by Jon Mikelonis
There was a day when buying tires for my daily driver meant
blocking out a 3 hour segment of my weekend and making a trip
down to any one of ten major tire service centers. I've patroned
Tires Plus, Les Schwab, Tire Works, Costco, and numerous local
independents in the past. On most occasions, I'd approach
the sales counter with no predetermined idea of what brand
or model of tire I wanted. For my daily drivers, the requirement
didn't go much beyond the highway tire with the boring tread
pattern and the affordable price. I'd usually let the service
center make the final decision for me based on what they had
in stock at the store or could order for delivery that same
day from "the warehouse". Ignorantly, I assumed
most tire service representatives would always make a more
intelligent choice than I would for a highway tire.
|Most Ford passenger cars, including
my AWD Ford Freestyle, come equipped with Continental
ContiTouring Tires like the one pictured left above. Conti's
are not suitable for medium to heavy snow conditions nor
are they great performers on ice. Tread patterns like
the one shown on the Michelin X-Ice to the right are a
great studless alternative for wintery climates.
The bad habit of putting all my faith into the hands of the
tire service center all changed recently when I needed some
good performing snow and ice tires for my Family
Truckster, a 2006 Ford Freetstyle. Since becoming a responsible
father, I guess you could say Michelin's tagline "Because
So Much is Riding on Your Tires" finally began to
resonate with me. Careless and unprepared tire purchasing
would no longer be acceptable under my new title.
Most Ford passenger cars, including my Freestyle, come
equipped new with garden variety Continental
ContiTouringContact highway tires that are proven for
increased gas mileage. However, the Conti's are not suitable
for medium to heavy snow and ice conditions. What this meant
is that I'd be replacing a perfectly good set of highway tires
(less than 15,000 miles) for a studless snow and ice tire
that would keep my family safe during our wintery travels
this Christmas and New Year's break.
Unwilling to purchase a dedicated set
of studded snow tires, which are outlawed in certain states
anyway, I needed to find a more rugged tire that would still
ride comfortably when the roads were dry. I knew this wasn't
the normal daily driver tire purchase so I visited the MyFordFreestyle
internet forum to see what others had done. The forum offered
excellent personal testimonial and suggestions for the oddball
65 series tire.
Armed with three different options in snow and ice tires (the
Blizzak WS-60, the Michelin
Latitude X-Ice, and the Yokohama
Geolandar HT-S) I called around town to see who could
accommodate me with an installation time and a tire the same
as or equivalent to any of the three listed above. To satisfy
my consumer tire need I called on Les Schwab, Tires Plus,
Big-O, and finally the Tire Rack. This is where it got interesting.
For every call I made, I expressed the same consumer tire
requirement. More or less, my delivery went as follows:
my name is Jon and I own a 2006 Ford Freestyle. I'm looking
for some winter tires to replace the OEM touring tires that
came on my Ford. The Continental ContiTouringContact tires
that I currently have, have no more than 15,000 miles on them
but I need a tire than performs better in the snow. I've done
my own research online and can offer you three tire models
that will suit my needs."
down my consumer experience with all four tire suppliers below.
I drummed up some imagery for each tire supplier to visually
communicate my over-the-phone impression. Here's how it went.
"Like, oh my God, did you say you wanted the Bridgestone
Blizzak?" Because we soooo don't carry that one."
OK, I used a little creative license when I wrote this quote.
However, when speaking with the Les Schwab representative
I felt like I was talking to myself in a dark forest. After
clearly laying out my winter travel tire needs, the woman
on the other end seemed more interested in selling me their
LS all season tires with an 80,000 mile warranty. I asked
her if the 80,000 mile warranty was going to prevent my car
from careening off the highway into a frozen creek. My comment
was returned with dead air. Furthermore, I became weary with
Les Schwab's "exclusive" label. Exclusive in this
case meant the Tourevo LS was probably the tire for which
they would be making the most margin. These exclusive products
may or may not be the ones their customers need or in my case...
Now to be fair to the people at Les Schwab, they did remount
my wheel barrow tire this past summer free of charge and they
did it extremely fast. It was the wheel barrow favor that
made me call on them first for a real tire purchase. Unfortunately,
they lost my business at the first point of contact by failing
to check inventory on the tires I specified. Les Schwab also
failed to recommend an equivalent to meet my needs.
Plus, Big-O, and The Tire Rack)