Before we kick off on this: I’m in ‘Straya. We spell it with a ‘Y’, like, I dunno, everywhere on earth except Retardistan, which is also called ‘Merica. Knock yourself out in the comments feed, on this, Jethro. Say hi to Jim-Bob and Ellie-Mae. Enjoy the spit roast. And all the other hillbilly fun. There’s a whole world outside the USA. How long has that been the case.
I’m John Cadogan, from AutoExpert.com.au – the place where Aussie new car buyers save thousands off their next new cars. Hit me up on the website for that.
Welcome to another ‘What the FAQ’ – which oxygenates your more common questions and (I hope) equips you with the facts you need to jump these vexatious hurdles.
There are about 12 million cars on Australian roads, which means – ballpark – 50 million tyres. And that means replacement tyres, even in a global backwater such as this, are big business. I get several recurring questions on this, which all boil down to:
Which tyres should I buy?
The basics are: They have to be the right size – and the right load rating. You can choose a tyre with a load rating greater than the minimum, but not less than that. That’s a detail the tyre retailer usually looks after.
I’m kinda passionate about tyres because for five or six years I ran all the Wheels Magazine annual tyre tests. We conscripted the assistance of a lot of local tyre engineers to get the testing protocols right for those tests, and as a result, I learned a lot more than I ever thought I would about tyres.
So the first thing you need to know is that the manufacturers of quality tyres all have a real problem: Tyres are all black and round, so the really good ones look exactly the same as the really shit ones. It’s a marketing challenge par excellence.
If you’re a non-technical person, it can be quite hard to believe a good tyre that looks exactly the same as a shit tyre, but costs maybe $100 bucks more is actually that much better. But – trust me on this – it is.
There are a great many urban myths on various tyre brands – like some are allegedly quieter. Some are allegedly better at grip in the wet – whatever.
Having stood on the side of the track, set up the timing beams, briefed the race driver, consulted with the expert engineers, I can tell you those brand-based myths are bullshit.
The number one thing to remember when you’re buying replacement tyres is that all the known, quality brands: Pirelli, Dunlop, Goodyear, Bridgestone, Continental, Toyo, Michelin, Yokohama – et cetera – you know the ones I mean – all those quality brands perform about the same as each other, for a particular size and category of tyre.
Obviously a Pirelli on a Porsche is very likely to out-perform a Yokohama on a Yaris. We’re talking apples-for-apples here.
I’d include Hankook and Kumho on that ‘quality brands’ list, too – they are definitely up there, at least they are today. And I say this on the basis of trackside measurements – testing – that I actually conducted. There’s no doubt. And FYI – I have no commercial affiliation with any tyre manufacturer.
The number two thing is: Don’t ask for brand-type advice at the retail coal face. Retailers are incentivised by different manufacturers – so there are different agendas at play. The retailer invariable recommends the tyre that’s right for him, commercially, not necessarily you.
I’d get three different quotes on three different quality brands, over the phone, and go with the cheapest one. It really is that simple. But asking brand advice from a tyre retailer is like walking into a Mazda dealer and asking him if Toyota is any good. It’s not a place where unbiased advice is forthcoming.