Announcer: Go behind the wheel, under the hood and beyond with Car Stuff, from HowStuffWorks.com.
Scott: Hey, everybody, I'm Scott.
Ben: And I'm Ben.
Scott: And this is Car Stuff. How's it going, Ben?
Ben: It is going very well. And we're actually going to talk about something that I have had some recent experience in.
Scott: Oh, really?
Scott: Oh, good.
Ben: Today we're -
Scott: Good or bad?
Ben: Well, you know what? We'll talk about this because I want to give people a cautionary tale. And this is - nothing went wrong, but I think it's a good perspective. So today we're talking about shopping for new tires, correct?
Ben: All right, and so I needed to go shop for some new tires when I had a very interesting discovery, I think it was here at work. I was walking by my car and I saw what was obviously not a rock, although I hoped it was at first, but instead the head of a screw protruding from the tire. And it was right near the side of the tread -
Scott: The sidewall.
Ben: The sidewall, and you know you can't get it plugged if it's by the sidewall. So I thought, "You know, man, I can't put it off no matter how crazy cheap I am."
Scott: No, it's too dangerous.
Ben: Right, it's a matter of time. It's a ticking tire time bomb. I had to say that in my head first.
Scott: Yeah, very good.
Ben: Thanks, buddy. And so I went to a local tire place and I said, "Okay, see if you can plug this." He goes, "I'll try." Then he came back and he said, "No, that's crazy."
Scott: And then you said, "Give me your finest tire."
Ben: I said, "Give me your finest tire, tire keep," yes. You were there.
Scott: It sounds like, yeah.
Ben: You must have been there.
Scott: I was third in line.
Ben: Yeah, I'm sorry, man. I was so focused I didn't say hi.
Scott: Okay, sorry I interrupted.
Ben: No, no, so I wanted to get a tire, but I hadn't planned on buying a tire that say. I hadn't budgeted it. As you know, I'm incredibly cheap, so I was already very emotionally upset inside. I wasn't mean to the guy. So I said, "Okay, I'll buy a tire." And I know -
Ben: This is it.
Scott: All right, go ahead, Ben. I'll let you say it because I'm catching something here.
Ben: Well, Scott, will you go ahead and point out what people should always do if you buy a tire?
Scott: You said, "I would buy a tire."
Scott: Do you mean a tire, one tire?
Ben: Okay, and why is that wrong? Wait, what should you do instead, at the very least?
Scott: You should buy two, if not four.
Ben: At the very least.
Scott: At the very least.
Ben: Every time.
Scott: Yeah, that's right, just for balance. And that's the honest to God truth, you really need to do two at one time. You really shouldn't buy one new tire unless you just bought tires, in which case you would be back under a warranty situation anyways.
Scott: So you bought one tire.
Ben: I bought one tire and I drove on it -
Scott: Oh, Ben.
Ben: - for a couple days, and then I got the second tire. So I did get right because I can't -
Scott: You've got to get your mind right, Ben.
Ben: I do have to get my mind right, Scott. It's just so difficult if I come in and I do something so grievously wrong to my car you look so hurt.
Scott: Yeah, I have a little tear in my eye.
Ben: I know, just the one.
Scott: Yeah, one tear, one tire.
Ben: Okay, so why? Let's start there. We know that that is important. When you buy tires, when you shop for new tires, there are certain things that you always need to remember.
Ben: First, just always get either two tires for your fr ont, two tires for your back, or all four. Don't be like me. I'm the do not do example here.
Scott: Yeah, because you're going to end up with - if you do it that way and you just replace the one that you need all the time, you're going to end up with uneven tread depth all around, the traction is going to be all messed up.
Ben: Your balance is going to be terrible.
Scott: It's going to be awful. The car is not going to respond the way that you think it will. It's going to vibrate, things are going to happen. It's just not going to be good, so there's a lot of reasons why you should buy two matching tires just because tires' weight - they're different weights. If you get different sizes - you should get the same size. We'll talk about that too, but what if you happen to get a shorter or taller sidewall on the other side just because the tire tech felt that was what should go on your car? If you're just kinda pushing it off to them and saying, "I don't really want to be involved, just give me something that fits," and they put the standard issue tire on there from the factory, what it says it should have, yet the other three are not from the factory and what your car should have, then you're going to have trouble. So you need to go somewhere that you trust.
Ben: And that's a good point too. I'm sorry, am I rolling over you?
Scott: Not at all. I've got a few points to make, but we'll get to them.
Ben: I want to get to these points. I want to also say that one of the reasons we're doing this podcast is that if you've ever bought tires, odds are, if you're like most car drivers, you only bought them when you had to. You didn't really think about them until one of them got torn up by a pothole, or you hit a nail or something. You don't want to be like me. Again, I'm kinda embarrassed to say this. I just wanted to get it out of the way. I wasn't really - I've bought tires for my car before and put them on, but at this time, I didn't have the time to do it this around. So I asked the people at the tire place and I lucked out because I had a mechanic with a conscience. We did an earlier podcast on good mechanics. He was a good mechanic. At first, he said he wasn't going to tell me just the one, and I said, "Please, I have to get to work now. I will be back in four days."
Scott: He believed you.
Ben: He believed me and -
Scott: You know what? He can't make you buy two tires, man, so that's fine.
Ben: He can't make. He can refuse to sell it, but he can't make you.
Scott: Really? I didn't think he could. I thought he would say, "All right, I don't recommend this, but here you go.
Ben: No, he didn't outright refuse to sell it, but he said, "That's a really bad idea."
Scott: So you proved him right, you came back.
Ben: I did.
Scott: Good for you.
Ben: Well, I try to be a person who does what they say they will do. So let's go ahead and assume the hypothetical role, somebody's buying tires, what do they need to be aware of?
Scott: You know what? I've got five things that you should look for and there's an article on our site that is 5 Things to Look For. I'm going to match that real quick and then we'll talk about some other things that are just my own thoughts, I suppose. The first thing you should look for, features, the features of the tire. You might not think about this, but are they puncture resistant? Are they fuel efficient tires? They sell fuel efficient tires now. How would have ever guessed that ten years ago?
Ben: We live in the future, man.
I mean, what kind of traction are they going to provide? Are they snow tires? Are they off-road tires? What type of terrain are you going to be [inaudible]?
Ben: Are they performance tires?
Scott: Yeah, I mean, they're very specific. Tires now are very specific for your driving needs. They're very individual I guess, in a way.
Ben: Highly specialized.
Scott: Yeah, they are, they are. You say individual; they make them by the millions, but you know what I'm saying, right.
Scott: You can get what you need on your car and for your specific driving needs, so definitely look for the features. Next thing you want to look for, and this is really important, longevity. The only reason that you would not look for longevity in a tire is if you were in a race situation or -
Ben: Right, I was going to say performance tires.
Scott: Yeah, exactly, just a flat out performance tire where you don't care how long they last really. You just need the tire that fits and it provides the grip that you need, which is always a softer compound and that's why they wear out so quickly.
Ben: And it burns on the road, too.
Scott: Exactly. I mean, that's the thing is they provide better grip, you can corner better because they're softer, but the idea is that they leave more of the tire on the pavement every time you drive on them. When you corner real hard, little balls of rubber rolling off onto the side there, and that's really happening. It's just like it does on a racecar. That's why they change the tires several times during a race. They don't care about longevity, those are super soft tires.
Ben: And we're going to out on a limb and say that the people who are buying those tires for their race vehicle probably have less concern with cost.
Scott: Yeah, exactly. I'm talking about some ultra performance tires as well.
Ben: Right, these are high end.
Scott: Yeah, something that you can expect to last less than 20,000 miles. Some may last 5,000 miles.
Scott: Which that's not a very good buy unless it's a car that you only drive once a week or once a month.
Scott: Yeah, something that you - as a toy. An around town toy. If you get all season tires, they can last anywhere from 40,000 to 100,000 miles in some cases, and that's a pretty hard tire compound. Then there's the midrange, which are about 40,000 to 70,000, and that's still a performance all season tire. Then you can go down to a performance tire, which would be a three-season tire. No winter involved in that. That would be right around 25,000 miles, just kinda ballpark medium life range or life expectancy for your tires. That's under just general use too, that's not - it depends on how you drive it.
Ben: That's not road trip use.
Scott: Well, it all depends on how you drive it too. Are you super aggressive when you leave every light, the tires are spinning, or are you breaking really hard, that type of thing?
Ben: Yeah, kinda how hypermiling works.
Scott: So tread life, longevity, that's really important. Size, which that's of course something you need to look for. You think it's obvious, but it has to be a good fit for the car. A lot of people are apt to try to upsize the tires a little bit, make it a little wider, a little bit lower profile. The problem with that is you start finding things like they run the inside of the wheel wells when you turn.
Ben: Which is very, very bad?
Scott: Yeah, that's really bad. That's bad for the tire, that's bad for the car, and you're going to puncture your own tires with the body of your car.
Ben: And you'll most likely be turning when that happens, so you very easily be in a bad accident.
Scott: Also is the problem that they may contact with the suspension parts if you don't have the right size tires. There's a host of reasons why you would want the right size tire on your car. If you bought a car that's a used car and it has a different type of tire on it, a different wheel on it even, make sure that even what you have fit to it is correct. There's a factory size and then they do, I think they call it plus-one sizing, maybe even minus-one sizing. And that is done by a professional usually because it comes down to a ratio of sizes, and what fits and what doesn't fit. What are the clearances on your vehicle, so be real careful about that, the size thing. Like I said, a lot of people are prone to try to get a little bit bigger.
Ben: We know it sounds like common sense, but there's a reason it's on the list.
Scott: Exactly. And speed rating; you also want to look at the speed rating of a tire.
Ben: Especially you in particular, Scott. You should look at the speed rating.
Scott: Yeah, sure, sure, because that sustained speed of 190 - no. The speed rating is just that though, it's sustained capability of a tire. For all season tires, that goes from - it's a letter grade from H to V. Then for a performance tires, it goes from V - it's V, W, Y and Z. I guess there's no X rating on tires.
Ben: No, very controversial.
Scott: I guess so. No, that's, yeah, V, W, Y and Z for performance tires. Those range from about 145 to 186 miles per hour sustained speed is what they're capable of. So when you get that level, you're talking about a performance tire, of course, and they're going to cost a lot more!
Ben: Yeah. The tires I got eventually for my car in this situation, my tires were about $115 each.
Scott: Yikes, that's expensive, but you know what? It's funny when you look at the tire ads and sometimes they're advertised for $20.
Ben: I know.
Scott: That's funny, or a set of four installed for under $100.
Ben: How does that work?
Scott: You know it's got to be, Ben, and I'm convinced of this, it's got to be the smallest size, like, a metric size import car, or possibly a Chevy Aveo, or something like that. That size vehicle, really small, thin tire, and probably an off brand.
Ben: Maybe like -
Scott: Which leads me right into one of my next points here?
Ben: There we go, okay.
Scott: One thing you want to do is you want to make sure you get a trusted brand. That's important. Look for the big names. I do. I look for Michelin, Dunlop, Goodyear, whatever it happens to be, Cooper, even Yokohama, some of the import tires. I always go with a trusted brand, somebody that you can get a lot of information about the way they perform on the car, if people have had difficulty with them, if they are susceptible to blowouts, if they just don't last long before they begin to dry rot, things like that. So go with a trusted brand and price is important as well.
Ben: There's a reason - well, let me interject here.
Scott: Yeah, sure.
Ben: There's a reason though that we're talking about how you should go with the brands. There are some different things where an off brand will work, like, paper towels or something. You can get the store brand paper towels because that's what - those are disposable things. Tires do eventually become used up, but there's a reason that the established brand in a product like this is the established brand.
Scott: Yeah, exactly.
Ben: I say that because, again, I usually, I'm the guy who gets the store brand everything, but I will go out of my way for stuff like tires. I'm riding on them.
Scott: It's pretty darned important when you think about it.
Ben: And I drive pretty fast.
Scott: Yeah, I know you do. You have that slick Monte Carlo. I'm not kidding.
Ben: It takes 20 minutes to cruising speed, but once we're there, buddy.
Scott: Once you're there, you're sustaining that speed, so you need the high speed rating.
Ben: So talk to me about price.
Scott: Yeah, price is another important issue and I kinda put this right in with every other thing we talk about for accessories, anything for a car, even shopping for a car itself. Shop around. I mean, always, always shop around. Don't just pull into the first place you see and buy the first set of tires that they offer you. Get an estimate and make sure you get an estimate that includes everything, as far as -
Scott: Yeah, exactly. I mean, there's installation, there's mounting, balancing, disposal, removal costs, valve stems. They'll charge you an environmental fee sometimes.
Ben: That's the disposal cost, right?
Scott: I think so. They must just add $1 on for environmental fee or something like that. It's one of those things where they change a million tires and they charge $1 each, that's $1 in their pocket. Pretty smart.
Ben: We should get into the tire business.
Scott: That's right, maybe, maybe. High volume. High volume. So anyways, I think that it's smart to shop around. And one thing I've heard, and I take this with a grain of salt - is it a grain of salt or a grain of sugar?
Ben: Grain of salt.
Scott: Grain of salt.
Ben: Grain of salt if you're talking about being slightly skeptical.
Scott: Yes, that's what I mean, okay.
Ben: I don't know what grain of sugar is.
Scott: A teaspoon of sugar.
Ben: That helps medicine go down.
Scott: Oh, never mind, okay. So take this with some camphor oil, castor oil. Man, I can't get this right.
Ben: This is awesome.
Scott: I'm going to keep on going here. Okay, so take this with a grain of salt, it came from a tire technician. I asked him about buying tires online and bringing them in, and then having them mounted at the store.
Ben: Good question.
Scott: Because you see these fantastic deals online for tires.
Scott: He said it's actually not a very smart thing to do. Now, of course, they sell tires there, but he said it's not a good thing to do because you can't - you just have no idea whether the tires coming to you are even going to hold air. That's the thing, that they can't be - once he mounts them, let's say that there is a small imperfection in the tire, there's a bulge in one of the tires - then you're got to undo everything that you've already done to that point. Put the old tires back on the car, drive the car back, ship the tires back which costs I don't know how much money, and then get -
Ben: Tires are heavy.
Scott: Yeah, and then expect them to make good on the offer and send a new tire in place of the old tire. That's just one thing. The other is that you don't get to see the tires in person I guess is another. You're not sure exactly what you're getting. Unless you know somebody or you know of a company that you're ordering from, I'd say stay away from ordering tires online.
Ben: I would like - even when I was in the tire shop, I went to look at the tires with the guy because there's - I would never buy a tire online. To be honest with you, really, any sort of mechanical or operational part of my car, I wouldn't buy it online.
Ben: I would get air freshener online.
Scott: Okay, you know what; I'm going to take exception to this because the other older used cars sometimes you have to buy things on eBay and things like that.
Ben: That is true.
Scott: Yeah, you have to, otherwise you're not going to get the part.
Ben: But if you - okay, except for that exception. So until the day that you and I each own turn of the century Packards, and probably see each other on the same forums -
Scott: Yeah, that's good. Good point though because we've had newer not new cars and you can still find things on the shelf. Wherever you go, you're able to see the product that you're buying or at least have the auto shop order it for you at the parts desk. Then you can go pick it up, so you don't have to have it shipped to your house from someone you don't know. There's that whole weird issue.
Ben: Yeah, the Internet anonymity.
Scott: I still hand deliver my bills, Ben. I'm an old -
Ben: Are you serious?
Scott: No, I'm joking. Maybe a couple!
Ben: I was so surprised.
Scott: I walk into the department store to pay my credit card bills.
Ben: Oh, gosh.
Scott: I know.
Ben: Do you barter or do you use paper money?
Scott: No, no, I've got my pants hiked way up and I'm wearing a white belt. Complaining about the government!
Ben: I've got to see that [inaudible].
Scott: All right, all right. So anyways, where we go! We're getting off track here.
Ben: Yeah, yeah, I'm sorry.
Scott: A couple of things that I just want to mention on my own, talk to a professional if you're confused. That's probably the most important. Go to any tire shop, anyone that you feel comfortable with, a local place. Just talk to somebody and say, "Look, I just need five minutes of your time. Just tell me -
Ben: What's going on?
Scott: Yeah, "Tell me what I need here." You don't have to buy tires from that person if you feel they're going to take you in some way, just ask them some advice. They won't expect you to buy anything, they're just giving you some advice and hopefully you'll come back to them for the sale.
Ben: Right. That's a good point, Scott.
Scott: Yeah. Just look at your owner's manual if you're confused about the size of the tire that you need because a lot of times that information, as well as the load weight limits and the speed ratings and all that will be in your owner's manual if you don't happen to know the factory's stats on your car. We talked about shopping around. I think that's probably about it, really.
Ben: I've got two things. If you happen to be in a telephone conversation, or talking to a tire expert online or something, if you're trying to tell someone about the tires you have or the tires you're looking for and you don't have the ability to show them that in person, then what you need to do is go look at the tire and check out on the sidewall. That's where all the information is, all the P225 and all the measurements that they are going to ask you for.
Scott: Yeah, it sounds very elementary, but you know what? You're right.
Ben: Some people don't think about it.
Scott: Well, that's one of the first things they're going to ask you, so you might as well write that stuff down before you even make that initial contact with the tire person. At the shop, that's the first thing they're going to do is walk out to your car to see what size tire you have.
Ben: Yeah, to get those numbers.
Scott: Yeah, exactly, good point.
Ben: And then last thing I want to end up on because there might be some people who are going, "Scott, Ben, why are you lecturing me about these tires? I don't need them yet." Well, then the question is, how can you tell if you need new tires?
Scott: Very good.
Ben: I think this will be a good thing that people can check out right after the show is over.
Scott: You know what? Perfect because we've got a whole host of articles on our site about tires, tire technology! What did you just mention, how can I tell if -
Ben: If it's time to get a new tire.
Scott: Yeah, that's right. Again, we've got an article that says 5 Warning Signs You Need New Tires.
Scott: Matter of fact, that's a good one right there, so there's five spots you can look at. Also, oh, man, we've got a list of others. You want me to just go through them real quick?
Ben: Yeah, yeah.
Scott: All right, Are some tires safer than others?
Ben: Good question.
Scott: How tire traction works. How can I make my tires last longer? Do I really need to replace all four tires at one time, Ben? Ben's not on the end of that one. How tires are made? What are fuel efficient tires? Will rotating my tries make them last longer? We've got just a ton of these. We've got more than that.
Ben: Tire questions, handled.
Scott: That's the ones off the top of head and I know we've done other podcasts about tires as well, so people are reinventing the wheel all the time. No, they are really are.
Ben: That's true. I'm laughing because it's so true.
Scott: It is true. Believe it or not, there's so much new technology in tires that it's worth looking into.
Ben: So thanks so much for listening in with us you guys. I hope that we have helped you get a few starting points if you're worried about your tires. I hope that we've given you a couple of things to think about and definitely hope we haven't given you any, "Oh, my God, no," moments. I hope you're not buying tires one at a time.
Scott: No need to panic.
Ben: Yeah, no need to panic. Remain calm and go to our Facebook, Car Stuff, or Twitter, Car Stuff HSW. Check out Scott's awesome blog. You can also find any of those articles or the information we mentioned today on our website. Just go to our jazzy little search bar and type tires, and the adventure begins.
Scott: That'll do it. Yeah, there's a ton of articles there. You can find them.
Ben: And if you have any other questions that we haven't answered or suggestion for an upcoming show, or heck, I don't know, Scott, crazy tire story, send us an email at -
Scott: - Carstuff@howstuffworks.com.
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