00 Tires

What do the numbers on tires indicate?

I need to buy new tires for my BMW. The ones on right now are 205/60 which are $110.00 a tire. However, there are also tired available at $71.99 a tire, and are185/65. Obviously they are not as good, they have a 45,000 mile warranty while the others have a 60,000. But what exactly do the numbers represent?

It would help if you were being specific.

I'm going to assume the OEM tire size for your vehicle is 205/60R15 91H, fitted to a number of 3-series vehicles in the 90's.

At the risk of stating the obvious your BMW is not a Buick. It is a finely tuned sport sedan, and not a particularly cheap one. The one thing that has more influence on how it drives, what makes it a BMW and not a Buick is the tires. The engineers spent hundreds of hours and millions of Duetsch Marks figuring out the best tire size for your car. Why would you want to go and ruin all that by being cheap? $110/tire isn't even remotely expensive by modern standards. You should price the 17" jobbies on the new ones!

A tire sized 185/65R15 86H is going to be much narrower than the tire your car was designed for which means less rubber on the road. Less handling capability (you will slide more) less steering response, it will take longer to stop (more ramming other people up the tail pipe) and generally turn your Beemer into a....well, a Buick. It will also have a much lower load carrying capacity which you will have to compensate for with additional inflation pressure, thus further destroying both the ride and handling characteristics of the car.

Last month Bridgestone Tire sent me to a clinic where I got to drive 4 identical BMW 328's whose only difference was the tires. All of the tires were high quality Bridgestone products. The difference was the Speed Rating - how fast the tires were designed to go. All were at least the correct size though. We started with tires rated below what BMW recommends and ended with tires rated higher. Needless to say the tires that were less capable than BMW suggested were far more difficult to drive. The car felt sloppy and unresponsive. It slid in the corners and took too long to stop. With each increase in speed rating the car became more and more like one would expect of a BMW. Shocking how much a little thing like speed rating can totally transform a cars behaviour. Think about what might happen if you put a tire on that is too small for the car, such as you are suggesting.

Food for thought.

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