the SouthEast but East Tennessee is full of hills and valleys.

The car has Firestone Affinity LH30 tires on it that the first owner had put on at the Saturn dealership. I’ve purchased Falken Ziex ZE-512 tires for another car and didn’t notice anything bad about the set I got. I did however see more recent reviews of that tire being very hit or miss. Maybe old stock or just quality control issues? Falken Ziex ZE-912 is supposed to replace the old 512 design but has had “OMG don’t buy this tire for Winter use” reviews all over the place. I can rotate the tires regularly and will keep the pressure up but we just don’t live in an area where it makes sense to buy winter only tires. I’d also like for rolling resistance to be low but if the tires are cheap enough to offset the fuel cost I’ll consider most any option. initial cost: matters MPG effect: may matter? dry traction: matters wet traction: matters snow/ice traction: just can’t be a disaster waiting to happen tread life: not so much So how about something like the Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max? Do I go with the previous choice of Falken Ziex ZE-512? Do you have a better suggestion?

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30 Comments on “Ask The Best And Brightest: Best Economical All-Season Tires For A Saturn SL2?...”


  • avatar
    carguy

    Try Tirerack.com, select your year and model and then see what the most popular choices are and review their price and ratings for your driving environment.

  • avatar
    MikeInCanada

    10 years for tires is just too long. Irregardless of the tread depth, the tire internally just breaks down.

    I’ve had good luck with tirerack.com

    Informative reviews, and competitive pricing – at least on the more expensive tires (more margin to play around with). Worth a look.

  • avatar
    50merc

    I’ve had good experience with Falkens, but practically any new tire will be better than an 11 year old dry-rotted death trap. Hope you and your girlfriend have life insurance.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    Consumer Reports is one of the few places which publishes relatively comprehensive independent tests of automobile tires. Tire Rack has a lot of information as well, but it isn’t generally as comprehensive. For example, Tire Rack completely ignores rolling resistance and winter performance in their standard shoot-out tests. Also, the shoot-outs only compare four tires at a time. The reader inputs are interesting, but like most ‘net consumer feedback the ratings and comments are all over the place.

    CR’s latest all season tire report had (to me at least) a surprise in the top tier of tires. The Hankook Optimo H727 was just barely outscored by the Michelin HydroEdge but is generally available for a less money. The Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max turned in excellent rolling resistance numbers, but is unimpressive otherwise and is a very pricey tire.

  • avatar
    Shane Rimmer

    Guys, while the tires may be the OEM specified model, he states that the tires were replaced at some point by the original owner, so they are not 11 years old.

    Anyway, I had the same model car for a while and found that it ate anything but the not so great Firestones.

  • avatar
    srclontz

    If you want a tire that is truly all season, don’t need super long tread life, but are concerned with wet and winter traction, it would be hard to beat the well constructed (and usually Made in Finland) Nokian WR G2. It is probably the only true all season, all weather tire made. Of course, they are a bit of a compromise, and give up a bit of dry weather performance, when you least need the traction, but are outstanding in the wet and snow, when you most need traction. Unfortunately, you will have to mail order it, since few places outside of Canada, and the states the border it, are even aware of the brand. The Saturn dealer in Madison, Wisconsin used to sell a lot of Nokian WRs and everyone I know was extremely happy with the purchase. From what I recall, they were a little more expensive than most brands, but not double.

    To second what was mentioned before, I’ve had good luck going to tirerack.com and picking the lowest priced tire from among the top few rated tires in their category. If given a choice I would picked as much of a performance tire as seemed reasonable for the car, and would pay close attention to snow and rain performance in the ratings. The last couple of times I did this, I ended up with either the BF Goodrich Traction T/A and the Bridgestone Potenza G019. Of course tires and technology changes, so these may no longer be better than some of their competitors.

    Which reminds me, winter is coming, and it’s time to get the worst tire I’ve ever owned off of my car, the Bridgestone Potenza RE92. Why is it that OEM tires are at best barely tolerable, and and worst not worthy of being installed on a Chevy Aveo just before being blown up by a Hollywood special effects team?

  • avatar
    Colinpolyps

    I drive a 99 Camry and replace tires every three years. Wal Mart house brands that go around 75 bucks per tire do the job in Ontario weather winter and summer with no ill effects. Brand names are just a price gouge for my money. Also have used Canadian Tire Moto Masters AW’s at similar pricing with great results too.

  • avatar
    Don Gammill

    I sold tires for seven years in my twenties and endeavored to learn as much about tire technology as I could. So when it came time to replace the OEM-spec BFG’s on my wife’s ’06 Mustang (V6 convertible) back in July, I did a lot of research and “immersed” myself into what all is on the market today.

    The primary thing we were going for was better wet weather traction, and then, a smoother ride and longer treadlife (longer than the OEM’s evenly-worn 40,000 miles, anyway…which sucks for a “T”-speed rated anything).

    I understand that treadlife isn’t a priority for you, but as far as a tire with low-rolling resistence that still gets terrific wet-weather traction, I couldn’t recommend our eventual selection more highly. Ride comfort is top-notch, as well.

    What we got was (and they are available in your size/speed rating) the Yokohama Avid T4. It’s not the cheapest tire in your size, and it’s probably not in stock everywhere (though Discount Tire had it for us in a couple of days), but with the recent heavy rains and flooding here in the metro-Atlanta area, I can tell you that I’ve never been more impressed with any tire’s wet weather traction – and I typically only buy Michelins.

    I’m actually surprised by this, because looking at the tire, it has a relatively low void-to-rubber ratio accross the tread and the lateral grooves don’t look all that impressive. And it’s not directional either.

    Still, it’s just unbelievable in the rain. I’ve even owned tires with inter-locking (vertically zig-zaging) sipes (the old Michelin XGTV4′s) and they weren’t nearly as confidence inspiring in the rain as these Yokohamas.

    I think that, for the money, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything better; I couldn’t recommend these tires more highly.

  • avatar
    YZS

    Just buy a s55 like the other guy did, you’ll love it. The other guy guarantees it.

  • avatar
    cynicalone

    Try the General Altimax HP.
    My girlfriend had a one year internship in Chicago and needed an all season tire. So I put a set of the Generals on her 1998 Nissan Maxima. She had never driven in any winter conditions and had no traction problems with the Generals. I also drove the car through slush while in Chicago and experienced no slippage. After 12,000 miles I notice little treadwear and the ride is comfortable, much better than the Dunlops the Generals replaced.
    It is a good all around tire, but don’t take my word for it. Go over to TireRack.com and read the reviews. That is why I bought the tires. However, I picked them up locally and not from tire rack.

    Oh, they are also very reasonably priced!

  • avatar
    slateslate

    I’ve heard good things about the Kumho line of tires.

    Supposedly two-thirds as good as the top of the line Michelins for only one-half the price.

    At only $50 – $70 per tire can’t hurt to check them out.

  • avatar
    CarPerson

    Some Nokian tires, (model?) are without peer in wet and packed snow, but as anyone will tell you, you pay for it in very short tread life if you drive them on dry pavement. This is the standard winter tire brand in Prince George, British Columbia.

    The following three are all tops in what I look for in a tire: wet traction, dry traction, ride comfort, and low noise. I do not like the compromises for maximum tread life or fuel mileage so do not even look at those.

    You will have to judge “economical” for yourself.

    Pirelli PZero Nero All Season
    Bridgestone Potenza RE960AS Pole Position
    Michelin Pilot Sport A/S Plus

    The Pirellis last about 35k, are very quiet until half worn (Typical of all All-Season tires?), and better in the wet then some tests give it credit for. However, “black ice” trips them (and I’ve heard most others) up. Do not put them on a vehicle not having 4-wheel anti-lock brakes unless you never encounter black ice.

  • avatar
    SherbornSean

    You know, if there is one thing I would NOT be cheap about (and I am cheap about a lot of things), it would be tires. It’s the most important safety feature in a car, outside of the driver.

    I don’t have a specific brand to recommend, but carguy’s methodology is sound. Another choice would be to go to a Costco or BJ’s — prices are reasonable and I think they offer lifetime rotations.

  • avatar

    Aside from the noted Nokian WR tires, “all-season” tires are really three-season tires. The “M+S” (mud & snow) rating they receive is a vestige of a more naive day when it was thought that these tires provided ample slippery-road traction. They do not. Some jurisdictions, like Quebec, are beginning to outlaw the use of so-called all-season tires during the snowy months.

    You live somewhere with milder weather and shorter winters, but snow and ice are in some ways more dangerous in more moderate climates. People in Saskatchewan get used to driving on snow and ice; people further south are less accustomed to it and drive commensurately less well in it.

    Traction is about two things: your ability to keep in control of your own car, and your ability to compensate for others not being in control of their own cars. Even perfect drivers need the security that winter tires provide, if they live in a climate that has snow and ice.

    The WRs are a good choice if you don’t mind the tires running a bit louder during the summer than conventional all-season tires. Your benefit will be tremendous winter traction. However, compared to dedicated winter tires they are still a compromise.

    If you do elect to run winter tires in the winter, you can choose from a much broader list of all-seasons for the rest of the year. Worry about dry road and wet road traction and ignore snow and ice traction. In your case, a budget tire with limited tread life might be a good purchase, since you don’t wear the tires out before they get too old to be safe.

    Our Hondas have OEM tires on them during the summer (they’re good enough for my purposes, since they don’t see ice and snow). Mine runs Nokian Hakkapeliitta RSi tires in the winter, and the wife’s runs Yokohama Ice Guards. (Nokian doesn’t make tires in the size her car requires, and the Yokos are decent tires.)

  • avatar
    mkirk

    Don Gammill :
    October 5th, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    “I sold tires for seven years in my twenties and endeavored to learn as much about tire technology as I could.”

    And I drove two Saturns that you sold me tires to.

    First off…I would worry less about the loudness of a tire. The Saturn’s tpperware had a resonance that creates a low rumble at highway speeds. It was better on the 97 redesigned cars, but still noticible to me anyway. That’s the price for not having door dings at 255,000 miles.

    Secondly, I think that Don sold me some of the afrorementioned Yokahamas once. They were good tires and did indeed give good wet weather performance if I remember and I don’t recall ever hearing them over the other noises of the car. They were solid all around. They were also the most expensive tires I ever put on any of my many S cars. They didn’t outlast the original crappy 14 inch FR 480s on it, but they drove pretty much as new until I got rid of them…no noise increas or belts coming apart.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    Don Gammill :
    October 5th, 2009 at 4:25 pm

    “I sold tires for seven years in my twenties and endeavored to learn as much about tire technology as I could.”

    And I drove two Saturns that you sold me tires to.

    First off…I would worry less about the loudness of a tire. The Saturn’s tpperware had a resonance that creates a low rumble at highway speeds. It was better on the 97 redesigned cars, but still noticible to me anyway. That’s the price for not having door dings at 255,000 miles.

    Secondly, I think that Don sold me some of the afrorementioned Yokahamas once. They were good tires and did indeed give good wet weather performance if I remember and I don’t recall ever hearing them over the other noises of the car. They were solid all around. They were also the most expensive tires I ever put on any of my many S cars. They didn’t outlast the original crappy 14 inch FR 480s on it, but they drove pretty much as new until I got rid of them…no noise increase or belts coming apart.

    Alas, I am probably one of the 3 people sad to see Saturn go even though my last purchase was not up to my previous experience. The S series was solid, basic transportation…just check the oil and drive em’ forever.

  • avatar
    veefiddy

    I just put a set of Yokohama TRZs on my car. Great in the wet and giving me about 2 more MPGs than my OE Contis. Quieter too. I paid $100/tire installed. Not sure what your budget is, but I’m pleased. And like the others suggest, did my research on tirerack.com.

  • avatar
    SpacemanSpiff

    Regarding Don Gammill’s suggestion of the Avid T4 – I’m checking these out now, thanks Don! I had a pair of the Avid V4s on my A4 and they were great. I just picked up an ’06 Scion XB this summer and it has a mostly new set up Michelin Destinys. These tires are terrible in the rain. So bad that I’ve been considering replacing them even though they have plenty of life left…

  • avatar
    George B

    I research tires on tirerack.com and usually buy them there too. Focus on reviews from people with similar cars and climate. Discount Tire website sometimes undercuts the Tire Rack if the tires are shipped to a state outside of their store footprint. I pay Wal-Mart to mount and balance the tires and get my grocery shopping done in the same trip as my tire installation.

    Currently using Yokohoma Avid H4S which does ok in the Dallas, TX area occasional heavy rain and one day per year of winter precipitation. Been watching for tire prices to hopefully go through their seasonal price drop.

  • avatar
    Bimmer

    Just like previous posters said Nokian WR is the only true all-season tire. But Nokian also has third generation of this tire, called WRG2. Read more about it here: http://www.nokiantires.com/tyre?id=11899&group=1.02&name=Nokian%20WRG2

  • avatar
    Steve Biro

    If this link works, it’ll take you to Tire Rack’s best sellers for the 1998 SL2:

    http://www.tirerack.com/tires/TireSearchResults.jsp?tireIndex=0&autoMake=Saturn&autoYear=1998&autoModel=SL2&autoModClar=&width=185/&ratio=65&diameter=15&sortCode=37550&skipOver=true&minSpeedRating=S&minLoadRating=S&tab=BS&filterType=bestseller

    You probably can’t go wrong with any of these. I’ve owned Kumhos before with great results. And the Kumho Solus K21 has the highest ratings for snow and ice traction. $58 a tire. The Fuzions are one of Bridgestone’s budget brands.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    You know, if there is one thing I would NOT be cheap about (and I am cheap about a lot of things), it would be tires. It’s the most important safety feature in a car, outside of the driver.…

    Couldn’t agree more. Tires are not the place to save money. Kinda like the tried and true sign in a motorcycle shop: “Have a $10 head? Then buy a $10 helmet”…

    I opted for Michelin MXV4 Energy tires on my second car. Big bucks, but what a difference. And they replaced Goodyear Eagle GA’s, a good tire in its own right. One major drag is that good tires have crappy tread life and you give up a lot for long wearing tires. My brother had Uniroyal Tiger Paw tires on his SUV. Lasted 80K miles. Yet, just mention “curve ahead” and the tires would squeal like burning pigs in anticipation of the curve. Had to be the worst tire I have ever sampled…even the most die hard anti-performance, Consumer Reports loving tightwad would have trouble living with these things…

  • avatar
    John Horner

    ” … even the most die hard anti-performance, Consumer Reports loving tightwad would have trouble living with these things… ”

    Many self proclaimed car guys and gals love to bag on CR, but you should have a look at the tire test they just published in the Nov. 2009 issue. You might be surprised that they don’t make price or tread life the major determining factor in tire ratings. There is more good comparative information in their latest tire test than can be found anywhere else.

    I’m ok with paying a premium price for a premium product, but there are cases where you don’t get what you pay for.

  • avatar
    dhanson865

    @all the people assuming the tires are the same age as the vehicle.

    They are not the original tires the car came with. I have the repair history of the vehicle and tires were replaced at the dealership during the reign of the original owner (Think in the 40,000 to 60,000 mile range). These tires do have some dry rot but they aren’t in OMG bad shape. The other 3 tires still hold air fine and all 4 have almost half tread remaining. The car now has 90,000+ miles I’d have to dig up the records to figure out the mileage these particular tires saw.

    For those referencing Costco you should know that there isn’t one within 4 hours drive of here (Nashville or Atlanta maybe). Not something I’d want to do on a car I’m looking to replace tires on.

    For those recommending tirerack’s best sellers there are 4 listed as best sellers for this car and the General Tire Altimax HP looks like the best match of those 4.

  • avatar
    Kristjan Ambroz

    As someone elsep ointed out previously, all season tyres really are three season tyres. So if you are at all worried about winter performance (slush, ice, snow) of if it regularly gets below ~48 degrees Fahrenheit in winter where you live, yo’d be much better served by using winter tyres, rather than all season ones. If you are decidedly against using two sets (summer and winter), you can easily use winter all year around. Their wear in high temperatures (90 and above) will be higher but otherwise they are fine all year around. You do not necessarily need a premium brand for that car as even a quality range winter tyre will beat the crap out of any premium all season tyre in winter.

  • avatar
    shores

    i bought Kumo tires from TireRack on line and they were 46.00 each and they were great tires. would buy them again.

  • avatar
    dhanson865

    The number of days with 90+ temps outweighs days with snow on the ground something like 100 to 1. I can’t remember the last time I even saw ice or snow on the road here. Like I could drive racing slicks in the winter here on an average year and get away with it.

    But since the tires will last for years I’ll at least keep it in mind that we could be out of town or a freak cold snap could hit us here.

  • avatar
    bill h.

    I’ve had two of the tires mentioned here, the Nokian WRs (earlier gen, not the G2) and the General Altimax HP, which I have currently on two of my cars. Mid-Atlantic region, with some occasional snow/ice/slush in the wintertime.

    Everything that’s been said about the WRs I can attest to. I’m not sure they’re available anymore because the G2 has supplanted them, and they’re pricey.

    There is a cheaper A/S line from Nokian, the i3, which we have on our old van. It is not the equivalent in winter capability to the WR series, but may be a decent alternative if you’re looking for a Nokian that’s less expensive and roughly similar to other mid-priced lines mentioned.

    I can say from experience so far that the Altimax has been a good answer to our needs. There are both H and V rated models depending on size, and we still have plenty of tread left on the H rated set after 25k miles. Reasonably quiet ride so far, and excellent hydroplaning resistance–I can recall it pulled us through some torrential downpours soon after we installed them. One day last winter my Saab could maneuver surprisingly easily around some much fancier cars stuck on a snow-covered, inclined highway that was rapidly icing over. My only negative experience is an impression that the sidewalls can be less robust, as I had a blowout on a tire after hitting a curb going around a corner too tightly. Overall, they’re not very expensive, so it wasn’t a bit hit to replace it. On balance, we’re quite happy with them.

  • avatar
    chops

    A few things to think about when using TireRack, and Consumer Reports when researching tires. I had the opportunity a couple of years ago to discuss the “customer survey ranking” with one of the guys in the TireRack testing department. He noted that at about 1 million reported miles for a given tire, the ranking moved very little, which indicated the ranking was a reliable indicator for the different categories, i.e. wet, dry, snow, ect…Also, if your interested in real performance, handling, or comfort, remember that dry and wet objective testing is only 1/3 the overall score. Subjective scoring is about 2/3rds.
    At Consumer Reports, they remain, as always, a black box on how they arrive at their ratings. This is to prevent anyone gaming the system, but it also prevents buyers from discerning what is important for themselves. Maybe you favor wet over dry, but the CR method won’t let you see behind the curtain.

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    I run my 97 SL2 on Formozas from Les Schwab and got about 4 years on a set with no particular rotation schedule. At the speeds I drive they do OK in the rain and moderate snow, but for the really bad ice and snow I either stay home or use studded tires.


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