# Doing the Math: Over a Quarter of New Cars Do Not Come With a Spare Tire

By on October 19, 2017

It always happens when you aren’t expecting it. You’re cruising along in your automobile, listening to the radio and making wonderful time. Then, all of a sudden, the steering feels odd — there is an overabundance of vibration and the car keeps pulling to one side. You’ve got a flat tire.

Annoying, to be sure. Fortunately, this isn’t your first rodeo and you pull off to swap the punctured rubber with a spare. However, if you own a brand new car, you might be disappointed to learn there’s decent chance it doesn’t even have one. According to a recent study conducted by the American Automobile Association, 28 percent of 2017 model-year vehicles aren’t equipped with spare tires — leaving you breaking out the compressed air and sealant or calling for a tow truck.

# Winter Tires – Are They Worth It?

By on October 13, 2017

Our 1985 Nissan Maxima was heading south on 219 from Niagara Falls at 70 mph. The Falls are beautiful in winter, but of course traveling through New York at that time of year can mean bad roads. My dad was behind the wheel and, with no snow in sight, he was confidently chauffeuring us home to the Carolinas. That’s when he turned to my mom and said, “I wonder if this is black ice we’re driving on? Let me tap the brakes and see.”

“Dad! WooHoo!” I grabbed onto the silver metal posts holding his head rest up with both hands. That tap of the brakes had sent the tail of our Maxima suddenly passing the front of the car for the lead. Of course, as a kid I was safely buckled into a child seat. That is, if by child seat you mean we had the seats folded flat and sleeping bags spread out so we could lay down and play. Oh, the 1980s.

“Daaad!” I was still convinced at this point in my life my dad could do anything, which would include throwing our family sedan into a 360-degree spin on the highway on purpose. As cool as the first spin was, I was ready for it be over. What with the semi truck barreling towards us from behind and all.

# QOTD: Do You Skimp on Tires? Do You Care If the OEM Does?

By on July 7, 2017

Want a definition of irony that has nothing to do with rain on your wedding day? Well, here you go: The spectacular abilities of the modern performance automobile are about half due to electronic engine control and about half due to modern tire technology. That’s an estimate, of course, and one that might not be all that fair to the tires. Every time you hear some stupidity about how ECONOCAR XXX is three seconds faster around a reference course than SUPERCAR YYY, you can be reasonably sure that the times for the old car were set on “ultra high performance” tires that wouldn’t make the cut nowadays on a half-ton pickup.

Many of the ERMAGHERD lap-time specials out there are largely or entirely dependent on boutique tires for their performance. This is particularly true for the current crop of domestic rockets which often have a vehicle-specific fitment that shares little to nothing with other sizes of that particular sidewall labeling. (Your Honor, Exhibit A: The Kumhos on the Viper ACR.)

You would think that the buyers of those cars would understand just how critical it is to obtain fresh date codes of the original super-rubber every time they replace their tires. Nah.

# Tread Trends: GM Switches to Artisan Tires Using Sustainable ‘Green Rubber’

By on May 16, 2017

General Motors has announced it will choose “sustainable natural rubber” for the 49 million tires it buys each year. The automaker claims it is establishing a set of buying principals to ensure sustainably harvested materials and is encouraging other automakers to follow suit in a bid to reduce deforestation.

It won’t suddenly make driving your Chevrolet good for the environment, but it should give drivers bragging rights — allowing them to claim their tires killed fewer critters before even getting the opportunity to run any over.

However, environmental smugness is occasionally warranted. With tire manufactures representing 75 percent of the natural rubber market (according to the World Wildlife Fund), an overall shift toward sustainability would provide a measurable impact on deforestation. But what is General Motors getting out of this move and what will the price of environmental awareness be? (Read More…)

# Vellequette Cops to Automotive News Demon-Ban Piece, Proves You Can Be Right and Wrong at the Same Time

By on April 28, 2017

After the reveal of Fiat Chrysler Automobile’s Dodge Demon at the New York Auto Show, I thought all the hooplah would be over. We all did. Little did I know Automotive News’ editorial board would pen a screed calling for the Demon’s banishment from American roads, which then caused others to cry foul at the bylineless editorial, and subsequently triggered Larry Vellequette — the author of the original piece — to double down on his thoughts, name attached.

In the last piece, Mr. Vellequette claims, “It is still a stupid idea for Fiat Chrysler to outfit the Dodge Demon as a high-performance drag racer and then sell it to the motoring public in a form that makes it inherently more dangerous off the track.”

He’s not wrong. Drag radials come fitted to the Demon from the factory, and he claims they’re “prone to lose traction in even a light morning mist under that much torque — regardless of electronic intervention.” I won’t argue with that.

But I will argue with the logic upon which Mr. Vellequette bases his call for exorcising this Demon from America’s roads, and who he thinks should do something about it.

# How a Government Tire Recycling Program Opened the Door to Sleaze

By on February 24, 2017

Remember when recycling was new and sexy and every 1980s sitcom included it as a subplot in at least one cringe-inducing episode? It was around the time that McDonald’s took away that convenient styrofoam container — you know, the one that stored a Big Mac on one side and a delicious pile of fries on the other.

Times change. Recycling is mundane, but it’s bigger than ever — and there’s no doubt about the environmental benefits. Unfortunately, there can also be unforeseen financial benefits for less-than-honest operators, especially if a program’s creator doesn’t keep watch on who’s minding the till.

If that creator is the government, things can get messy. Consider this cautionary tale of a massive program that went rotten so badly that it had to be scrapped. (Read More…)

By on November 3, 2016

Here’s the problem with writing for public consumption: you never know when you’re going to accidentally touch someone’s third rail, so to speak.

Two years ago, I wrote about the practice of “darksiding” for Road & Track. I doubt most of you have heard that term; it refers to the practice of putting a passenger-car tire on the back of a heavy touring motorcycle like a Honda GoldWing. When I wrote the piece, I had no particular opinion about the merits of “darksiding”; rather, I was focused on the idea that exhaustive, high-budget development often makes it possible for a bad product (or a bad idea) to triumph over better products/ideas that don’t get that same amount of development.

My failure to hysterically excoriate the “darksiders” led a couple of wannabe motorcycle writers to mount a spectacularly ineffective harassment campaign against me, trying to get me fired from my job and/or removed from various media outlets. The sum total of it was that I got kicked off Facebook, which in the long run has done me more good than harm. I haven’t given “darksiding” much thought since then; none of the seven motorcycles my son and I collectively own would benefit from a passenger-car tire. Furthermore, I only ride eight or nine thousand miles a year, not really enough to make an economic case for darksiding even if I had a proper touring bike.

If a recent thread on Reddit is any guide, however, darksiding hasn’t disappeared just because I forgot about it. To the contrary; it’s stronger than ever. And while there are sound scientific reasons why it’s a terrible idea, considering those reasons in depth exposes one of my favorite flaws in what I (sympathetically) think of as “the Asperger’s mindset.”

# Piston Slap: Land Ark’s Radial Tire Pressure Bias?

By on August 9, 2016

TTAC Commentator Land Ark writes:

Hello again, Sajeev!

I’ve been wondering about tire pressure for a while. I changed the wheels and tires on my car which originally came with 14-inch wheels and high profile bias-ply tires. The new tires are 255/40/18.

How do I account for the drastically different sizes when it comes to determining the correct air pressure I should run in the new tires? (Read More…)

# Trackday Diaries: So Very Tired

By on June 28, 2016

“Hey!” Across the parking lot, my brother was yelling at somebody. “HEY! DO YOU HAVE A FLAG AT THAT CORNER? YES? YOU DO? YOU REALLY HAVE A FLAG? ARE YOU SURE? ABOUT HAVING THE FLAG? YES? THEN WAVE THE FUCKING THING NEXT TIME, YOU IDIOT, SO NOBODY GETS KILLED!”

It was ninety-four degrees at noon, with no shade available anywhere, and tempers were flaring. My son was sitting a hundred feet away in Bark’s Fiesta, making a waving motion at me that I interpreted as If you don’t leave your corner station and get me water, I’ll die in this hot car like a dog. But then he gave me a thumbs-up, which my paranoid mind interpreted as I just want to let you know you’re a great dad… before I die from the heat.

This was shaping up to be the worst autocross ever. For some of us, anyway. For my brother, who had already said that he wanted to go home at lunch. For my son, who was dying of heatstroke. For me, too; my leg hurt like hell wouldn’t have it and I felt sick to my stomach. Most of all, for the thirteen extremely annoyed men in their M3s and STIs and whatnot who were being taken to school by Danger Girl. For her, it was the best autocross ever. But it would get worse.

# Piston Slap: Safe Thinking on Dry-Rotted Tires?

By on June 28, 2016

Jimmy writes:

Sajeev,

For years I traded in my Hondas and Toyotas within 18 months of purchase. However, I did not care for the newest Highlander, Pilot, and Camry, so I kept the old ones hoping the next versions would be more acceptable. While I have not had a single problem with these vehicles, with the exceptions of a few light bulbs, I’ve noticed Michelin Green X and the Continental ContiProContact have small cracks in the tread grooves. The tires have 40,000 and 55,000 miles on them with lots of tread left. I have asked tire stores and some say don’t worry while others say they are dangerous.

What is the rule for tire replacements when it comes to cracks in the tread grooves?

# Piston Slap: Studded vs Studless vs All Season?

By on April 28, 2016

Jeremy writes:

Hi Sajeev,

My mother-in-law just moved from Ft. Meyers, FL to Akron, OH with her Mini Clubman S to be closer to her granddaughter. As a proud British person, she loves the car but is concerned about Midwest/lake effect winters and was thinking of getting a CUV/SUV. Having been a loyal reader of this column and the rest of TTAC, I made the foolish suggestion of just getting a second set of wheels with snow tires on them instead.

I say foolish not because it’s necessarily the wrong advice (though I want your input on that), but because now it’s my job to armchair it from 300 miles away with someone who’s not exactly a car person.

# Piston Slap: Why Replace Parts In Pairs?

By on April 26, 2016

David writes:

Over the last few years, I’ve had work done on my ’99 Ford F-150 at various places near my work. It seems that when a wear item goes (like ball joints), the mechanic wants to replace absolutely everything in the system — tie rods, pitman arm, trailing arm, etc. Or when the left side brake caliper goes bad, they want to replace the right one, too. Or give me all new hoses when I replace my radiator.

The reason the mechanic gives is always, “Well they are the same age, and if the left one is bad, the right one is not far behind.”

This gets really expensive really quick. Is this worth it? Why do mechanics always want to replace everything in the system, if only one part is bad? Is this strategy only to boost profit? Or is there some truth in their reasoning? (Read More…)

# TTAC News Round-up: Volkswagen Sees a Savior, Goodyear Dreams of Spheres, and Toyota Shakes It Up

By on March 3, 2016

An American man will soon enjoy the task of making people love his controversial company again.

That, Goodyear’s been watching I, Robot, Toyota shatters its corporate structure, sentiment grows for better braking, and the feds say the airbag recall has gone far enough … after the break!

# 2016 Toyota 4Runner TRD Pro Review – Take Two!

By on February 5, 2016

Since the introduction of its fifth generation, the Toyota 4Runner has been sold in three flavors: the base SR5, the loaded Limited, and the off-road focused Trail. But Toyota has a history of making small batches of special edition models and, for 2015, the carmaker showed off the Trail-based TRD Pro.

The TRD Pro featured unique suspension with remote reservoir Bilstein shocks and taller springs, black TRD wheels wrapped in Nitto Terra Grappler A/T tires, unique skid-plates, grille, badges, interior trim, and one special red color.

For 2016, the TRD Pro is back, and this time it’s in everyone’s favorite color: Brown Quicksand!

# Tire Test: BFGoodrich KO2 in the Snowy Hills of Maine

By on January 19, 2016

BFGoodrich’s All-Terrain T/A tires can be found everywhere, from your local construction site to the most grueling of off-road races. I’ve fitted some of my trucks with the original KO and used them on and off-road, so I was curious what improvements BFGoodrich could bring to its latest iteration: the new KO2.

BFGoodrich brought me up to Bethel, Maine to test out its new tire in the nearby hills — and to catch this year’s Red Bull Frozen Rush.

The Frozen Rush trucks run a one-off spiked version of the same tire, but I was more interested in the street version that might adorn one of my (or your) vehicles.

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