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Thread: The Extinction of Affordable Tires

  1. #1
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    The Extinction of Affordable Tires

    Have you noticed how expensive tires - even basic tires - have become?

    Your run-of-the-mill radial now runs close to $100 (less mounting, tire stems and all that). It's easy to drop $400 or more to replace all four tires - and that's for an "economy" car. If you own a late-model family car, it can be a lot more than that.

    Reason? Wheels (and so it follows, tires) have gotten bigger - and thus, they cost more.

    Most compact (and even subcompact) cars now come standard with at least 15 inch wheels; sixteens are common and often you see 17s and even 18s. Not a single 2011 model year mid-sized family sedan comes with anything smaller than a sixteen-inch rim.

    Many sporty sedans - and even SUVs - have 19 and 20-inchers with tires that can cost $400 each.

    In the past, cheap cars came with cheap tires. 1980's-era Chrysler K-cars came with 13-inch stamped steel wheels. You could buy a new tire for $30. As recently as the mid-1990s, economy-type cars still came with economy-type wheels -and affordable tires.

    Then came rap culture and with it, the (still current) obsession with ever-bigger "rims."

    Large wheel/tire packages have always existed - but as specialty equipment associated with performance cars. This business of putting 16-inch rims of basic economy cars and 17-18 inch rims on family sedans and minivans is a New Thing - and by any sane standard, not a good thing.

    It's not just the cost of the tires that gets you, either.

    Sixteen, seventeen and eighteen-inch rims are taller, which means the tires they're shod with have shorter - and stiffer - sidewalls. That, in turn, results in a harsher ride. And the rims themselves, being made of alloy rather than steel, are more delicate. One bad pothole or curb-bump can ruin them.

    Have you checked the price of a new factory alloy rim lately?

    Steel wheels can take more abuse - and they're much less expensive to replace if you do manage to mess one up.

    Low aspect ratio tires (the fancy name for tires with short sidewalls) also wear faster, so you get to pay to replaced them more often, too.

    Oh yeah; rolling resistance is higher - which means a fuel economy penalty.

    You'd think common sense would object to all this - at least insofar as "basic" and "family" type cars are concerned. Economy cars, family cars; minivans. No one autocrosses these things; they don't run at Autobahn speeds. People just poke around in them, commuting to the office, going to the store, picking up the kids, cruise-controlling it down the highway at 70.

    They are Transportation Modules.

    The idea that an economy compact needs 16 inch rims - and that a family sedan or minivan needs 17 or 18-inch rims - is as ridiculous as a SubZero freezer in a standard-issue suburban townhouse.

    But common sense no longer determines vehicle design. People have been convinced by PR - and by the rip-tide tug of "culture," which currently embraces everything related to rap culture - that large wheel/tire packages are must-haves ... even if it bankrupts them.

    That's ok by me.

    But what's not ok by me is that the cattle-like stampede of "trendiness" has the side-effect of making life more expensive for people who don't give a damn about being trendy and like things that do make sense - like basic wheel/tire packages for basic transportation cars.

    Because so few current-year (and recent vintage) cars - including economy cars - come with 13 or 14 inch wheels, the price of smaller tires in 13 and 14 inch sizes is going up as the supply of them goes down. It is actually getting hard to find tires in these sizes at all. In a few more years, it may be that the only way to get a set for your old econo-car will be to buy them from a specialty tire maker like Coker.

    But by then, of course, we may all be broke anyhow.

  2. #2
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    The Old Beetle, for instance, had 13 inch stamped steel wheels...
    Beetles had 15" rims.
    Last edited by misterdecibel; 08-25-2010 at 10:37 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    Have you noticed how expensive tires - even basic tires - have become?
    My Volvo XC-90 - I got the shock of my life - $1250 for a set of Michelin Pilot 235/R60 18's These tire sizes are unique, and there maybe only one or two brands to chose from.

    What's also a shock is that some cars/mini vans no longer have a spare - they have run-flat tires that seem to last about 30k miles. Check out the astronomical prices on those puppies.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    The idea that an economy compact needs 16 inch rims - and that a family sedan or minivan needs 17 or 18-inch rims - is as ridiculous as a SubZero freezer in a standard-issue suburban townhouse.
    But were're quite spoiled on our Viking applicances. Once you cook on a REAL range you never want to go back ! And a refrigerator that has the crispers and storage bins at waste level is really the cat's meow!

  4. #4
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel View Post
    Beetles had 15" rims.
    Yes, you're right; 15x6.

    They were "tall" for the period. Many American cars of that era that were much larger still rode on 14-inch wheels. Fifteens were considered "big."

    I remember when Pontiac first offered a 15x8 rim with the '78 Trans-Am. At the time, this was just about the biggest wheel you could get on a factory-built American car.

  5. #5
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dBrong View Post
    My Volvo XC-90 - I got the shock of my life - $1250 for a set of Michelin Pilot 235/R60 18's These tire sizes are unique, and there maybe only one or two brands to chose from.

    What's also a shock is that some cars/mini vans no longer have a spare - they have run-flat tires that seem to last about 30k miles. Check out the astronomical prices on those puppies.



    But were're quite spoiled on our Viking applicances. Once you cook on a REAL range you never want to go back ! And a refrigerator that has the crispers and storage bins at waste level is really the cat's meow!
    Another side-effect is that it's hard to find performance tires for '60s and '70s era cars in 15 inch (stock wheel) sizes.... they've pretty much stopped making them.

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    I just replaced the tires on my 2001 Saturn L100 and I speak from experience that I just laid down $444.00 on tires. Pisses me off. Due to oil prices, tires have been jumping about 5 percent a year. The last time I replaced the tires, they were 474, but that included the road hazard warranty. Adding in that, My tires would cost north of 500 shells.

    Any tire size more than 16" is a waste.

  7. #7
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by swamprat View Post
    I just replaced the tires on my 2001 Saturn L100 and I speak from experience that I just laid down $444.00 on tires. Pisses me off. Due to oil prices, tires have been jumping about 5 percent a year. The last time I replaced the tires, they were 474, but that included the road hazard warranty. Adding in that, My tires would cost north of 500 shells.

    Any tire size more than 16" is a waste.
    For most cars and most purposes, I'd say anything over 15 inches is a waste.

    Most people drove on 15s for decades, from the '60s through the 1980s.... was it a benighted time? Did they feel deprived?

    I think about all this as I stare at the minivan in front of me with the stick-figure fambuhly figures on the rear gate doing 47 in a 55.... and riding on its 17 inch alloy rhee-uhms.

  8. #8
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    Yes, you're right; 15x6.

    They were "tall" for the period. Many American cars of that era that were much larger still rode on 14-inch wheels. Fifteens were considered "big."

    I remember when Pontiac first offered a 15x8 rim with the '78 Trans-Am. At the time, this was just about the biggest wheel you could get on a factory-built American car.
    Yeah, but remember the Beetle was designed in the 1930s, when wheel diameters were larger than in the '50s-'80s. Those 15" jobs were "small" in the '30s.

  9. #9
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by misterdecibel View Post
    Yeah, but remember the Beetle was designed in the 1930s, when wheel diameters were larger than in the '50s-'80s. Those 15" jobs were "small" in the '30s.
    Yep.

    The Beetle was a superb design, for its intended purpose. It was rugged and simple and got you there. Maybe not quickly, definitely not comfortably. But it usually did the job, even in very poor weather.

    I've owned a few of them over the years and my experience with them was that, in the hands of a decent driver, they're as good in the snow as many modern cars with AWD. Having the engine on the drive wheels out back gave the car great traction. The main thing that tripped the car up was riding up on deep snow (fairly flat floorpans). Then you had to stop and shovel out the snow from underneath.

    But it didn't need fancy tires or electronics or any of that crap to handle winter driving.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Eric View Post
    For most cars and most purposes, I'd say anything over 15 inches is a waste.

    Most people drove on 15s for decades, from the '60s through the 1980s.... was it a benighted time? Did they feel deprived?

    I think about all this as I stare at the minivan in front of me with the stick-figure fambuhly figures on the rear gate doing 47 in a 55.... and riding on its 17 inch alloy rhee-uhms.

    Actually, I agree that anything more than 16" is a waste, although I am not sure that my brake rotors/calipers could fit through 15" wheels on the Jag.

    Of course, this is controversial, but who the heck needs to brake a car from 70 to 0 in 100 feet?

  11. #11
    Administrator Ken's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by swamprat View Post

    Of course, this is controversial, but who the heck needs to brake a car from 70 to 0 in 100 feet?

    An inveterate tailgater?

    Ken.
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    Ridin Dirty dom's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by swamprat View Post

    Of course, this is controversial, but who the heck needs to brake a car from 70 to 0 in 100 feet?

    I can think of a few million people.

    Should check out I-95 (south of Washington D.C.).

    "Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato "
    -Mussolini
    All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state.

  13. #13
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by swamprat View Post
    Actually, I agree that anything more than 16" is a waste, although I am not sure that my brake rotors/calipers could fit through 15" wheels on the Jag.

    Of course, this is controversial, but who the heck needs to brake a car from 70 to 0 in 100 feet?
    Answer: Almost no one, in real-world everyday driving.

    Sure, there is the possibility of being confronted by an extreme/emergency situation where a modern car's shorter braking distances could make all the difference. But many - probably most - people - go a lifetime without ever finding themselves in such a situation. Simply being an attentive, anticipatory driver is more of a factor, as far as avoiding an accident, than having a car with a shorter max stopping distance.

    My opinion is we (the car industry) continues to put the emphasis on technology and equipment while it would be more cost-effective to simply encourage better, more attentive driving habits.

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    For once, I agree with Dom.
    Eric, you're talking like you've never driven the Beltway, where repeated 0-90-0 cycles go on for hours, and usually for no apparent reason.

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    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeHalloran View Post
    For once, I agree with Dom.
    Eric, you're talking like you've never driven the Beltway, where repeated 0-90-0 cycles go on for hours, and usually for no apparent reason.
    Heck, I drove into DC on I-66 and I-495 for nearly 10 years!

    And I did it in a '69 VW fastback and a '73 Super Beetle.... drum brakes all around, no ABS. Never had a problem

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    I'm cautious, and always keep a huge space in front of me. I drive the Beltway a couple of times a year on the way through on I95. No actual 'problems' so far in 30+ years, but way too many close calls and serious 'brake checks' for my taste.

    There's something special about the place; they keep expanding the highway, and the traffic keeps getting worse. I'd like to have an OUTER Beltway around the Beltway. Like an Interstate above US301.

  17. #17
    Vulture of The Western World Eric's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeHalloran View Post
    I'm cautious, and always keep a huge space in front of me. I drive the Beltway a couple of times a year on the way through on I95. No actual 'problems' so far in 30+ years, but way too many close calls and serious 'brake checks' for my taste.

    There's something special about the place; they keep expanding the highway, and the traffic keeps getting worse. I'd like to have an OUTER Beltway around the Beltway. Like an Interstate above US301.
    It was Hell on Earth (and wheels!).... the reason it keeps getting worse is because as government gets more omnipresent, there are ever more bureaucrats and lobbyists and tax-feeders of one stripe or another. I could not stand the place and than the Motor Gods every day that we were able to escape.

    That place needs a 10 megaton douche....

    Keeping space in front of you is probably the single most effective accident avoidance "technology" there is.

    Better than four-wheel-disc brakes with ABS and 18 inch rims with performance tires.

  18. #18
    Administrator Ken's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MikeHalloran View Post
    I'm cautious, and always keep a huge space in front of me. I drive the Beltway a couple of times a year on the way through on I95. No actual 'problems' so far in 30+ years, but way too many close calls and serious 'brake checks' for my taste.

    There's something special about the place; they keep expanding the highway, and the traffic keeps getting worse. I'd like to have an OUTER Beltway around the Beltway. Like an Interstate above US301.
    When driving/riding in traffic, forget distance between you and the vehicle in front - think time - think two seconds gap in the dry and at least four seconds gap in the wet. The gap will increase/decrease with the traffic speed and distance will never be a factor to calculate.

    Ken.
    Last edited by Ken; 08-28-2010 at 03:41 PM.
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  19. #19
    Senior Member misterdecibel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by swamprat View Post

    Of course, this is controversial, but who the heck needs to brake a car from 70 to 0 in 100 feet?
    I can think of one very good reason -- because the guy in front of me can.

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