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Tire Talk: Tires installed on used Mazda are dangerous

Published June 6, 2014

Would you let your daughter drive a vehicle with 7-year-old tires showing signs of spider-web-like cracking?

Last week, my 19-year-old daughter bought her first car, a used ’03 Mazda Protégé. Although it had winter tires on it, the salesman assured her it would come with summer tires. The tires belonging to the car could not be located so the dealership supplied tires.

After taking delivery, she had the car checked by a mechanic. There were two safety deficiencies, but I was shocked to learn the tires were well over-sized, occasionally rubbing on the fenders! I also noticed there was one brand on the front and another on the rear, and the rears were more than 5 years old, showing signs of cracking.

It went back to the used-car dealership for another set of tires. The plate inside the driver’s door indicates P195/50R16, but P205/45-ZR16 had been installed. I’m made to understand the circumference is the same — that maybe so, but the tires were made 4207. And they show signs of age-related cracking. I also noticed three tires say ‘outer’ on the sidewall, one says ‘inner’.

Is the tire size an issue? Is one tire mounted in the wrong direction? And, these tires should be replaced ASAP, right?

You describe a pretty nasty safety situation.

Of course these tires must all be replaced ASAP. From what you indicate, the tires are unsafe. When cracking starts, tires are scrap.

There are two issues at play here, the age of the tires and the cracking. When the car had its safety check done for the vehicle transfer, the cracks should have failed the car. Unfortunately in Ontario, the age of the tires is not enough to disqualify them but the cracks should.

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The two sizes you mention, the OE size has a diameter of 23.67 inches, the tire they put on the car has a diameter of 23.26 inches. That .41 drop in diameter is not ideal but OK.

The problem is the tire they put on the car is half an inch wider, so that’s why it is rubbing. That is not acceptable.

Are you sure the correct wheels are on the car? Normally a tire that is just half an inch wider will not rub, but if the wheel offset is incorrect, rubbing is common.

The one tire that is mounted inside out is not acceptable. Directional or asymmetric tires need to turn the way the factory built them to turn. This is very important for water evacuation on wet roads.

Mixing brands does not disqualify a car from getting a safety certificate but it is a terrible idea. Each end of the car will handle differently in a high-stress emergency manoeuvre. That’s the last thing a new driver needs.

I can’t believe one dealership made that many mistakes, all on one car.

I have a 2009 Pontiac Vibe that is eating tires every 40,000 km. The original tires were Goodyear Eagle RS-A (P215/45R17 87 W). I am thinking of changing the size to: P205/50R17 Goodyear as well, what is your opinion? The reason for the change is because the original is a low profile which is/was a little bumpy.

First of all, don’t change sizes, the difference in aspect ratio is so small it will not be felt in ride quality. However, the 10 mm per tire less width will noticeably reduce cornering grip and braking. So that idea is a nonstarter.

Instead to get better a ride, change the type of tire you are buying. The tire type is also the cause of your low-mileage wear.

The Goodyear RS-A is a “Sports” tire. That means engineered for grip at the expense of long tread life. It has a treadwear rating of 260. If you go to a “Touring” class of tire, you will get a better ride and longer tread life.

I would consider: the Michelin Premier A/S (treadwear 640), the Continental TrueContact (treadwear 800), Hankook Ventus S1 (treadwear 500), Goodyear Assurance Fuel Max (treadwear 580), or the Yokohama AVID ENVigor (treadwear 560).

Treadwear ratings are a straightforward arithmetic relationship. A tire that has a treadwear rating of 400 will drive twice as many kilometers as a tire rated at 200, which in turn will last twice as long as a tire rated at 100, and so on.

So switch to a different class of tire not a different size.

Send tire questions to: thetireguy_1@hotmail.com. Mail volume prevents personal replies.

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