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Comparing better grip versus right load rating

A reader worries that replacing his poor-performing OEM tires with the same make could create a safety issue.

Published June 14, 2012

What a dilemma you have there. The short answer for me is that I would always choose a good tire over a bad performer. However, lawyers do not like that answer and that is whom you will be dealing with if you ever have a blowout of a tire and any kind of legal action takes place.

The Yokohama Parada is the best tire available by far in that size, that’s a no-brainer.

The replacement-market Continentals of the same model as the OE tire will be a better performer than the OE tire. The car companies just cannot keep their fingers out of tire engineering. They would make additional specifications for the tire, even for a low-volume production run.

But, the car company would specify a lower-rolling resistance tread compound. Lower-rolling resistance means less friction (which is grip). So basically, they engineer enough friction out of the tire to get a better CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy) gas mileage as required or specified by the car company. Replacement- market tires are engineered for grip — after all, Continental wants to sell tires. However, the Yoko is king of the hill here.

With the reduced load rating, you have to be concerned about excessive load on the front tires when you stop in a panic. I have never heard of a car causing a front-tire blowout under heavy braking. That does not mean it never happened. One other thing to consider is that the tire companies also overbuild the tires. They do design knowing that if the load limit is x-pounds, some fool will add an extra 100 pounds to that. How overbuilt the tire is remains unknown.

I would always pick the tire with the best grip for all conditions. Grip gives you the ability to drive around potential problems and try to avoid them. That kind of active safety handling is better than relying on some manufacturers’ specifications. But you still need to make the final choice on what’s best for you — correct load rating or better grip.

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