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Tire Guide

One tire for winter driving and towing (but it’ll be noisy)

Published July 24, 2013

Q. I have an ’05 Nissan Pathfinder in need of tires (P265/70R16). I live in the city, go to a cottage, go skiing in winter and tow a boat. I want one tire that does it all and is not too loud on the highway. Plus, I would like a higher load-rating to satisfy the towing of the boat.

I’m looking at the Pirelli Scorpion STR, Goodyear Assurance and Bridgestone Dueler H/L Alenza.

A. In this category of tire, noise will always be an issue. You really cannot get a truck tire that works in the winter that is quiet.

But quiet is a relative term. Everyone’s ears are different in what annoys them. Three tires I like are: the Continental CrossContact LX20 with EcoPlus Technology; the Bridgestone Dueler H/L Alenza and the BFGoodrich Rugged Terrain T/A.

Of these, the Conti has the newest hi-tech rubber, it has traction and a very long treadlife. The EcoPlus indicates it is a low-rolling-resistance tire, so it saves fuel as well, if kept properly inflated.

The Bridgestone features two rubber compounds, to resist hardening of the rubber. As one layer wears away, new rubber of the second compound is exposed. The tire is better able to maintain grip over the whole tread life. This is a great feature if people keep tires a long time.

The BFG is an older-style tire with big chunky tread blocks and relies on multiple edges per block to create traction. It will work in winter through brute force, but does not have many sipes, which are necessary for ice traction.

In this tire size, there are no XL (extra load) tires that I like. The original tires on the Pathfinder were load index 111, which translates to 2,403 lb. Both the Bridgestone and the Continental are load index 112, which is 2,469 lb. So these two tires do offer a bit more of a safety margin for heavy loads.

Q. I have a low mileage 1988 Alfa Romeo Veloce Spider that needs new tires. It is not driven in winter.

It originally came with Pirelli P5s and most recently it has had Yokohama AVID T4s, neither of which are now available in P185/70R14s. Options seem to be limited and confined to “all-season car/minivan tires.”

My tire centre has suggested Michelin Defenders; my mechanic, Toyo Extensa AS; and the Canadian Yokohama website indicates an all-season AVID Touring S is available in this size.

Road noise is a consideration, with it being a convertible.

I understand that P195/65R14, or P205/60R14 would work, but the pickings in these sizes are rather slim as well. The car does not have power steering and is heavy to turn at low speed, and I suspect these two options would make it even harder to turn.

The last issue concerns inflation pressure. The driver’s manual suggests 24 front and 26 rear. Is this appropriate for a modern tire? I assume tires have changed substantially in the past 25 years and my former mechanic suggested 32 psi.

A. Congratulations on owning such a fine Alfa. It is a real classic.

Taking into consideration your notes about noise and heavy steering at low speeds, I would stay with the OE tire size. I don’t imagine you are throwing this car into corners, so getting an extra 10 or 20 mm in tread-width should not be a goal.

I would consider three tires for this car: the Michelin Defender, The Yokohama AVID Touring S and the Toyo Extensa A/S.

Of these, the Michelin will be the quietest, and, as usual, Michelin has heavily engineered this tire for wet-weather driving.

The Yokohama, I would rank as the second on the quiet scale. The Toyo has lots of grip, but there are consumer complaints about noise on coarse pavement at highway speeds.

All of these tires will give you grip well in excess of what the car did originally. Of the three, the Michelin will provide the highest grip, but also the best ride quality. It is also rated “Green X,” which means it is of low rolling resistance for better fuel economy and was manufactured using more eco-friendly technology.

I will disagree with your former mechanic about air pressures. Yes, tires have substantially changed over the past few decades, all for the better.

Tires today actually require less air pressure, because they are stronger and have stiffer sidewalls than those your car had when new. Higher pressures were needed to keep a tire from rolling over on its sidewall under hard cornering. That is no longer the case.

Car manufacturer’s tire pressure recommendations are really part of the car’s suspension setup. Every psi difference changes the car’s footprint and the balance of the car’s handling front to rear.

To retain that original feel of the car’s grip on the road, I would start with the OE pressures. If you don’t like that feel, then change the pressures, but always maintain the ratio of the pressures, front to rear.

Got a question about tires? Email thetireguy_1@hotmail.com. The volume of mail precludes personal replies.

 

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