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 Search
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 Bridgestone 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.

The Service
For every call I made, I expressed the same consumer tire requirement. More or less, my delivery went as follows:

"Hello, 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."

I've broken 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.

Les Schwab
"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 "exclusive" Tourevo 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... specifically request.

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.

(Tires Plus, Big-O, and The Tire Rack)

In This Article...
FordMuscle editor Jon Mikelonis shares his retail experience shopping for tires for his Ford family truckster, a 2006 Ford Freestyle. His findings may provoke contemplation about the way you have been buying tires for your daily driver or Ford project car. Follow along for reviews of Les Schwab, Tires Plus, Big-O, and The Tire Rack.

The Tire Rack (www.tirerack.com)
Ever considered having tires shipped directly to your house or to your chosen installer? Breaking the tire shopping experience into two logical steps; Purchasing the tires and installing the tires, allows you to bypass installer specials or worse... self-motivated installer tire recommendations.

At The Tire Rack, four passenger tires can be shipped from one of four national distribution centers for less than $50. Most importantly, the selection is endless. See page two of this article for testimony on my recent experience with this revolutionary online retailer.



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