Automotive

Winter tires - speed rating & downsizing

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  • Nov 8th, 2010 12:35 am
[OP]
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Sep 26, 2007
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reijaqf

Winter tires - speed rating & downsizing

Hello:

A couple of questions for the forum. I have an 07 Camry LE. I am buying winter tires for her. I am considering a set of General Altimax Arctics. These fit my budget and are highly rated across multiple sources, including Consumer Reports and several others.

For tires, the OEM/Camry owners manual specs are 215 60 R16 94 V - i.e., 16 inch with load rating of 94 and speed rating of V.

Question 1 - I am having a difficult time finding WINTER tires that have a speed rating of V. In fact, many of the winters (including the aforementioned Altimax) seem to be rated a Q, with an odd one here or there rated an S or T. I know that a Q is rated for 160 km/hr and that I will not even come close to driving that fast, let alone for any length of time! But does a higher rating (in this case an S or T) mean the tire is "higher quality" and will last longer?
Also will the lower Q rating mean performance problems or drawbacks of any kind for my "V-rated" Camry?

Question 2 - I have heard that the concept of putting on a smaller tire for winter (in my case 15 inchers instead of 16s) is somewhat an outdated concept and debatable benefits. Any experience to share?

Question 3 - I assume it is ok to put on a tire with a higher load rating (in my case a 95 vs. the OEM rated 94)

Apologies if these are newbie questions but my first winter!

Thanks!!
21 replies
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jt123 wrote:
Nov 1st, 2010 3:22 pm
Question 2 - I have heard that the concept of putting on a smaller tire for winter (in my case 15 inchers instead of 16s) is somewhat an outdated concept and debatable benefits. Any experience to share?

I went from 205/50/17 to 195/65/15, only because it was substantially cheaper.
Whenever someone asks a question that starts with "Why do they..." or "Why don't they...", the answer is always a) money, b) stupidity, or c) both.
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Q3) It's ok, doesn't really matter too much most of the time

Q2) Most people do this mostly for cost reasons. In the winter you aren't looking for ultimate performance so as long as it fits most people will run it. I am going from 18 inch wheels to 16 on my speed 3, all for cost. The otherside is that softer wheels (due to smaller rims and more tire sidewall) means better suited for the pot holed winter roads in Canada. And they also tend to provide better grip in bad weather because they conform better to the road.

Q1) Speed ratings are typically only for how fast the tire can run before ti falls apart. Most of the speed rating you see exceed what people see in normal circumstances. What's more higher speed ratings tends to equal harder tires which is a bad thing for winter. V rated winter tires tends to be "performance" winter tires. Which is a bit of an oxymoron and means that the tires are a compromise. They are softer rubber than summer tires but they aren't designed to be all out for traction in bad weather. As a result you will see people running these V spec winter tires getting stuck (especially since they tend to go on to RWD sports cars). So as long as the speed rating is above your max highway driving speed you shouldn't worry too much. With the caveat that the softer winter tires will feel different on the road.
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jt123 wrote:
Nov 1st, 2010 3:22 pm
Hello:

A couple of questions for the forum. I have an 07 Camry LE. I am buying winter tires for her. I am considering a set of General Altimax Arctics. These fit my budget and are highly rated across multiple sources, including Consumer Reports and several others.

For tires, the OEM/Camry owners manual specs are 215 60 R16 94 V - i.e., 16 inch with load rating of 94 and speed rating of V.

Question 1 - I am having a difficult time finding WINTER tires that have a speed rating of V. In fact, many of the winters (including the aforementioned Altimax) seem to be rated a Q, with an odd one here or there rated an S or T. I know that a Q is rated for 160 km/hr and that I will not even come close to driving that fast, let alone for any length of time! But does a higher rating (in this case an S or T) mean the tire is "higher quality" and will last longer?
Also will the lower Q rating mean performance problems or drawbacks of any kind for my "V-rated" Camry?

Question 2 - I have heard that the concept of putting on a smaller tire for winter (in my case 15 inchers instead of 16s) is somewhat an outdated concept and debatable benefits. Any experience to share?

Question 3 - I assume it is ok to put on a tire with a higher load rating (in my case a 95 vs. the OEM rated 94)

Apologies if these are newbie questions but my first winter!

Thanks!!

ok, well.
the higher the speed rating, the higher the performace level for driving on the dry cold pavement. But as a lambo can be driven in the winter using pirelli corsa winter tires, see youtube tiff needell in fifth gear, generally with low snow levels. arguably in heavy snow, I'd rather go with buying a winter tires that performs very well in deep snow and ice.

I'd go with a T rated tire. avoid low profile tires, so that the tire can do more vibration and bounce absoprtion. mushy but would you rather have vibrations from ice and uneven snowy roads. maintain the overall diameter, but go with more narrow profile tire.
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I'm not sure if there are benefits Downsizing...

My last Coupe I went with OEM with P205/55/R16 Kumho's KW11. I didn't have a single problem, in fact back with Club RSX we were pushing it even with heavy snow falls.

Now with my '08 Nissan Altima Coupe 3.5SE, I also went with OEM P215/55R17 Hankook iPike W409 the first year and sold it the next for Icebear W300. I didn't like neither, I felt like I was limited and couldn't push her like I did with my '02 Acura RSX Premium.

This is my third winter, I sold my Hankook Icebear W300 and downsized to P215/60R16 Continental ExtremeWinter.


As for Speed Rating & Load, I leave it up to Billy/tires23.
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[OP]
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Sep 26, 2007
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reijaqf
gotak wrote:
Nov 1st, 2010 3:57 pm
Q3) It's ok, doesn't really matter too much most of the time

Q2) Most people do this mostly for cost reasons. In the winter you aren't looking for ultimate performance so as long as it fits most people will run it. I am going from 18 inch wheels to 16 on my speed 3, all for cost. The otherside is that softer wheels (due to smaller rims and more tire sidewall) means better suited for the pot holed winter roads in Canada. And they also tend to provide better grip in bad weather because they conform better to the road.

Q1) Speed ratings are typically only for how fast the tire can run before ti falls apart. Most of the speed rating you see exceed what people see in normal circumstances. What's more higher speed ratings tends to equal harder tires which is a bad thing for winter. V rated winter tires tends to be "performance" winter tires. Which is a bit of an oxymoron and means that the tires are a compromise. They are softer rubber than summer tires but they aren't designed to be all out for traction in bad weather. As a result you will see people running these V spec winter tires getting stuck (especially since they tend to go on to RWD sports cars). So as long as the speed rating is above your max highway driving speed you shouldn't worry too much. With the caveat that the softer winter tires will feel different on the road.

Thanks. Another question - I understand that by reading the sidewall you can tell when the tires were made. What is an "acceptable" age for the tires to be when I buy them/installing for first time?
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Oct 19, 2006
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jt123 wrote:
Nov 3rd, 2010 11:45 am
Thanks. Another question - I understand that by reading the sidewall you can tell when the tires were made. What is an "acceptable" age for the tires to be when I buy them/installing for first time?

Boy that's a hard question to answer. It depends on the tire and how it's stored. In general the newer the better. If you are buying new tires it's not a big issue most of the time, especially winter tires. They are always sold out before the end of the season with only cheap off brands still available near spring.

And in general winter tires last 3 to 4 seasons. So really not a big deal for most people as they will replace before it gets too old. I know there's a 6 years number floating around on some car owner's manual about replacement regardless of usage. It's generally good advice and not a bad idea since tire technology are improving year by year.

In the end I wouldn't worry too much about it unless you are buying some off brand or from some really dodgy tire place.
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jt123 wrote:
Nov 1st, 2010 3:22 pm
Question 1 - I am having a difficult time finding WINTER tires that have a speed rating of V. In fact, many of the winters (including the aforementioned Altimax) seem to be rated a Q, with an odd one here or there rated an S or T. I know that a Q is rated for 160 km/hr and that I will not even come close to driving that fast, let alone for any length of time! But does a higher rating (in this case an S or T) mean the tire is "higher quality" and will last longer?
Also will the lower Q rating mean performance problems or drawbacks of any kind for my "V-rated" Camry?
gotak wrote:Q1) Speed ratings are typically only for how fast the tire can run before ti falls apart. Most of the speed rating you see exceed what people see in normal circumstances. What's more higher speed ratings tends to equal harder tires which is a bad thing for winter. V rated winter tires tends to be "performance" winter tires. Which is a bit of an oxymoron and means that the tires are a compromise. They are softer rubber than summer tires but they aren't designed to be all out for traction in bad weather. As a result you will see people running these V spec winter tires getting stuck (especially since they tend to go on to RWD sports cars). So as long as the speed rating is above your max highway driving speed you shouldn't worry too much. With the caveat that the softer winter tires will feel different on the road.
You are correct there is a compromise however you neglected to [explicitly] mention that the compromise applies both ways. A performance winter will usually be better on dry/wet/slushy surfaces which you do indeed encounter in the winter. A standard winter will do better in snow and perhaps on ice as well but it has compromises too in that it's often not as good on dry pavement and often not as good in the wet or in slush either. In fact, in big metropolis areas (like the GTA) you are much more likely to be driving on these surfaces than deep and/or packed snow.

Now there are times you are going to be driving on snow (it is winter after all) but in the city these conditions are salted to high hell as the snow falls and plows are out in full force in no time, leaving you with wet, slushy roads when precipitation does fall, and dry salty roads when it's not falling. Not to mention the fact that the sheer volume of traffic in the city also eliminates snow from the road surface. In your typical city conditions a performance winter is the better tyre to have as you will usually have better traction in the conditions you most often encounter.

Outside of the city in places like Sudbury, North Bay, SSM, even Barrie or Ottawa, (and certainly other non-city areas of the country), then the regular winter is typically the better choice. In these areas not only do they get a lot more annual snowfall (look at the historical numbers for SSM compared to Toronto for example), but the snow clearing isn't nearly as good and driving on many roads means driving on snow and ice. Where plows are out in minutes here in the GTA, in cities in Norhern Ontario they aren't out for hours. On side roads where people complain here that they aren't cleared a day after a snowfall, those are cleared normally once every week or two, outside the city. They don't use nearly as much salt (even going by road-to-salt-used percentage) either. So... Conditions are largely different in a place like the GTA than elsewhere. And, different conditions call for different tyres. Though you certainly can't change your tyres for every different condition you encounter, as I said you can choose a tyre based on what you are most often going to be driving on.

For the most part neither the regular winter or the performance winter is going to be the "wrong choice" for wintertime driving, however one of them could be the better choice. Now we have no clue where the OP lives (since they put some jumble of letters for their location? :confused: ) but where they live and drive certainly should have a good deal of influence on what tyre they choose.
jt123 wrote:
Nov 1st, 2010 3:22 pm
Question 2 - I have heard that the concept of putting on a smaller tire for winter (in my case 15 inchers instead of 16s) is somewhat an outdated concept and debatable benefits. Any experience to share?
I think the "debate" is mainly due to the slight misconception that a "narrower tyre is better for winter" (something I too thought before). The fact is it is better...for getting through snow. However snow is not the only condition you encounter in winter, despite the fact that it's the one we most commonly think of. As others said, a greater motivation to get the smaller tyre is cost. Wheels (if using separate winter wheels) and tyres are simply cheaper in the smaller size, which is reason enough for many people to go with the smaller size.
jt123 wrote:
Nov 1st, 2010 3:22 pm
Question 3 - I assume it is ok to put on a tire with a higher load rating (in my case a 95 vs. the OEM rated 94)
Yes, higher is acceptable. A higher load rating tyre may result in a harsher ride than one of lower rating, however.
jt123 wrote:Thanks. Another question - I understand that by reading the sidewall you can tell when the tires were made. What is an "acceptable" age for the tires to be when I buy them/installing for first time?
I would say about 2 years at maximum. You aren't likely to find a tyre that old but sometimes old stock is hanging around in tyre warehouses. As gotak said, tyres begin to have the compound go bad at around 6 years (you will even notice many tyre makers' quality warranty is at 5-6 years), though it's not impossible to have a tyre that is still good beyond that. Really what you should be thinking of is, "how long am I going to have these tyres?". If you don't drive a lot and you plan on having them for 5-6 years then a tyre that is 2 years old when you get it, might pose a problem. On the other hand if you drive a lot and the tyres won't last (treadwise) for more than 3-4 years/seasons of driving, you aren't really concerned if it's a year or even two old when you get them.
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bembol wrote:
Nov 2nd, 2010 9:28 pm
Now with my '08 Nissan Altima Coupe 3.5SE, I also went with OEM P215/55R17 Hankook iPike W409 the first year and sold it the next for Icebear W300. I didn't like neither, I felt like I was limited and couldn't push her like I did with my '02 Acura RSX Premium.

This is my third winter, I sold my Hankook Icebear W300 and downsized to P215/60R16 Continental ExtremeWinter.
Ha you are certainly going through the tyres. But the good part there (for others anyway, not so much for your wallet) is that you can give advice based on experience with a few different tyres :)

Might as well have gone with a price-premium winter like the Continental TS810 though for the third time around, no?

As for not being able to "push her like I did with my ... RSX", have you considered that the Altima itself is just not a car that drives like the RSX? :P
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ES_Revenge wrote:
Nov 3rd, 2010 1:53 pm
You are correct there is a compromise however you neglected to [explicitly] mention that the compromise applies both ways. A performance winter will usually be better on dry/wet/slushy surfaces which you do indeed encounter in the winter. A standard winter will do better in snow and perhaps on ice as well but it has compromises too in that it's often not as good on dry pavement and often not as good in the wet or in slush either. In fact, in big metropolis areas (like the GTA) you are much more likely to be driving on these surfaces than deep and/or packed snow.

Now there are times you are going to be driving on snow (it is winter after all) but in the city these conditions are salted to high hell as the snow falls and plows are out in full force in no time, leaving you with wet, slushy roads when precipitation does fall, and dry salty roads when it's not falling. Not to mention the fact that the sheer volume of traffic in the city also eliminates snow from the road surface. In your typical city conditions a performance winter is the better tyre to have as you will usually have better traction in the conditions you most often encounter.

Outside of the city in places like Sudbury, North Bay, SSM, even Barrie or Ottawa, (and certainly other non-city areas of the country), then the regular winter is typically the better choice. In these areas not only do they get a lot more annual snowfall (look at the historical numbers for SSM compared to Toronto for example), but the snow clearing isn't nearly as good and driving on many roads means driving on snow and ice. Where plows are out in minutes here in the GTA, in cities in Norhern Ontario they aren't out for hours. On side roads where people complain here that they aren't cleared a day after a snowfall, those are cleared normally once every week or two, outside the city. They don't use nearly as much salt (even going by road-to-salt-used percentage) either. So... Conditions are largely different in a place like the GTA than elsewhere. And, different conditions call for different tyres. Though you certainly can't change your tyres for every different condition you encounter, as I said you can choose a tyre based on what you are most often going to be driving on.

For the most part neither the regular winter or the performance winter is going to be the "wrong choice" for wintertime driving, however one of them could be the better choice. Now we have no clue where the OP lives (since they put some jumble of letters for their location? :confused: ) but where they live and drive certainly should have a good deal of influence on what tyre they choose.


Didn't mentioned it considering the car. It's likely the feeling of the tires are going to not change that much considering what car it's going on. As such I don't think it's recommendable to get performance winter tires.

On the other hand I am finding my Falken EPZ bit too soft. I can feel the blocks move on my front tire when I hit the loud paddle coming out of the turn in the on ramps. A bit disconcerting but not a huge issue to compensate for.
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don't forget you cant get a smaller rim if your brakes dont fit in em.
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I have a question about up-sizing a set of tires. My mother-in-law is no longer driving (car sold) and her winter tires (2 years old) are 205 65 16s. Can they be put on a vehicle that uses 205 55 16s? The other recommendation was 195 65 16. I've called several dearerships and they say you can do it but the tire charts say the diameter difference is more than 3% and not recommended (can throw the speedometer off). Any advice or experience with these variations?

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I have downrated, uprated, downsized, upsized to many different tires (yes I drive a lot and have bought many different cars)

My take:

Higher speed rated tires are designed for sportier handling. That is, when a tire maker designs a high speed rated tire, they tend to design the tread pattern so that it feels sportier and has higher cornering grip in good weather conditions. Thus the car feels less squirmy, has more road feel, more noise etc. The case structure and tread pattern is that it can withstand higher sustained temperature and sustained cornering loads and thus you get a higher speed rating

So speed-downrating in a winter tire is perfectly fine, because in winter conditions, you are probably willing to give up a little dry grip to get a tire design which digs into deep snow. Usually such a pattern works less well on dry roads which require a more solid tread block than a wavy/open/knobby/ tread design than a performance tire has. Usually performance oriented tires have the least “mileage” rating because they know people want a sporty feeling and are more willing to tradeoff toward short tire life. I think going down up to 2 speed ratings is usually ok in my experience

Downrating a wheel size (e.g. 16 to 15) can be highly recommended because
1) it usually costs a lot less. the car doesn’t care what rim size you have so you might as well go cheaper *if your car can accomodate* it. On one of my cars, I cannot downsize my wheel because the brakes will not fit under the smaller wheel
2) you may have tire choices in a less performance-oriented model
3) a smaller wheel size means a higher profile sidewall which gives you a smoother ride and more cushion for rutted winter roads.

Some people say that going to a narrower tires is beneficial for winter. While this might be true for certain cases, in the real world, the difference in going to a narrower tire is not really noticeable. You can save money going to a narrower tire, so if you can go to slightly narrower but more highly rated winter tire for the same cost, it may be a good option. Unless you are driving in deep snow, more contact with the road is usually a better thing so sticking with the approximately the same width is the most predictable in terms of affecting the handling of the car.

I’d stick with load ratings that are similar for the most part.. Usually going to a higher load rating is not a bad thing usually

I'd bought a few performance oriented snow tires (high speed rating) and for the most part, I've regretted that choice. I went with a more extreme weather tire and was much happier trading off some dry weather "sportiness" to have that extra capability when the Ottawa storms hit
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ES_Revenge wrote:
Nov 3rd, 2010 1:53 pm
I think the "debate" is mainly due to the slight misconception that a "narrower tyre is better for winter" (something I too thought before). The fact is it is better...for getting through snow. However snow is not the only condition you encounter in winter, despite the fact that it's the one we most commonly think of. As others said, a greater motivation to get the smaller tyre is cost. Wheels (if using separate winter wheels) and tyres are simply cheaper in the smaller size, which is reason enough for many people to go with the smaller size.

You're paying extra to get winter tires. Yes, you want to minimize additional cost to the operation of your vehicle, if wider tires perform better in Winter conditions you'd want to go for it.

It is not a misconception, narrower tire is better for severe winter conditions such as snow/ice. On dry pavement, it may not be as good as wider onesl, but you get winter tire to get you through more difficult situations.

You can see what those rally race cars use on snow/ice covered courses.

The cost saving is bonus, by going to narrower tire with smaller wheels. However, it doesn't look as good as larger ones.
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conix67 wrote:
Nov 3rd, 2010 6:15 pm
You're paying extra to get winter tires. Yes, you want to minimize additional cost to the operation of your vehicle, if wider tires perform better in Winter conditions you'd want to go for it.
Oh really? Who is this "you", you speak of? Because there's already other posters in here (and on other threads) admitting that reduced cost was one of the main reasons for going with a smaller tyre.
conix67 wrote:
Nov 3rd, 2010 6:15 pm
It is not a misconception, narrower tire is better for severe winter conditions such as snow/ice.
Ice? Oh really now. LOL. Care to link to some proof of that or should we go on your say so? Tyres that are more narrow essentially "cut" through snow easier, however on pure ice I don't see how a narrower tyre would help you any. On ice more contact area = more friction. Of course the friction is limited to begin with but more of it means more traction. The reason narrower tyres are better through snow is because the snow poses less resistance. So yeah it is a misconception in your case because you misunderstand that the narrower tyre has the advantage in snow, not in all winter conditions.
conix67 wrote:
Nov 3rd, 2010 6:15 pm
On dry pavement, it may not be as good as wider onesl, but you get winter tire to get you through more difficult situations.
Again with this "you". No I don't get winter tyres to "get me through difficult situations", I get them so I can drive properly in winter. Winter is not a difficult situation, it's a reality; and getting on the road requires your vehicle to be equipped properly. It's quite simple. Drive in winter? Use winter tyres. Drive in summer? Use summer tyres. People don't wear winter boots to get them through difficult situations they wear them because it's winter and they will be encountering snow, ice, slush and cold temperatures. Same goes for tyres.
conix67 wrote:
Nov 3rd, 2010 6:15 pm
You can see what those rally race cars use on snow/ice covered courses.
Yes, they also use simlar "skinny" tyres for gravel/dirt races too. Rally racing has nothing to do with driving road cars on public roads in winter.

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