Tires and Wheels
When you need to buy racing tires – and you will, if you do any amount of racing – The Tire Rack is an excellent place to do it. Your local tire shop, even if it’s a high volume dealer, is unlikely to stock specialty tires or be able to get them at reasonable prices. They are also unlikely to know much about them, since they make their living selling higher volume tires.
The Tire Rack people know racing tires, as well as regular longer-wear street tires, specialty truck tires, etc. etc. They:
- Know what’s best for each type of racing, and what the latest offerings are – new compounds, tread designs, etc.
- Know what sizes will fit your car – you’ll likely want to go with a larger size than is standard for your car.
- Have a huge selection of wheels available in many bolt patterns, offsets, etc., in case you want a larger diameter tire, or more attractive wheels. You can see a picture of how your car will look with any of the wheels they offer.
- Can do special preparation of tires, such as heat-cycling, shaving, etc..
- Have pretty much unbeatable prices. They buy even special racing tires in volume.
- Turn over stock fast enough so their tires are fresh. Many compounds used in racing tires break down over time, especially if they’re stored carelessly.
- Can get tires to you much faster (usually within a couple of days, unless they’re back-ordered) than a special order through a local tire dealer.
One drawback to buying tires through The Tire Rack is that, unless you buy wheels with your tires, they can’t mount the tires for you. So you’ll need to find a local shop with tire-mounting equipment that is willing to mount tires they don’t sell you. With a little searching you can usually find a repair shop that caters to racers, and is willing to do that for you. The Tire Rack will gladly ship the tires to that shop.
A few shops who actively cater to racers are Tire Rack dealers, and can get their tires for you at no extra cost, and then of course mount, balance and service them for you. The Tire Rack website lists those dealers.
Of course, if you want to make the investment, you can purchase a tire machine yourself. That’s quite expensive (thousands of dollars for a good one) and some of the supplies need to be kept fresh. It’s an unlikely option for most “weekend racers”.
Most local tire dealers know very little about racing tires. If they order them for you, you must tell them exactly what you want (you may not know if you’re just starting out) and the prices are likely uncompetitive. Then, if you get tires that are a year or two old, you’ll have that much less useful life. If they’re two years old or have been stored poorly, they won’t perform nearly as well as fresh tires. Another big advantage to The Tire Rack
The Tire Rack also has available suspension parts, and other stuff such as wiper blades, lighting accessories, and other special items.
My recommendation is to buy your tires and/or wheels from Tire Rack, and by all means lean on them for any advice you need. They know what they’re talking about when it comes to tires.
If you’re modifying your suspension and don’t know exactly what you need for spring rates, special shock absorbers, “coil-over” struts, bushings, etc. you’ll probably find wiser advice from a race car preparer or sometimes from a knowledgeable racing friend than you may get from Tire Rack. Once you know what you need to buy, their prices may be pretty competitive. I would check other places as well for these items.
I offer this caveat because I have not used Tire Rack for suspension parts. As I was starting out autocrossing, I had the fortunate experience of racing with an SCCA National Champion, who had prepared many race cars, and had connections with all the sources for special parts and supplies. It’s telling that he bought tires and wheels from Tire Rack, and suspension parts and other goodies from other sources. And of course he knew exactly what he wanted.
Go to tirerack.com to buy tires and wheels. Great prices, advice and customer service.
Check their prices for suspension parts and accessories, and check other places as well. There are likely better sources of advice for suspension modifications than Tire Rack.