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March 15, 2013

Summer Tires and a Winter Package: RNR Breaks it Down

Dear Bree,

I’m shopping for a new car and I ran into a snag.  I was with the dealer and they did a search for me to see if there were any cars in the general area with the all of the features that I wanted.  When the dealer came back to me, he said they’d found one!  Great, right?  Not quite. He said they’d found one but that it also had “summer tires,” and he wanted to know if I was interested in that package.  I smiled and acted like I knew exactly what he was talking about, then said I was still weighing my options and I’d get back to him.   Fake it ‘til you make it, I always say.  So, tell me, Bree, what the heck are summer tires and why in the world would I want a car with “summer tires” when I requested that the stinking car have the winter package?!  That just makes no sense!  Am I supposed to change the tires with the season or forego my seat warmers and move south?  All I want to do is haul my kids safely around town and maybe take a road trip every now and then.  I hate feeling like an idiot, especially when I went in feeling fully researched and well-informed.  Thanks!


Clueless in Cleveland


Dear Clueless,

I can see the blank stare and the panic from here, girl.  I’m sure you covered just fine, and I know how you feel.  There was a time when someone asked this redhead what kind of engine I had and I said, “Come again?”  I wanted to say, “The kind that runs on gas and makes my car go,” but somehow sensed that the man asking was looking for something more specific.  I finally had to fess up that I had no idea, and he had to go out to the car to check.  Seems mechanics need that kind of information.  Now, I know and I’m here to help you!

So, here’s the skinny on “summer tires.”   Summer tires are also called high-performance tires, and there are reasons for and against them.

The difference between high-performance or summer tires and all-season tires comes down to rubber (or compound).  High-performance tires are made from a softer rubber than all-season tires, and so they grip the road better in dry or damp conditions and improve handling, braking and acceleration.  They tend to handle better in rain for this reason.  In deep water at high speeds, we have to talk about tread pattern and how it affects handling and a car’s ability to hold the road (good tires are more than just rubber); but for everyday, the softer rubber in high-performance tires makes a difference.  The problem with summer tires starts with snow (hence the term “summer”).   The softer compound of summer tires tends to harden in temperatures below freezing, so that extra traction that they had in warmer weather is gone.  All-season tires are made from a different compound that doesn’t harden in cold temperatures, so they offer a bit more traction in snow.

Another issue with high-performance tires: They are significantly more expensive (hence the reason they are a separate “package” on your new car) than all-season tires, and they tend not to last as long, so you’ll be shelling out more money more frequently to stay safe on the road.  If that’s not an issue for you, and you don’t need the added traction in cold weather provided by all-season tires, then maybe high-performance tires are for you.  They certainly have their benefits—that can’t be denied—but neither can the reality of price and longevity.  It’s up to you to find that balance.  I see that you live in Cleveland which gets pretty darn cold, so weather would be a consideration.  I’d want the seat warmers, too.

My best advice? Find out what the manufacturer recommends for the car that you’re looking at, weigh your future maintenance costs and the demands on your tires, and make your best decision.  If you’re still not sure, come in and talk to one of our experts at RNR.  You can research online all you want, but sometimes it’s that one-on-one with a person who knows through experience that can make all the difference.  Your family’s safety and comfort are important, and when it comes to your car, both of things are riding on your tires.  Good luck, girl!



P.S.  I didn’t go into the aesthetics of high-performance tires because it doesn’t sound like that’s a priority to you, but the look of a car’s wheels and tires can be very important to some people.  If that’s a consideration for you, then definitely come see us.  We can show you lots of options and help you find the look you want.

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