Piston Slap: Burnt Rubber Sienna?

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta

Mike writes:


Here’s a hot topic for you and the B&B. I have a 2006 Sienna LE (front wheel drive) that has been absolutely bulletproof and reliable for the past 140k miles, except for the tires. I run “all seasons” in the summer and winter tires on separate wheels in the winter. We drive about 10k miles in the summer and another 5-7k in the winter. We live in the Finger Lakes region of NY.

This thing eats any tire that I put on it.

I just took a pair of Cooper CS4s off the front that have less than 11k miles on them and they are completely worn out. I can get three seasons out of a set of 4 winter tires but the summers never last more than one season on the front. I get 20k or so miles from a set of 4. The alignment is good and the wear is very even. Rotating the tires doesn’t change the tire wear, it just delays it. Almost all of the wear occurs when the tire is on the front.

I’ve run Firestone FR710, Yokohama Avid Touring, Dunlop SP, Cooper Lifeliner; and Cooper CS4. They all are load index 98. Granted these aren’t the most expensive tire off the rack but do the ultra expensive high mile tires really last that much longer? All of the tires that I’ve purchased have a “warranty” of 60k miles or so. The CS4 is 80k.

It is a heavy vehicle (nothing mini about this van); my brother joked that maybe I should run LT tires on it. So I’m wondering, should I switch to tires that are marketed for SUVs? Tires in the same size have a load index of 102 so maybe they’d handle the weight better and last longer? They also cost 50% more; will they last 50% longer?

I know everyone has an opinion about tires, perhaps one from the B&B will be the nugget I’m looking for.



Sajeev answers:

Hell, if my 3200-ish lb Ford Ranger has LT tires (that wear like iron, still looking new after 20,000 miles) why not put them on a minivan that weighs 1000+lbs more??? If you are towing, carry a lot of cargo, etc. then perhaps LT tires are a good idea.

I poked around TireRack.com and found LT’s for both the 16″ or 17″ applications for similar amounts of cash as their passenger car brethren.

But one question remains: tire pressure. Are you inflating to owner’s manual specifications? Have you always used the same gauge? Are you 100% sure that gauge is still accurate? I learned to not trust old gauges the hard way when a bad voltmeter (20+ years old) and the alternator problems with Fords (and lifetime warranty parts) from the 1990s ganged up to lie to me in a most convincing way.

Then again, I’ve fallen for dumber, far more obvious lies. My easily malleable life aside–and even with TPMS in mind–could this be the problem?

Buy a new gauge, the cheap ones (with the super handy magnetic end) at the service counter of Wal-Mart/Autozone will suffice. If the gauges aren’t lying, then get some LT tires.

Off to you, Best and Brightest.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

Sajeev Mehta
Sajeev Mehta

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  • Fordson Fordson on Jan 28, 2014

    I am in the Buffalo area, have a 2007 FWD Limited that's the same color as your LE. It runs 225/60-17s. I replaced the terrible OEM Dunlops with Yoko Avid ENVigors in the stock size, and got around 40k out of them, which is what I expected with a performance-biased AS tire on the heavy vehicle. Take it to a good alignment shop that is willing to go to the low side of the spec for toe, and run 37 psi rather than the factory-spec 35, but yes...I agree with others that with 215/65-16s, it's somewhat under-tired. The combo of 10mm wider tread and a shorter sidewall that rolls over less and allows less squirm with the 17-inchers makes a big difference. I also notice that the 17" tire on the 2011 MY redesign version (that is no heavier than the older version) went up to a 235 section...draw your own conclusions.

  • JREwing JREwing on Jan 30, 2014

    FWIW, my 60-something parents have owned a '04 Sienna since new. They went 70,000+ miles on the original set of 16-inch Michelins before replacing them (they're at 88,000 miles now). They have a 3/4 mile stretch of gravel road between them and the nearest paved road. They're retired, and rarely venture beyond two-lane country roads and small-town streets in their travels. They don't encounter a lot of hills or curves. They've kept up with tire rotations, alighments, and checking tire pressures. They also happen to rarely have the van fully-loaded (and it's a very lightly-optioned LE trim, so curb weight is at the low end of the range). Driving style and environment apparently has a lot to do with tire life on the Sienna. Probably the only other vehicle similarly under-tired I've driven was a '88 Corsica with the V6 and 185/80R13 tires. Lighting up the front tires from a stop was obscenely easy.

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