Smaller winter tires make sense for light trucks

Our tire expert on the best rubber for F150, Subaru Forester

  • Light Truck

Q. What’s the best winter tire for a Ford F150 4×4 SuperCrew? My tire size is 275/65R18. Should I go down to a 17-inch tire for the winter?

A. If you stay on 18-inch wheels, my choices would be the Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V1, or the Firestone Winter Force LT. The Goodyear Ultra Grip Ice WRT is also worth a look.

The Firestone is a light-truck tire (LT) so it has a higher load-carrying capacity than a passenger car tire (P). That might be an important consideration if you fully load up the truck in winter.

Your truck has rather wide tires for maximum winter traction. For sure, it makes sense to drop down to 17-inch wheels for winter. The correct size is P255/70R17.

Luckily, the top tire choice is available in that size. The Bridgestone Blizzak DM-V1 works on ice and snow equally well. A less-expensive option worth a look is the Cooper Discoverer M-S.

Q. I need to replace all four tires on my 2007 Subaru Forester. The tires are Yokohama Geolander G900, size P215/60 R16 94H. I am considering the Michelin Defender all-season and the Nokian all-weather tires. I don?t do a lot of winter driving in snowy conditions. Safety is my first concern.

A. On your sidewall, the 94 is the load index ? a code for the maximum weight the tire can carry at its maximum inflation (94 is the code for 1,477 lb.). You can always go to a higher load index, but should never go down from what the manufacturer specified for the car.

You would be fine with the Nokian all-weather tire at a 99H rating. You are, in fact, increasing the tire load capacity to 1,709 pounds.

If you went to the Michelin at 95T, you are increasing the load capacity slightly, but downgrading the speed rating from H to T. So you decrease the maximum speed from 210 to 190 km/h. Although you will never drive at that speed, the vehicle manufacturer had its reasons for putting that tire on your car.

Generally, as speed ratings go higher, the tire gets stiffer, plus it can dissipate heat better. Remember that the tire sidewall flex is part of the car?s suspension movement, so Subaru wanted a stiffer tire on the vehicle. It is not generally a good idea to downgrade from OE specifications.

If you drive in any snowy conditions at all, I would consider the Nokian all-weather tire over the Michelin all-season.

The Nokian is a Transport Canada snow-rated tire, but it can be left on the car all year. It will offer a bit more of an edge in stopping and turning than an all-season.

The price for this extra margin of grip is that it will be somewhat stiffer and slightly noisier than the Michelin. For serious snow or ice, though, you would need a dedicated winter tire.

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