Tire guy John Mahler answers readers’ tire questions
Q. We have a Nissan Pathfinder, driven less than 2,000 kilometres per winter. Our Michelin X-Ice unidirectional tires still have lots of tread left, but it is possible that we have driven the tires mounted the wrong way, for two or three seasons. Could we have damaged the tires by installing them the wrong way?
A. Don’t worry, you didn’t damage the tires. You just did not get the maximum traction when they were mounted backwards. Unidirectional tires are designed usually to create a certain water/slush flow pattern to get stuff out from under the tire. Running it backwards, you still evacuated water/slush, just not as efficiently.
Q. I am about to put snow tires on my car for the first time. I’m looking at used tires, as my car is a 1998 Chevy Lumina, so I don’t want to spend a lot. I was told not to buy anything older than two years as the rubber gets hard. Is this true?
A. Winter tire rubber is not too hard to use after two years. There are a lot of good used winter tires on kijiji.ca and on craigslist.ca. All will be priced below what you can find at a dealer, so it is a good way to save some money.
Winter tires generally have a life cycle of five to six winters, so judge how much you will be driving and factor that in. Will the tread still be there then, or will you wear them out before they get hard and stop gripping? And, of course, the date code should be given as much weight as tread depth before buying. The older the tire, the cheaper it should be.
The date code can be found after the letters DOT, then several numbers that do not matter to you and finally four numbers in an oval, i.e. 0905. That means the tire was manufactured in the 9th week of 2005.
Q. I bought a 2011 Kia Soul in August and I live in Calgary. Since we don’t plow much, don’t use enough sand and reach degrees of minus-40 (not to mention the piles of snow that come often), I will definitely need winter tires. The problem is, I have 18-inch tires and I can’t afford winter tires that’ll cost me upwards of $1,200. What do you suggest? I’m trying to stay under $1,000.
A. It will take a bit of work but you can get your Soul winterized for just under $1,000. You will need both wheels and tires to do that. The 18-inch winter tires are very expensive, as you have found, but 16-inchers are not.
The 16-inch wheels and tires will have the same overall diameter as your 18-inchers, so the Soul will look fine.
Looking on the Internet, I see that you can get a set of very nice 16-inch MSW alloy wheels for about $400 for the set. The correct tire size for the Soul will be P205/55R16, for which a set of General Arctic Altimax will cost about $400, so after shipping, installation and tax, you should be at the $1,000 mark.
Phone around and get the tire dealer to work with you in ordering the wheels and tires — a dealer will always get a bigger discount.
Q. I purchased a set of Michelin Arctic Ice X-2 for my wife’s car, sight unseen, because the tire guy said it was the last set of four they had.
When I picked them up, I checked the numbers by the DOT set of codes, and it turns out that three were manufactured 4710 and one 4610. Did I get four tires from last year’s stock?
Also, I checked another store and noticed that the same tires as I purchased were made in Germany and mine are made in Spain. What’s up?
A. Your tires are fine. They were produced in the 46th and 47th week of 2010. Winter tires are manufactured starting in late fall, or early winter (2010), and production ends in the spring. These tires then are for sale the following autumn (2011). So your tires were made at the start of the production run.
Michelin quality control is very stringent, so where the tires were made does not matter. It may be that the one factory was set up for a certain size and the other factory was also making the same tire. One factory may have been scheduled for maintenance or a changeover to another size.
It is a very big deal to change over from one size to another and lots of production time is lost, so a scheduled production line change happens on an exact schedule.
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