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Tire Guide

Buy used winter tires for commuter car that isn’t expected to last

Consider when it makes more sense to buy used tires.

Published May 9, 2012
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Q. We live in Toronto and my fiancée goes to school in Buffalo. He was gifted a 2001 Saab 9-3. While my fiancée loves the car, it has required a significant investment to keep running. We’d like to get winter tires for the car for safety reasons. The Saab will likely only last another year or two if we are lucky so we don’t want to get stuck with a set of tires we can’t use.

We looked at purchasing a 2012 Hyundai Accent GL hatchback earlier this year when we thought the Saab wasn’t going to make it. Would we be able to use winter tires from the Saab on the Accent when the time comes? Or, would buying used winter tires be a smarter investment?

A. Since you indeed intend to ditch the Saab, I suggest you buy used tires for it. The Saab runs on P195/60R15 series tires. The new Hyundai Accent can run on anything from 14 to 16-inch diameter tires, none of which have a Saab compatible size. The diameters are just not close enough to make a swap. When buying used tires, check the date codes to make sure they are only a couple of years old.

Q. I have a ’76 Pontiac Trans Am, bought new. It runs on 17-inch cast “Smokey and the Bandit” style wheels. It needs new tires. I got a recommendation for BFGoodrich G-Force KDW, size P275/40R17, which are kinda expensive: $300 a pop plus tax. What are the alternatives?

A. Prices on the BFGs are about $273 at 1010Tire.com. That’s a Canadian site and the prices represent what the tires can usually be bought for around the GTA. Good site to bookmark. The BFG KDWs look the part for the 76 Trans-Am; they are big, gnarly tread blocks. Personally, I think they look better on a truck.

So as to what I’d consider, in order: Bridgestone Potenza RE760 Sport ($231), Continental ExtremeContact DWS ($238), Toyo Proxes Prox4 ($202), Fuzion ZRi ($200) and finally the BFGoodrich G-Force KDW ($273).

Of course, the ultimate in this size is the Michelin Pilot Sport PS2, but at $417, I don’t think it is in the running. It is better than the rest but not much, so the price is totally out of line.

The Fuzion is a sub-brand of Bridgestone, sort of one price step down, but the brand generally performs above its price point. Major criticism is hard ride and noise. Those things may not matter with the windows down, the dual pipes rumbling and some good rock on the eight-track.

The bargain in the lineup is the Toyo. It too is a bit loud but that’s about all the negative things I can find. The Bridgestone has the newest, latest tech, then the Conti, then the Toyo.

Q. My sister has a 1997 Chevrolet Malibu with 67,000 kilometres on it and the tires need replacing due to circumferential cracking at the base of the tread grooves. Clearly she doesn’t drive much and rarely outside of the city.

I have suggested that she purchase a set of winter tires and leave them on all year as it will give her far superior traction in the winter than the P215/60R15 all-season tires on the car now. Even though they will wear more quickly than an all-season or summer tire, it’s unlikely that she’ll wear them out before they are due for replacement from old age.

I realize there may be some loss of ultimate performance but she is a very sedate driver and I don’t think this will be an issue. I have a minor concern about road noise and was going to look for a tire with a non-aggressive tread pattern. Your thoughts?

A. Your idea is excellent. For the mileage, you suggest a winter tire will do just fine being on the car all year. The wear factor will not be enough to make much difference. Just keep in mind that the winter tire will have less grip in summer than an all-season tire. You must check the pressures regularly.

Fifteen-inch winter tires are now becoming scarce, so it comes down to just two that fit the bill, the General Arctic Altimax and the Firestone Winterforce. Both have very similar tread patterns so you do not have much choice.

There will be more road noise, but nothing excessive. Both these tires have tread patterns that look like all-season tires when they first came on the market. All winter tires that work in the snow will have a slightly aggressive pattern. That’s what makes them work.

Q. John, my 2008 Mazda6 has the Michelin OEM all-season tires P215/50R17 on it. I spend the winters in Florida (about 5-1/2 months), thus this car never sees any snow. Do you recommend replacement of these tires with all-seasons or should I be considering summer tires as a replacement? And which tires would you recommend?

A. I would stay with an all-season or all-weather tire for your Mazda6. There really are no more “summer” tires for every day driving anymore. Since the “all-season” tire has come on the market, the summer tire segment has moved more and more to become a high performance tire segment.

And that is fine, if the weather never gets nippy. High performance (summer) tires are very temperature sensitive. They have less grip on cool mornings and evenings than a good quality all-season. Therefore, if the car never sees snow, a good all-season will do the job.

In your size, 50 aspect ratio, the all-season tires will be in the ultra-high performance category anyway. I would look at the new Continental ExtremeContact DWS, the Bridgestone RE970AS PP, and the Michelin Primacy MXV4.

If you wanted to save a few dollars, you should look at the Goodyear Eagle GT and the General G-Max AS-03.

Got a question about tires? Send it to John Mahler at thetireguy_1@hotmail.com

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