Monday, January 6, 2014

Winter tires and wheels

I will be getting an update from my GM sales rep tomorrow regarding the status of my Volt. In the mean time I have been doing research on winter tires and steel wheels. It quickly becomes obvious how much more expensive tires are in Canada than in the US. But that issue is for another blog. As for tires, living in Quebec means winter tires are mandatory by law. Honestly, comparing even super cheap winter tires (Walmart Nexens) to all-season tires (aka three-season tires) is not fair because of how much better dedicated winter tires perform in winter conditions. Actually I do not want to give the impression that the Nexens are no good, I have them on my Mazda3 and they are great snow tires with very predictable handling and balance. They perform better in slushy conditions than my first generation Michelin X-ice when those first came out (X-ice were some of the smoothest and quietest tires I ever had though). Anyway all this to say, I will be getting winter tires and steel wheels for the Volt. Costco supposedly has universal steel wheels while GM would have original equipment ones but at $30 more per wheel. For the tires I found some great deals online from Quebec-based dealers. I am leaning towards Michelin X-ice Xi3 as they keep getting excellent reviews everywhere. They are also considered low rolling resistance tires (Green) which seems to be fairly new for winter tires. Nokian also gets top ratings but are more expensive. Actually just about all brands have excellent winter tires with pretty comparable performance but my gut feeling says to go with the Michelins. They also are rated to last much longer than other tires. Given my short commute this means I will have the tires for many many years so I better like them! Another thing to consider is TPMS sensors. Everyone is telling me to just not install them on the winter wheels (they are $240 at the dealer but cheaper from Ebay however I am a little paranoid of cheap knockoffs). This would mean seeing tire pressure warnings on the display every single time I drive the car! I am on the fence with this but I see myself getting sensors for the winter tires despite being expensive. Sometimes technology can be annoying!

On a side note, Canadian Tire has some excellent reviews (including videos) of most of the winter tires they sell. They actually performed the tests themselves on a closed track. I was really impressed with this. I just wish the prices were more competitive! Canadian Tire was my favorite store since my childhood and I feel they lost their focus in the last few years :(. I haven't made a purchase there in ages but I am glad they are going back to their roots!

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