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Thursday, April 14, 2011

Let's Talk Tires

This week, hundreds of Camaro owners from all over the country are gathering in Phoenix, Arizona for the second Annual C5 Festival. Since I am not attending, and have some time to blog, let's all wish them a safe and fun trip!

The season is getting warmer, and everyone is breaking out their sports cars from underneath those car covers. One of the fundamental times of the year where everyone re-stocks on car wash supplies, wax, rim cleaner, and other things to polish our rides into full on head turners. If you've garaged your car during the winter, then there is one less step you need to perform before getting your car up to summer specs -- swapping your tires/wheels.

If your car is a daily driver, and also your guilty pleasure, then you are most likely the kind of person who keeps two sets of wheels: One with winter tires, and the other with summer tires.

If you are driving in all-season tires, and you are doing that consciously, then you don't need to continue reading. However, if you are driving in all-season tires, and you've never really questioned why, or why not, then please continue reading.

Most car manufacturers selling you a regular, fuel efficient, compact sedan will sell them with all-season tires. Why? One answer -- price. The rubber compound in all-season tires are made with cheaper materials. The lower the cost it takes for the manufacturers to get their cars on the road, the easier it is for them to sell to you and me. Don't get me wrong though, cheap doesn't mean your tires are more or less prone to blowing up. The simple fact is, all-season tires will do decently on most occasions, but will not exceed in anything except being the cheapest in price. Of course, if you are the regular Joe who drives to work every morning at 8 AM and gets off work at 4 PM, all-season tires is all you will ever need.

Then can you tell me the difference between all-season, winter, summer tires?

Why yes, of course I can. As mentioned above, all-seasons are the cheapest out of the three, but there is more to it than that. There are a couple of things you can look out for visually to give you hints on what kind of tires your buddy is running on his station wagon. If they are winter tires, they usually have a lot more treading slits and cuts. Also, if you push your fingers on the tread itself, it will feel abnormally soft. All of these designs are to prevent your car from slipping on ice, snow, and water. All of the slits and cuts on the tread prevent your tires from hydroplaning by allowing water to escape out of the treads. The softness is to provide more grip on slippery surfaces. Have you ever tried ice-skating with your rubber sneakers? Doesn't work as well as ice skates.

However, running winter tires during the summer is an extreme waste. The rubber compound that make up our tires are also directly effected by the ambient temperatures. Due to the winter tires rubber compound softness, running it in the summer would cause abnormal wear and reduce your tread life. Therefore, you should swap your winter tires for summer tires when summer time comes, hence the names.

Summer tires are made of a much harder rubber compound that can take heat and friction a lot better than winter tires and all-season tires, giving it a longer tread life. If you take all of the rules on how to visually spot winter tires, then you can reverse them for the summer tires. Treading on summer tires is few, to non-existent. The reason for this is maximum grip! Race cars usually put on Ultra High Performance Summer tires, Drag Radials, or even Super Slick tires. By having few to zero treads at all, ensures your horse power is transfered to the pavement 100% due to the amount of contact it has to the ground. Street legal summer tires must, by law, have treading on them. The reason for this is, you can still run into water puddles, oil puddles, or heavily graveled roads on an extreme hot sunny day. Having no treads while running into those hazards could cause your car to lose control, spin out, or worse. When you push on summer tires, they seem to be rock solid. Again, this is because of the compound in the rubber, it preserves the longevity of the tires in the hot summer sun.

All-season tires is the most mediocre of the three, and because it has the flaws of both summer and winter tires combined, it also has the benefits of both as well. In the end, it is about money, taste, and preference.

I'm the one to talk right? I'm still running the stock all-seasons on mine lol. However, I am looking at a couple of good summer tires for my new wheels.

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