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Tire replacement priority

When it comes time to replace tires on my 2003 Outback Ltd Wagon, should I honor the ideology of the owners manual, which decrees tires in accord with what is printed on the body placard? The manual makes a compelling point about the tires matching the engineering of the car. In addition to size and dimension, the load and speed ratings should, it appears, be matched to the engineering of the car. It would seem then that this a main factor to satisfaction - to get the best out of my car. So I narrow tire selection down to 97/H load/speed rating. Like matching the wings to an airplane body?

Follow whatever instructions are in the manual or on the car. NOT MATCHING tires exactly with respect to size and wear causes very expensive problems in a Subaru.

Stick to the right size. You can go up in load/speed rating if you want, to get the tire you desire. My only counsel is don’t buy the OEM Bridgestones. Unless things have changed, they are terrible tires. We run Michelins and BF Goodriches with good success. Also had a Kelly branded tire that did well, but is no longer made.

Four at a time; keep them rotated to keep the circumferences about the same and within the tolerances indicated in the owner’s manual.

Certainly size and dimension, but, load and speed rating not so important, so long as one goes up? Of course, all four tires as a set.

I’ll defer to Capriracer, our resident tire guru. Don’t make the purchasing experience harder than it needs to be. As long as the tire meets the manufacturer minimum for load and speed, anything else is gravy.

Best thing to do is look at tirerack.com for their tire reviews and acceptble sizing. Then check out Consumer Reports Nov 09 for general qualities and performance, and then choose from there.

Thanks, Jay, for the vote of confidence.

Load capacity is pretty much tied to tire size, so it’s difficult to go wrong if you get the same size - with a couple of exceptions. While it doesn’t apply in this case, some vehicles require Extra Load (XL) tires and anything with an “LT” type tire requires careful selection of Load Range.

Speed rating is an interesting thing. Higher speed rating are more capable - and that’s always a good thing. “More capable” means “Safer”.

Unfortunately, higher speed rated tires tend to go towards increased levels of grip on dry surfaces (sometimes wet surfaces), but that is done at the sacrifice of treadwear and / or fuel economy.

I tend to recommend that folks buy the same size, load rating, and speed rating as the original tires. Then they should select tires that are geared towards the things they want the tire to do, recognioing that treadwear / traction / rolling resistance are tradeoffs as well as ride / handling.

The only exception I make to this recommendation is for vehicles the originally came with V or higher speed rating. If your vehicle is not geared towards high performance, then I can agree that going down to an H rated tire will give you more options. Just recognize that you will likely lose some grip and handling.

I agree with jayhawkroy regarding the Bridgestone Potenza RE-92 tires that this car originally came equipped with.

Those tires have absolutely nothing about them to recommend them–other perhaps than price.
And, there are actually far better tires available for less cost.

As but one example, Costco sells a BF Goodrich tire that is–theoretically–lower rated than the Bridgestone Potenza, but in the real world it outperforms the Potenza is all respects–especially in winter traction. And, the cost of the BF Goody tire is lower than that of those awful Potenzas.