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Tires April 9, 2015

Tire Myths Debunked

What is the most important choice you can make for your Car, Truck or SUV? The tires!

How many of us take an interest in the tires we put on our car? After all, we don’t need to buy new tires all that often – every 40,000 miles (or more) on average. Who has the time to get educated on a new tire purchase when there are so many more interesting decisions to think about, like which HD TV to buy or whether to get an iPhone from AT&T or Verizon?

We get it, the topic of tires can seem technical and unexciting. However, educating yourself and investing in quality tires will dramatically improve your performance and driving satisfaction while saving you money.

After you own a vehicle, the single most important decision you make affecting your car’s performance and your driving satisfaction is the tires you buy. Tires are critical for traction, handling performance, and noise-dampening. It doesn’t matter how powerful your car is if your tires don’t grip the road under the driving conditions you experience. Tires are critical to how your vehicle handles through braking, acceleration, and cornering situations. Tires can transmit or dampen road noise, and sometimes contribute to annoying harmonic vibration. Tires can be expensive or cheap, and they can last a long time or a short time.

Think about all the other decisions and choices you make about your car after you own it. The type of gasoline you buy won’t affect performance much, as long as you meet minimum octane requirements for your car. The oil you put in it, or how frequently you service it, will certainly keep you out of trouble but won’t change the way your car drives, handles or performs. The bottom line: tires are unique in that, unlike all these other car maintenance choices, tires make a big difference in the way your car handles and performs. Hopefully, you are beginning to see the importance of choosing the right tires.

Here are 5 common tire myths and the truthful reasons why tires make a great difference in how you use and enjoy your car, SUV, or light truck.

Myth 1 – There are only a few tire choices for my car

Truth: Actually, most vehicles today have 40-80 suitable tire models made by respected name-brand manufacturers, and sometimes over 100. The reason there are so many choices is that tire manufacturers design different models for different characteristics, driving preferences, performance criteria, tread life, and price considerations.

Myth 2 – One tire is pretty much like any other

Truth: If tires were all the same, how could manufacturers make 40-100 different choices for a single common size? As mentioned earlier, tire makers seek to meet the unique needs of different drivers, which is why the range of models to choose from is so large. Different needs = different tires suited to those needs. Think about how you would prioritize tire characteristics like noise, handling, wet traction, snow traction, driving style, and price.

Myth 3 – Expensive tires are just that: expensive

Truth: Price is just one dimension of value – the informed tire buyer thinks about the price but looks for value. For example, the highest priced tire is not always the most expensive. If you were considering two tires of equivalent performance, except that one costs 20% more but lasts twice as long, which would you buy? The second tire is higher priced but gives you the lowest cost per mile over its life – so which tire is truly “more expensive”? Similarly, higher-priced tires often offer performance benefits like better wet or snow traction, stiffer sidewalls for better handling, a quieter ride, and so on. Again, you should determine whether any of these benefits are important to you and whether they are worth the price difference. The least expensive tire is usually engineered to offer primarily a low price using economical materials & construction compared to other tires, which in turn creates some sacrifices on performance characteristics or tread life. The least expensive tire for a vehicle can often be ½ to 1/3rd the price of the most expensive. For some buyers, the least expensive tire comes with tradeoffs in performance or life that they find unappealing. For other buyers, where their need for performance or long tread life is not high, the lowest priced tire suits just fine.

Myth 4 – The tire that came on my car from the factory is the best choice

Truth: The tires that came on your car from the factory are called “Original Equipment” or “OE” for short. It certainly is fair to believe that your carmaker wouldn’t put a tire on your car at the factory that is wrong for your car. While that is usually true, this doesn’t mean there aren’t better tires out there when it comes time to replace the OE set. Carmakers have to make judgments about the average preferences of their drivers. But drivers don’t all have the same preferences. What if you want better all-year performance (including during the winter) but your car came equipped with summer tires? Or, what if you hate the noise of those OE run flat tires that your carmaker thought was a cool way to get rid of a spare tire? Or, what if you wanted all terrain SUV tires to tackle the muddy road to your weekend cabin? Or, what if you are on a limited budget and are willing to sacrifice some performance to save money? In summary, there are many valid reasons for changing to a different tire than the OE tire.

Myth 5 – Tires really don’t change. I’m happy with the ones I have, so why consider anything else?

Truth: If you are happy with the tires you have, buying the same when it comes time to replace them is a safe choice. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is your best choice. Tire technology and engineering do evolve. Every year, tire makers introduce new models trying to get an advantage over their rivals. Over the past few years, there have been many important advances in tire engineering. For example, rubber compounds used in tire treads have more complex mixtures at the molecular level, which have improved tread life. The use of silicates in some tread compounds results in improved traction. Tread designs have been optimized by computers to reduce road noise and improve hydroplaning resistance. All season tires for performance sedans and sports cars now have strongly improved driving performance – narrowing the performance gap between them and their summer tire cousins. Winter tire designs have improved stud-less tire traction on snow and ice.

Given the amount of time we spend in our cars, and how important they are in our lives, it’s worth a little time to become an informed consumer when it’s time to replace your tires. To educate yourself on tires, click HERE.

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