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Why a softer rubber compound?
Tires come in one shape, but many slight scientific differences between them make for totally different performances. You might have heard of “racing slicks,” which are the kinds of tires that offer very soft rubber for a Formula 1 race car that often needs to be changed mid-race by a lightning-fast pit crew. While the tires that come with a new car aren't quite that soft, they are softer than average, and for a reason.
The kind of softer tires offered on newer vehicles is meant to feel good and enhance some vehicle traits. For example, they are meant to offer shorter stopping distances, make high-speed corners feel like you are hugging the road a bit tighter, and aid in acceleration without slipping.
There are further slight differences between the tires you'll get on a family SUV versus a sports car. A family SUV will have tires designed more for safety. A sports car tire will have more for grip and speed.
Since the tire rubber compound that makes up the treads is softer, it will wear out faster. While many aftermarket tires – or the ones you buy after your first set, have a longer warranty of 50,000 or more miles, you shouldn't expect your first set to last all that long.
How long should my first set of tires last?
You should expect to replace your first set of tires within 50,000 miles. You'll notice an overall decrease in performance and the tread will be visibly more than it used to be. The answer does depend in part on you though.
If you drive your new car gently and aren't overly aggressive trying out new car driving dynamics, you have a chance at making the tires last longer. Otherwise, they aren't produced or designed to last the life of the vehicle – or as long as newly purchased tires.
Are new car tires less expensive?
When buying a car tire, you tend to pay for a combination of comfort, safety, and performance. Most all-season tires bought for the average SUV, truck, or car blend these three in different ways, often at a reasonably low price. Change these tires to softer rubber to make the tires “stickier” and more performance capability, and you'll notice that the price can go down a little (it also has the potential to go up if you get comfortable ones) but the tires aren't meant to last as many miles.
While we don't specifically know if the initial tires for a new car are more or less expensive than normal, it's safe to assume that they are a bit cheaper. Why? Car manufacturers do many things to keep the Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price just a bit lower than their competitors when possible. More recently, this comes in many forms from removing the CD player from vehicles to not including software that enables people to play music from USB sticks. These changes often go unnoticed because the car manufacturers have market data that suggests what new car buyers care about – and what they don't.
So the answer is that they are probably less expensive than aftermarket tires – but they also offer different performance than those tires. And it is mostly intended to provide a slightly different experience early in the car's life.
Should I expect new tires to change my vehicle's performance?
Honestly, yes. Unless you buy tires that offer a bit more performance than your average all season, you might notice that your vehicle doesn't feel as grippy, fast, or sporty as it used to. You might notice this in part because you simply get used to the way your vehicle feels, and because the vehicle itself is now “broken in.” We've certainly been there and didn't feel like a new car was as peppy as it used to be after a few years, but that is in part to due changing driving styles and overall wear.
There is a positive here. Your new aftermarket tires should last longer than the originals – and the difference in performance isn't all that huge. You also (in most cases) get to choose which tires you want the second time, and can pick between more aggressive tires and tires that are more of a bargain – or a set that is better in snow.
How do vehicle rubber compounds work?
Manufacturers like Bridgestone, BFGoodrich, Goodyear, Michelin, and many, many more are basically rubber companies. Among the biggest changes they can make to a tire include tread pattern which directly impacts how loud a tire is on the road as well as how well it digs into pavement, dirt, snow, and rain – and the tire compound itself. The rubber compound directly touches the road and has a big impact on stickiness and grippiness. When we say “rubber compound” we mean a mix of rubber, plastic, and coatings like silica. Many all-season tires have a blend of soft and hard with a silica coating that brushes away water and snow while keeping the tire softer in cold weather and normal in warm weather. Snow tires attempt to keep the tire soft and pliable in more cold weather conditions to avoid slipping or providing a less comfy ride.
How soon should I start shopping for new car tires?
You have a couple of ways of knowing when you need to start shopping for new car tires. First, if they don't fit your environment. For example, if you are driving a sports car in the winter, you probably don't want stock tires- though that is not a real common example. An everyday example is noticing visually that the treads are getting shorter or that the tires are having a harder time stopping or getting a grip.
A real easy way to more scientifically, and accurately measure your tires is with a tire measurement gauge. Tread depth is measured in fractions and should be at least 4/32” for your vehicle to be safe in the rain. Another easy way is to use a penny. Turn the penny upside down and place it in the tire tread vertically. You shouldn't be able to see the top of President Lincoln's head, as the tier should cover it up.
About The Author
I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.Read More About Charles Redding