Nokian WR Tires

October 25th, 2007 by Potato

Tires are one of a number of very important pieces of equipment on a car, and are easily overlooked. Keeping tire pressures up can help improve fuel economy (and as long as you never exceed the sidewall pressure, they can be pumped up above what the door jamb recommends with the only side effect being a harsher ride). My old tires were starting to get a little run down after nearly 100,000 km. The legal minimum treadwear is where the wear marks are at 2/32″ tread depth, and I was at a little less than double the wear marks (3-4/32″). But, several articles don’t recommend using all-season tires in the winter with less than 4/32″ of tread, and I’m inclined to agree. I was leaning towards getting a second set of dedicated snow tires, an inconvenient practice that my dad used to do but has grown to loathe, but which everyone else recommends once they do it (snow tires really do have much better traction in the nasty stuff; as an aside, 4×4/AWD drivers should really think about snow tires since it’s “4 wheel go, not 4 wheel stop” — the tires determine the stopping part). Since London can be a little tardy when it comes to cleaning up after a snow dump, I’ve found it particularly important to drive conservatively in the winter and keep my tires in good shape.

So, I lamented for a while the decision to replace my tires, wondering instead if I should replace the car. While it does have some negative emotional associations after being stolen (twice!), and has started making a few distressing sounds, the sounds haven’t actually gotten any worse recently. It’s a good car that should have another few tens of thousands of kilometers left in it, and it just makes good economic sense to keep it running (as long as nothing else major breaks down, and no matter how cool the technology underneath a Prius is).

I replaced the tires today with Nokain WRs. The timing was decided in part by a sale at the local Kal Tire (taking about $70 off the price of four). I haven’t heard too much about these tires in most of the review sites I visited, though there was a good review of them on the Canadian Driver site. However, there has been a lot of good word-of-mouth about them around the internet, and Kal Tire also highly recommended them, so I decided to give them a try. They are a relatively new and revolutionary tire design, an all-season tire that is a “true 4 season” rather than a “3 season” tire like many others. It carries the “mountain and snowflake” severe service marking that’s only given to snow tires (the M+S marking, on the other hand, is pretty meaningless). So a lot of people are excited about having a tire that comes close to the snow/ice traction of a dedicated snow tire, without the need to switch out for the summer.

Only having driven about a kilometer I can’t really comment on their performance so far. One compromise they make is a noisier ride, but I haven’t gotten up to speeds where I could possibly say yet. I hope to do a more critical review of them after logging a few thousand kilometers of winter driving on them.

I had never been to Kal Tire before, but they seem like a decent outfit, with many locations across Canada. They were friendly, but there were some issues in getting my tires. I had first made an appointment last week, but they ended up selling the set of tires they set aside for me before I got there. Fortunately, they did call me before I left to let me know, which I think is a decent way of handling the situation. The service was fairly slow today (two guys were in the office helping customers, one constantly on the phone and one very slowly ringing up the bill of the last customer). Like many other tire outfits, they offer free rotations every 10,000 km along with a road hazard guarantee. Their prices for most services (installation, balancing, the tires themselves) seemed competitive with other locations in the city. They couldn’t quite match the Costco sale on Michelins, but then again Costco had a very limited selection for that sale. The one exception was that they quoted me $80 to do an alignment, and while I haven’t gone to get a competitive quote, that seemed a little high to me (I seem to recall my last one cost $50, and I wasn’t buying 4 tires from them at the time!).

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