I recently posted an article titled Purchase Decision – Winter Tires – Part 1. In that post I discussed the fact that I was looking for winter tires for both of my vehicles. The stock sizes I was looking for were 205/55 R16 and 235/60 R17 (for the second vehicle I was also considering tires in 225/65 R17 to give me more options to choose from). I have now made both of my purchases and I thought I should update you on what I bought, why I made that selection, and what the cost was. As I mentioned in my previous post, the prices I will quote do not include the mandatory tire recycling fee of $3 the Nova Scotia government requires on each new tire purchase, the installation and balancing charges of approximately $10 to $20 depending on the shop, or Nova Scotia’s Harmonized Sales Tax of 15%. Yeah…I shake my head every time I write all of that down.
Tire Purchased for Vehicle 1: Nexen Winguard 231
For my smaller vehicle, I purchased a set of Nexen Winguard 231’s in 205/55 R16. Rather than describe the tires again, I think I’ll just quote myself from the previous article…
Nexen is a brand that a lot of people in Canada have never heard of, and until a few years ago, neither had I. The only place most people would see them is at Walmart, who I suspect is that largest Nexen retailer in Canada. When it came time to buy my last set of winter tires, I was offered a set of Nexex Eurowin tires at a small tire dealer in my area. After struggling to find some reviews online, I discovered that Nexen is a pretty well regarded brand in Korea and offers some pretty good tires at great prices. I bought the Eurowins and have been very happy with them. That said, the Eurowins are more of a performance winter with good dry road, wet, road, and ice performance. I want something with better deep snow performance this time, so I decided not to go with the Eurowins. After 5 winters, they will be used as all seasons for at least two more seasons. How’s that for treadlife? Anyway, although the Nexen Eurowin isn’t going to be the tire this time, Nexen has the Winguard 231 available to step in. The Winguard 231 is a directional tire like the Eurowin, but it definitely has wider channels for gripping fresh snow than the Eurowins do. The Winguard 231 also seems to be made of a softer rubber compound than the Eurowins. That’s great for winter traction, but the treadlife is not likely to be as good as with the Eurowins. It’s not easy to find reviews online of Nexen Tires – at least in English – but the reviews I have seen of the Winguard 231’s are generally positive. Unfortunately, Nexen’s product page for the Winguard 231’s is pretty light on details so there’s not much to be found there to help make a decision. Anyway, I was quoted $91 for the Nexen 231’s in 205/55 R16 at my local Walmart – the second cheapest tire I looked at in that size.
After my great experience with the Nexen Eurowin’s, I decided to give Nexen another try. As I mentioned above, I wanted a little better snow performance than I had with the Eurowin’s so I opted for the Winguard 231 this time. I liked the Winguard 231’s directional tread design, the fact that the groove pattern was more open that the Eurowin without being “luggy”, and the softer rubber compound that they were built from. All that said, the primary selling feature of these tires is that they are of good quality and a great price (for Canada). I don’t think that the Winguard 231’s are the best winter tire available in this size, but I do think they offer excellent value for the price.
I purchased the Winguard 231’s from my local Walmart for $91 per tire. Walmart’s in my area offer installation and balancing for $12 per tire. Unfortunately, Walmart doesn’t offer a lot of appointments so the way most of their customers end up getting their tires installed is as a “walk-in”, which can mean a long wait. Luckily, after the work order was written up, my local store didn’t make me wait around to keep my place in line. I was able to give them my mobile number and they called me in when they were almost ready to start on my work order.
Incidentally, Walmart was also able to fit me in at the same time to have the Nexen Eurowins that were removed from my winter steel rims installed on my summer alloy rims. As I said in my earlier article, I have used those Eurowins for 5 winters and they still have probably one season of winter-ready tread left. I should be able to use them as summers for two more seasons. Add that treadlife to their solid performance characteristics and I must say I am impressed.
Back to my new Nexen’s…My initial impression of the Winguard 231’s after driving with them a few days is that they are much “softer” than the Eurowins, and a whole lot softer than the H-rated all-seasons the car came with. I scared myself a little bit making a lane change at 100 KM on the highway on my way home from the install at Walmart. That said, the day they were installed it was 13 degrees Celsius and raining, and they still had their maximum tread. As the weather has cooled and I have gotten used to them, I am no longer noticing that softness as much. As far as wet weather traction, I have no complaints. They perform as I would expect. Finally, I do not find them terribly noisy – a common complaint with many winter tires.
We got a little bit of snow here today, but no accumulation on the roads. I can’t wait to try out the Winguard 231’s in nasty winter weather. When that happens, I’ll give you an update.
For my larger vehicle, I purchased a set of BF Goodrich Winter Slalom KSI’s in 225/65 R17. Rather than describe the KSI’s again, I think once again I’ll just quote myself from the previous article…
The Winter Slalom KSI is a relatively new offering that made its first appearance in North America over the past couple of years. It replaced BF Goodrich’s original Winter Slalom which was a traditional old luggy winter design that had gotten pretty long in the tooth. The KSI stands for Key Snow and Ice, which would would seem to indicate it is designed for a balance of snow and ice performance. Reading the Winter Slalom KSI product page on BF Goodrich’s website, it would seem that BFG was going for exactly the kind of balanced performance I mentioned above, with an eye to reasonable treadlife. Reviews for this tire on 1010 Tires were generally positive. Prices for the BF Goodrich Winter Slalom KSI in 205/55 R16 range from $150 to $160, and in 225/65 R17 they are $153 to $170 . BF Goodrich is offering a $40 mail-in rebate on a set of four Winter Slalom KSI’s, as long as you don’t buy them at Costco or Chrysler.
As you may be aware, BF Goodrich and Uniroyal are part of the Michelin group. I am sure the Michelin group would have preferred that I purchase their higher-end Michelin Latitude X-Ice Xi2, but I think the BFG Winter Slalom KSI is a much more balanced winter tire that offers much better value than the Xi2. Here’s why I think that:
- To start with, the KSI has a more open tread design than the Xi2 which I suspect will deliver winter performance that is balanced between snow and ice performance. Despite the marketing on Michelin’s Xi2 product page indicating that the tire is good at everything, when I look at the tread pattern, I can’t help but think that the Xi2 is heavily weighted to ice performance at the expense of snow performance.
- Secondly, the KSI has a deeper tread than the Xi2 (12.5 versus 11/32″ of initial tread depth in this size), which I think should result in better performance in a variety of winter conditions, including slush and rain. One of the complaints I have read about the Xi2 is that it tends to hydroplane more than other winter tires, no doubt a result of it’s tight, shallow tread design.
- The other thing the KSI’s deeper tread should help with is tread wear. That said, although it has a fairly shallow tread for a winter tire, the Xi2 is the only winter I know of that offers a tread life warranty (60,000 KM’s), so I suspect there is some technology being deployed there to increase tread life.
- Finally, as I alluded to above, the KSI is offered at a much better price than the Xi2. Depending on the retailer, in the 225/65 R17, I generally saw the BF Goodrich Winter Slalom KSI offered for 20% to 25% less than the Michelin Latitude X-Ice Xi2.
I purchased the BF Goodrich Winter Slalom KSI’s today from the parts department of a local Toyota dealership for $151.04 per tire and BFG is offering a $40 mail-in-rebate. I will have them installed and balanced at a small performance and aftermarket shop for $10 per tire. Despite the fact that the larger tire shops in my area were booked up for more than a week, these guys do lower volume, so I was able to get an appointment for the next business day. You might want to consider a shop like that in your area if your local tire shops are too busy to fit you in.
Since I have not had the KSI’s installed yet, I can’t give you any initial driving impressions. My initial impressions upon seeing and handling the actual tire is that the KSI’s are definitely made of a soft rubber compound with deep siping. In addition, although the tread pattern is much more open than the Xi2, the KSI’s seem like they should not be particularly noisy for a winter tire. When I do get a chance to road test the KSI’s, I will provide an update.
So there you have the winter tire selections I made. These choices might work for you as well, but please be sure you pick a winter tire based on the conditions in your area, the type of vehicle you are driving, and your driving style. Better hurry up though, the snow is ready to fly for many of us, and has already started flying for many others.