The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

6 October 2005

Where angels feel the tread

If you made a list of everything you'd consider buying over the Net, automobile tires are probably way down there, perhaps above cheeseburgers but well below books and music and tchotchkes.

It's a fairly busy time at work these days, and I said to myself, "Self, do you really want to go buzzing all over town looking for P205/60R-15s?"

I didn't. Enter the Tire Rack, a major dealer (lots of big brands) with a Web storefront and the ability to drop-ship a quartet of donuts to a nearby tire shop for installation.

I knew about these guys because they sponsor One Lap of America, one of the more amusing racing events around, and because they have five or six pages in almost every major auto mag every month.

And while I figure I'd have no problem finding the low-end Bridgestone Turanzas I've been driving on for 50,000 miles, I didn't much like them; while dry grip is decent, they let go way too easily in the wet, and they're noisy to boot. (There is a Turanza series above this one, but the price differential struck me as excessive.) I'd had Michelin X-Ones on my previous car, which I really liked, but which are amazingly pricey when you can find them.

In the end, I called upon Dunlop, who had made the OEM tires for my old Toyota Celica back in the immediate post-Fred Flintstone era, and who offered the SP Sport A2 Plus in the size I needed and with an appropriate speed rating: H. (My car won't do 130 mph, but the tires could take it if it could.) If you pay attention to UTQR ratings: treadwear 460, traction AA, temperature A. Four of these came to a stirringly-negligible $224, plus forty bucks to UPS them out of Indiana and whatever (I'm guessing $100) I get charged by A to Z Tire Warehouse over on NW 10th, who will be doing the install.

If the $370-ish tab seems high to you, keep in mind that it's worth something simply to avoid going to Pep Boys.

Posted at 7:00 AM to Driver's Seat

Isn't the internet great?

I'm a former motorcyclist, and used to ride a sportbike. Specifically, it was a lower-powered sportbike, so finding the a nice, grippy 160-section rear when most sportbikes use a 180 could be difficult. And since you need to replace tires on a sportbike about every 4 or 5 thousand miles, I found myself going through sets pretty quickly, especially since I liked to get new sets for track days if I was past about 2K miles on that set.

The internet was great, because I could find the right brand and right profile without a problem. It was cheaper than buying at a store. It ended up costing about the same, because I didn't have a tire-changing machine of my own, and shops charge more when you bring a tire you didn't buy there, but it was a much simpler process than calling all over town to find what I needed.

Posted by: Brad Warbiany at 9:58 AM on 6 October 2005

Sounds inviting, but the Yippee-Ki-Spouse and I are confirmed fans of Kauffman Tire. Maybe though, if they don't have what I need the next time I need new tires, this would be the way to go.

Posted by: McGehee at 11:52 AM on 6 October 2005

Well, Tire Rack has anointed various installers across the country to do their mount/balance work; I'm using the one closest to me, partly because it is closest to me, but mostly because a coworker vouched for them. (I was just on the phone with them and verified the ship date, which was today; I'm figuring Tuesday for the install.)

Posted by: CGHill at 1:23 PM on 6 October 2005

Ahh, tires. A favorite subject of mine. I've bought probably 8 sets of tires from Tire Rack in the last 10 years, at big cost savings. I like to buy good tires -- grip is your friend -- and you can easily save $50 a tire that way.

Why so many tires, you ask? I used to do the winter/summer thing and owned 4 different cars over that time, so I never did wear out a set of any of them.

Posted by: Jeff Brokaw at 11:23 AM on 7 October 2005