Saturday, March 19, 2011

the lowdown on tires

a friend wrote me a short email regarding her upcoming tire purchase decision.


The last time I got my oil changed, they guy told me that I needed to change my front tires ASAP. I did some yelping and decided to go to Paul's Batter & Tire Shop. I don't want to get swindled, but don't know the first thing about cars. So here are my questions:
  1. Is it recommended that I get Toyota tires for my Prius?
  2. If I don't, how do I go about choosing a tire? Does it really matter what brand I get; and if so, which brand should I get?
  3. Are there other services I should request in addition to the tire changing? Like are they supposed to include an alignment or rotation? (whatever those really mean hahah)
  4. What is a typical price for tires and how do I know if I'm getting ripped off?
Any advice/insight you could give would be golden.

my reply:

you should probably grab a bite to eat before reading this novel i just wrote.

1.) Toyota doesn't make tires! Toyota does have their "recommended" tire, they sell the vehicles with. but you never know what deal Toyota and that tire manufacturer have. The toyota dealer will tell you that they only carry XYZ brand, but that's because they are only allowed to contractually. it's pretty much retarded if you ask me, but that's the business side of things. your car is sold with Bridgestone Tires that are approx $77 each. a quick read on the net and most prius owners aren't in love with these tires per say.

2a.) Choosing a tire can be an overwhelming task. first things first, you need your tire size. once you have that, you're technically good to go, just get that size! your size is 185/65/15. it's just like shoes! however, as you have probably suspected it's not that simple.
2b.) Tires have a balance of performance and longevity. you can have one, but not both. i'm assuming that performance isn't a top priority for you, so i'd recommend you choose a tire with a high tread-wear rating denoted by the UTQG#, the higher the number the longer it lasts. another factor is road noise. more expensive tires will have a lower road noise factor. all of these options are noted when buying tires. i would find out what type of tire you have now (high-performance, touring, all-weather, , etc) and make sure to match your new ones to the existing ones.
2c.) Brand of tire can be misleading. while some brands are overal more expensive than others, each brand has their cheaper and more expensive line of tires. i go about choosing a tire based on size, price, performance/tread-wear rating balance, and then brand.

3a.) Tires on the front wear faster than tires on the rear, for two reasons. Tires on the front turn, and tires on the front carry the weight of the engine (which is far heavier than the load on the rear tires). When getting 2 new tires, you usually put the new tires on the front and the best two (of the 4 tires currently on the car) on the back. this is called 'rotating' the tires. when the fronts start to wear down, you put them on the rear and move the rears to the front so that all four wear as even as possible.

3b.) when tires are put onto the rims, they have to be balanced so that they don't wobble when spinning fast. this is a service all shops will do when putting on new tires, it's a small charge per tire $10-20ea. An alignment doesn't have to happen after replacing tires, but you should be extra sensitive the week or two after putting new tires on, to make sure your car doesn't pull to one side. this will cause uneven tire wear and you'll have to replace tires much sooner than expected. if you do experience pulling then you'll need an alignment -which usually doesn't happen.

4.) tires for your car range from $58-$109 per tire on there are many types and brands of tires that fit your car. some are winter, some have better performance. The shop will charge you around $20 per tire to mount (put tire on the rim) and balance (see 3b). Personally, i purchase tires online and have them shipped to my mechanic. when the tires arrive i get a phone call, and bring my car in. this way i get the tires that i want, at the best price i can find. if you go this route you should make sure that Paul's allows this by calling ahead. if not, then your options are limited to the tires Paul's has in stock, which may not be bad as you have a very common car for SF. i would recommend my shop, but they only service vw and audi vehicles :( and i love them!


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