QOTD: Do You Skimp on Tires? Do You Care If the OEM Does?
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.
Here’s a super duper secret for you guys out there who are trying to live like $50k millionaires: hang out at the dumpsters of prestige-car dealers that do a lot of CPO used-car sales. ‘Cause in order to CPO the cars, most of them are required by the manufacturer to fit equivalent rubber. So you get a shuffle like this:
* Brad and Karen lease a new Porsche/Benz/whatever;
* 15,000 miles into the lease, the manufacturer-specified tires are at the wear bars;
* The dealership quotes them $1,148 a corner for new OEM-spec tires mounted and balanced;
* Which represents more free-range cash than they have or will even have;
* So they go to Discount Tire;
* Which fits them with Nexen or Hankook or Kumho rubber for $375 a corner;
* And then they trade in the car early or return it at the end of the lease;
* And the dealer can’t sell the car CPO because it has slightly wrong-sized Nexens with an inappropriate speed and load rating;
* So they put on the OEM tires and charge it to the used-car department;
* And they throw the barely used tires away in the dumpster.
This happens thousands of times a year all across America. Come get your free tires, everybody. You’ll be able to keep your old Cayenne Turbo rollin’ on fresh Shanghai rubber as often as you like.
I’m always surprised by how many of my novice trackday students show up with major engine mods while pushing $159 tires. Then they wonder why they burn out their brakes in the second session getting down from their enhanced straight-line speeds to the reduced corner-entry velocity.
Let’s talk about some of the times when we’ve cheaped out on tires — or when we haven’t, shall we?
Also, if your tires suck and you’re shopping for new tires, help support TTAC’s work by doing your research at TireReviewsandMore.com.
[Image: General Motors]
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I've been working for tire manufacturers for about a decade now and give you a little inside baseball perspective. The reason your OE tires suck is because the list of requirements they want is all about 1) fuel economy and 2) good initial impression. So there's lots of effort into a low rolling, quiet tire with good dry handling. Snow performance usually only needs to be adequate. Wear just has to last long enough they won't complain to their dealer about it. So most companies now have an OE only model and a replacement market model for a given category. Pirelli does it with a "Plus" for the replacement market tires. For my personal tires, I've come to the conclusion that I don't put enough miles on them to want a tire that lasts more than 40k. Wet and snow traction properties of the rubber that's been sitting in the sun aren't that good. Luckily, I get the benefit of cheap prices on decent tires.
I skimp on tires. Now I don't buy the $25 walmart special, but I never saw the performance benefit of $800 tires over $100 tires. I've bought $480 INSTALLED ON ALL 4 CORNERS Falken tires on my Cadillac CTS ST Performance. Drove on them for 4 years and totally LOVED them. Some of the best tires I ever owned. I researched the Falkens and they got good reviews, and I was one of them. On my wife's BMW 3 Series M-sport, we paid $1100 for pirelli Pzeros, and they were awful. Worst tires we ever owned. My wife HATED them. I hated them. I actually questioned if they were defective tires. I've read great reviews on the Pirelli Pzeros, but on our e90 BMW, they were AWFUL. On my Truck, I bought Treadwright retreads and I'm 100% satisfied with the performance there, and they were about $120/piece. On my Jeep Wrangler for offroading, I bought really cheap 33" offroad wheels, that seem to work perfectly fine. Of course I put about 400 miles on that car a year and most are in the dirt, but it was the right tire for the right job. It works for me. I know on paper your supposed to spend money on good tires, but I was unsatisfied with some high dollar tires I bought, and impressed with cheap tires I bought. Now if their only purpose of the tires is to be dirt cheap, then they are probably junk, but if they happen to be cheaper tires, I think they can still be decent for their job. I need new tires on my Ferrari, and I think I'm going for OEM replacements there, but I really question it.