OK, "perfect" isn't a word that goes with "tire," so probably I shouldn't have used it in the title of this blog post. But my quest today was to find the nearest thing to perfect in a winter tire.
I enjoy browsing the internet for tire information almost as much as I enjoy browsing for car information. It took me months of perusing automobile web sites and watching You Tube videos of car reviews before I settled on getting a 2020 Subaru Crosstrek Limited to replace my VW GTI.
Since the VW's winter tires won't fit on the Crosstrek I've got an ad running on Craigslist for the almost-good-as-new Michelin Pilot Alpin winter tires that were on the GTI. Question is, what winter tire should I get for the Crosstrek?
Well, the question before that one was, "Should I get winter tires?"
Since I hate to put on tire chains and we live in rural south Salem on a road that is never plowed when it is snowy or icy, plus our driveway is long and steep, for many years I've said yes to using winter tires from November to March.
True, it hasn't snowed in the Salem area the past two years, maybe three.
But we've gotten heavy snow and ice before that. And I figure that with climate change affecting the weather more and more, the chance of a polar vortex or whatever causing a big snow/ice event in our part of Oregon is a matter of when, not if.
So yesterday I brought home four 18-inch wheels from Capitol Subaru that the parts department had ordered for me. Since I like the look of the wheels that came with the Crosstrek, I figured it was worth some extra money to have winter tires mounted on the same wheels.
Now, maybe I should have watched this video early this afternoon, rather than hours later, after I had spent a lot of time researching the best winter tire for my car -- since I probably was overthinking which winter tire to buy. This Auto Trader Canada guy correctly says that you've gotten 90% of the way there by simply deciding to get winter tires.
They're that much better than all-season tires in snow and ice. Plus cold, another benefit of winter tires even if it never snows, since winter tires stay soft in cold temperatures while regular tires get stiff, which reduces their effectiveness.
At any rate, I did my overthinking before I saw the video. And it turns out that all that pondering could pay off, since eventually I came across the fact that Michelin has recently released a successor to the X-Ice Xi3 which has the much better name of X-Ice Snow.
However, I found that since this is a new tire, it isn't available in all sizes, including 225/55/18, the size of the Crosstrek tires that came with my car.
I was disappointed, since early reviews and You Tube videos of the X-Ice Snow rollout test put on by Michelin this year showed that it has some benefits over the previous X-Ice designs.
For example, the Snow has siping (tiny slits) all the way to nearly the bottom of the tire depth. And the special compound the tire is made of is 100% of the tire, whereas other brands of winter tires basically turn into all-season tires after the tire is worn down by 50% or so, since the more pliable compound is only in the outer part of the tire.
So my first idea was to email and text Michelin, asking if the Snow will be available in 225/55/18 soon. An even better idea came to mind after that -- go down to a 17 inch tire, preserving the attributes of the 18 inch tire.
TireRack.com suggests doing this for winter tires, since a narrower tire cuts through deep snow better than a wider tire. Tire Rack can calculate a "minus size" tire for your vehicle. Mine turned out to be 225/60/17. Which, pleasingly, is available for the Michelin X-Ice Snow.
I then found a web site which compares the characteristics of two tires, in my case 225/55/18 and 225/60/17. Tires in these two sizes are very similar in the important variable of speedometer accuracy. It turns out that at 60 mph the 17 inch tire would produce a speed of 59.8 mph. Really close.
Tomorrow I'm going to check with a Capitol Subaru service advisor to make sure it's OK to put 17-inch wheels on my Crosstrek Limited. Since other Crosstrek trims come with 17-inch wheels (Limited is the only trim with 18-inch wheels), I'm anticipating this will be fine. And won't void the warranty in any way.
If I get the go-ahead to use 17-inch wheels, I'll return the 18-inch wheels to Capitol Subaru and get four 17-inch wheels. I don't like the look of the 17-inch wheels as much, but they will be more attractive than the steel wheels I've used before with winter tires.
Also, more expensive, but I figure that it is worth it to have wheels I enjoy looking at during the cold months, rather than looking forward to getting them off in the spring.