Do(n’t) Buy: Pirelli Tires

I’m a dork when it comes to cars–or perhaps, more accurately, I like pretending I’m a dork when it comes to cars. Raised by a father whose prized possession was his leased BMW with custom plates, I grew up in a household that believed cars to be a form of social status. If you owned a nice car, it meant you lived well, if you took care of it, it meant you valued your possessions, and if you knew how to drive you were close to being James Bond. My siblings used to play the game “guess the car make and model” on road trips. When I was 11 my dream car was (and still is) a 1967 Shelby GT500 Mustang (also known as “Eleanor” in that ridiculous, Nicolas Cage film Gone in Sixty Seconds).

Unfortunately I didn’t learn much about the inner workings of cars. I know how to take care of one for the first 100,000 miles, but after that, I don’t have a clue how to maintain it. That beautiful vintage Mustang would be wasted on me.

The after effects of my childhood are still present though–since I know a decent amount about cars, I give off the vibe that I know more than I do. So, with that confession on the table, let’s chat about tires. I am by no means an expert, but I drive aggressively enough that I have used these tires to a high potential.

When I first realized I had to change my tires on my car I was 19. I was poor and lazy, so I bought the step-above-cheapest pair on TireRack.com. I’m fairly certain they were Yokohama tires, and while I didn’t much care about road noise, they weren’t exactly great in winter. My tiny 2007 Toyota Yaris Hatchback became a roller skate on the icy roads. I had little traction, and was terrified to drive when the weather was bad.

Two summers ago I decided to change brands, opting instead for Pirelli tires. Again I bought them from TireRack.com. The great thing about buying tires online is that it cuts out the middle man. You pay a cheaper rate, ship them to a certified TireRack installer (I usually pick Goodyear stores), and pay a flat rate to have your tires put on. It’s usually MUCH cheaper than buying them from an auto service provider.

My Pirelli P4 Four Season tires are thebomb.com. Like the Yokohamas, they’re not great in terms of road noise, but for the performance, I’ll take the rumble on the highway. For one of the worst winters on record in Minneapolis (where our DoT had to take blow torches to the road to get rid of icy spots), these babies didn’t get me stuck once. I live in an apartment downtown with only street parking, and occasionally the plows would plow in my car. After a bit of digging (the Yaris isn’t exactly a four-wheel-drive winter road beast), the Pirellis pulled out, no questions asked. Like any other all-season tires, they took a combination of quality performance and good driving to be reliable. I’m not saying I didn’t slide on the roads in winter, or that I could slam on the brakes and they’d stop dead on an ice patch. But with the Yokohamas I got stuck in snow drifts quite often. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the Pirellis. If I get another set for the Yaris, I’ll stick with them.

If you’ve noticed that you’re not getting traction you’d like in your vehicle, keep in mind that you should be changing your tires every 30,000 to 50,000 miles. Cars with smaller wheel wells, like the Yaris, should be changed on the lower end of that spectrum (since they’re rotating at a higher rate than larger wheels–they hit the surface of the road more often). In places like New York, where I grew up, we had state mandated annual inspections to check on things like tire wear. Other states, like Minnesota, don’t always have these inspections, so it may have never occurred to your to change your tires. While the service isn’t exactly cheap, $400 is a low cost to feel safer on the road.

TireRack’s system asks for the year, make and model of your vehicle, and occasionally asks for wheel well size, so be sure to have your manual handy. They’re great about showing you the closest location to drop off your car, and most of their tires come with a warranty (something I have yet to explore). Usually the whole process take a little over a week (from ordering them online to getting them installed).

As always, I’m not a licensed professional, these are just my opinions and experiences with Pirelli tires. If you have any suggestions about your own tire experiences, I’d love to hear.

Now go watch Gone in Sixty Seconds. It’s actually a really good movie, guys. 

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