The importance of your vehicle’s tires should not be underestimated. They’re your only point of contact with the road, so having good quality tires is essential. The weather plays a huge role in the performance of your vehicle as well, so choosing tires that are suited to your weather conditions will ensure a safer and overall smoother ride.
How to Choose the Right Set of Tires
Tires are categorized by their type for intended use (eg. passenger tires), size specifications, load index (load capacity), and maximum speed rating. For example, a ‘T’ speed rating can safely handle a max speed of 118 mph. It’s recommended that you stick with the same specifications of tires that your car originally came with, but which brand you prefer is totally up to you.
If you often drive in the same climate, like in Florida for example where it’s hot virtually year-round, then it could be beneficial to get a set that is designed specifically to function best in your climate. Likewise, if you live in New York, you might prefer a set of tires that can handle driving in snowy conditions well.
Which Company Makes the Best Tires?
Using a no-name brand isn’t recommended when it comes to protecting yourself, your passengers, and others on the road from accidents. Hailing from Japan and France respectively, Bridgestone and Michelin are two of the biggest names in the tire industry. Which one is the better company overall is debatable, but let’s take a look at how three of their product lines measure up against each other.
Bridgestone Dueler H/L Alenza Plus vs Michelin LTX M/S2
First let’s take a look at what the Japanese manufacturer has to offer and compare it against the features of their French opponent’s top all-season option.
Bridgestone Dueler H/L Alenza Plus
This model is designed for relatively light pickup trucks or SUVs. It comes with an 80,000 mile tread wear warranty from the manufacturer, so you can be certain that they will last through several seasons and then some. This tire has a uniquely designed tread that acts to make your ride as quiet as possible. If you compare it to other tires that are not designed for a silent ride, you’ll be able to tell the difference right away.
The Dueler H/L Alenza Plus is an Eco-product, which means that it incorporates materials that are safer for the environment. The siping (slits and crevices) in the tread allows water to get out while driving on wet roads, providing a safer grip on the road. They are highly resistant to cracking and offer great long term value and respectable fuel economy.
Michelin LTX M/S2
The M/S in the title of these stands for ‘mud and snow’. They are designed to perform in some of the most adverse driving conditions. The abundant zig-zag siping allows snow to get caught in the crevices. This is good because snow actually creates traction against snow, like a snowball that gets bigger and bigger. This is actually the best method for driving on snow and is used by many other tire manufacturers.
This model is not designed for a silent ride due to its serrated edging. The gaps in between the rubber sections on the edge of the tread allow for better traction in mud and slippery terrain. They may not be the best on the market for fuel economy, but they do last a long time just like the Alenza set.
Bridgestone excels in virtually all categories except for traction. If traction is your main concern, get the LTX M/S2 set.
Bridgestone Blizzak WS80
The Bridgestone Blizzak WS80 are known for offering some of the best grip on winter roads available. They aren’t cheap, but they do offer multiple lines of defense from black ice, slush, and snow. The multi-cell compound used in the rubber actually absorbs water that forms on the surface of ice due to melting, or slushy ice. This absorption allows the rubber to grip the ice instead of sliding right across it.
3D zig-zag sipes create snow on snow traction, and micro-texture technology provides a rough, grippy surface to make contact with the winter road instead of a smoother rubber like summer tires. Polymers allow the rubber itself to remain soft and pliable, offering better traction through flexibility. These do everything a winter tire should.
Michelin x Ice XI3
These model from Michelin is also known for excellence in regions of the world that have very heavy snowfall like Canada, Scandinavia, and more, and are priced accordingly. They make use of zig-zag sipes, but also incorporate “micro-pumps”, small holes that act to suction water and then expel the water with centrifuge force. These help a lot on ice in particular. Their “Block edges” are a small section of the gripping edges of the tread that are serrated for added grip.
Silica tread compound offers the necessary flexibility to remain pliable in freezing temperatures. These are “Green X” tires, meaning they are made with a percentage of environmentally friendly materials. They also exhibit good fuel economy for winter tires. Their tread is guaranteed for 60,000 km.
Although the Bridgestone Blizzaks may not necessarily be inferior to the XI3s for overall performance, Michelin has the edge for ice traction and a slight edge for fuel economy.
The Ecopia product line is focused primarily on two things, fuel economy and environmental friendliness. Bridgestone claims that with a set of these you can save anywhere between 7-10% on fuel depending on whether you’re driving a car or SUV. Over the roughly four year lifespan of the average tire, this can add up to a lot.
In order to produce this effect, silica is combined with a coupling agent, making the material more heat resistant, reducing energy loss from heat and friction. The compound material also can outlive standard rubber. In tests, the Ecopia coasted farther than average tires, and performed just about the same in wet road tests. They are overall very efficient, economical tires.
These replace the Michelin Latitude series, and are quite similar. They perform slightly better than the Ecopia in wet conditions, but are unable to match the durability and build quality of the Ecopia due to their relatively thin side walls. The tread of the Defender’s performance may be better for extreme driving conditions, however, even including light snow. Though they are summer tires, they include many sipes which add extra traction without compromising fuel economy.
The Defender is made with “Green X” materials, and is environmentally friendly compared to normal rubber. Its fuel economy savings don’t match those of the Ecopia, but it is a high performance tire series and has Michelin’s best dry road rating.
The Ecopia offers savings well worth its initial price. Though the Defender performs well, what it lacks in durability gives Ecopia a solid edge.