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Tires Plus
Tires Plus has been good to me in the past. The service has been prompt and courteous. To draw a frank conclusion, having my tires supplied and installed by Tires Plus on past occasions might have possibly been the perfect Good 'ol Boy retail experience.

However, contacting Tires Plus for the first time with specific tire manufacturer and model preferences proved to be futile. The end result was nearly identical to the Les Schwab scenario, except the package wasn't as pretty. Upon specifying my "winter" tire request, I was immediately directed toward an all-season tire with a high mileage warranty. What's the deal with warranties, I asked myself? I need a snow and ice winter tire, not the Bridgestone Turanza with Serenity to replace my perfectly good and already installed Continetal ContiTouringContact tires. The Tires Plus sales representative failed to locate or recommend a tire equivalent to the three I had proposed. A quick look on their website showed two tires that would have been logical solutions from Tires Plus, the Bridgestone Blizzak WS-60 and the Dayton Winterforce. Why weren't these mentioned? I made my next call.

Big-0 Tires
The guys over at Big-O sure gave my situation a gallant effort. Up to this point, nobody had directly addressed the requirement I specified. Working together over the phone while I was online visiting manufacturer websites, the Big-O sales rep offered some suggestions from Yokohama's more rugged line of tires, the Geolandar. Unfortunately, the service rep's calls into Big-O's local supplier showed incomplete stock. Again, we went back and forth with all-season tires and warranty specifications. At this point I was about to abandon my search. I went back online to review the tires that were mentioned by all three installers. During that same online session I found the Tire Rack.

The Tire Rack
In the past, The Tire Rack brought nothing more to mind than a banner ad I had seen in an internet forum. Even when noticing the Tire Rack listed in Yahoo's Yellow Pages, I still wasn't sure if the Tire Rack was a service center or a business-to-business tire distributor, so I checked out their website.

At first I was a bit confused since it wasn't immediately obvious that the Tire Rack would NOT be installing my tires if I decided to give them my business. Ahh-ha, I said to myself, the Tire Rack just sells the consumer their tires and then the consumer has to have the tires installed by an installer of their choice. OK, no problem. But what's the advantage? Answer. You can get just about any tire you want without any hassle or hidden agenda. Something that's not so easy when working with a supplier/installer (i.e., Les Schwab, Tires Plus, Big-O).

Fortunately for me, the Tire Rack has a West Coast warehouse with a "will call" storefront only 15 miles from my house in Sparks, Nevada. A quick search online showed that they had the tires I needed in stock. In this case, the Michelin Latitude X-Ice's were recommended by a user in the MyFordFreestyle internet forum. After phoning the Tire Rack's toll-free number, I confirmed the tires were indeed in stock in the Nevada West Coast warehouse.

My trip out to the McCarran, Nevada warehouse was an interesting one. I took an opportunity to pose next to one of the few online retailers in what is essentially a desolate expanse dotted with enormous warehouses.
I was impressed that a motorized pallet jack picked and dropped my tires about 2 minutes after I signed my credit card receipt at the will call window.

The Tire Rack is perfect for the enthusiast or the determined average joe who wants to choose their own tire based on their own internet research. The Tire Rack has no hidden agenda for selling you an "exclusive tire". You simply order online or by phone and have the tires shipped to you. Five major warehouses across the US can ship to most locations within one day for a surprisingly low shipping charge.

Final Thoughts
Once home with my tires from The Tire Rack, I opted to have the most cordial tire service center do the installation. I went with Big-O, but that didn't
mean I wasn't going to double check their work.

I was appreciative that Big-O wrapped my old tires in plastic bags after the new tires were installed.
Here I am checking that the lug nuts were indeed on securely. They were. The Michelin sidewall suggested the tires not exceed 50 psi. After checking, they only measured 35 psi. Considering the sidewall was ballooning at 35 psi, I bumped them up to 45 psi.

The Michelin X-Ice's from The Tire Rack paid for themselves when I was screened for four wheel drive and snow tires at the California/Oregon border. This is a shot crossing the Siskiyous confidently in the Ford Freestyle.

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