I say in quite a few of my blog posts that I'm amazed at all the support I've gotten and I'm incredibly grateful for it. That isn't going to change, because I'm still getting a steady stream of emails from people saying that my work has been helping them so much. The tough part of this is that I'm trying to find a way to make Redpants a more viable business. That means I need to find some passive forms of revenue to help keep the lights on while I spend time helping people out with all the free services I try to provide.
I mentioned previously that I was going to set up affiliate links for other storefronts like Amazon, and I've done that on a very limited basis to test it out at small scale. By very limited, I think I've only used Amazon Affiliate links on my 2-year service package listing as of this blog post. The idea is simple: I want to get you guys the best products, even if it means sending you to another store, and the referral fees I get bring in a small amount of revenue to help keep Redpants going. I'm only using links for very specific items, and in non-intrusive ways.
No pop-ups, no annoying ads taking up screen space, nothing like that. When I use an affiliate link, it's a simple in-text link to a product that I suggest and, if you click it, it will take you to a listing where you can buy that product from another vendor. If you buy it during that visit, I get a referral fee. That's the full disclosure! Nothing shady or annoying or anything like that. But I want to mention it specifically because these referral fees, though very small, do add up and do help out tremendously! So if you need any of the products I link to, please use those links when you buy them to help support Redpants!
The Amazon links seem to be working, so I'll roll out some more of them as necessary. Next up, I've got an affiliate link for Tire Rack! It's a great time to introduce the use of this link because I'll be discussing tires in this blog post!
Let's Talk Tires
Putting on quality rubber doesn't just keep you safe in the sack, it also keeps you safe at the track. ...It took me far longer to come up with that catchy introductory innuendo (introendo?) than I care to admit.
Tires are an integral part of your car's performance - not just for lap times. I talk about brake pads fairly often on Redpants and in my videos. They're a routine maintenance item, plus people often ask for options to replace the OEM pads they're eager to be rid of. I also field a lot of questions about tires, but haven't said much about it in blog posts until now. Tires are a complex thing to choose. First and foremost, you need to decide what kind of tires you want. For the vast majority of Aston Martin owners, we'll be looking at maximum or extreme summer performance tires so that's the kind of tire I'm typically referring to unless I specifically say otherwise.
Much like brake pads, tire selection is a function of compromise. The stickier a tire is when hot, the less traction it will typically have when it's cold. Likewise, a tire made with maximum grip in mind often sacrifices tread life. To make sure we're all on the same page through the rest of this, let's go over some basics and whatnot.
Some Basics and Other Whatnotery
I'm not going to get too specific here. Rather, I'm going to keep this basic so you can easily get an understanding of the various details of tire selection. That means I'll be talking in generalities, saying things like "width" rather than "section width" or "tread width" and so on. We're going to keep this simple so I don't get bored of typing (I only have so much wine) and you don't get bored of reading (I have no idea how much wine you have, but you're welcome to share).
Tire sizes are a major restriction for choosing a set of tires because not all tires are made in all sizes. When shopping for tires, you'll see sizes typically listed like this:
285 / 40 Z R 19 (Note: I've added spaces to make it easier to read.)
The first three digits "285" are the width of the tire in millimeters. The larger this number, the wider the tire is.
The next two digits "40" are the aspect ratio of the tire's height to its width. The larger this number, the taller the sidewall is.
The first letter "Z" is for the speed rating. This is very often not listed, so don't be surprised if it isn't there (instead you'd see, "285/40R19").
The letter "R" stands for "radial" which refers to the construction of the tire, and pretty much all of the tires you look at will have this.
The last two digits are the diameter of the wheels that the tires fit. In this example, the tires are made for 19" wheels.
For more a slightly more in-depth description of these, you can check out Tire Rack's tech page.
To choose the right-sized tires for your car, you'll need to compare the widths and overall diameters of various tires that fit your wheels. Wheels can be changed out to accommodate different tires at the same time, of course, so you can go with a much wider set of tires by getting a wider set of wheels. I have a few sizes listed on the product pages for the wheels that I sell. These sizes are suitable replacements for the OEM sizes and take into account width and height for each wheel size to make things that much easier (and I'm happy to discuss options further if you've got any questions).
Tread Wear and Traction
Tread wear is a rating that gives an estimate of how long a tire will last. Right up front I'm going to tell you to take these ratings with a grain of salt. These can be flubbed a bit and, for performance tires like we're interested in, the numbers can be purposely misleading. Long story short, a baseline test tire has a rating of 100. If a tire last twice as long, it has a rating of 200. If it last three times as long, it gets a rating of 300. If it lasts half as long, it gets a rating of 50. Pretty simple. But the problem for us is that a low tread wear rating implies better traction and grip. If two tire manufactures each have a high-performance tire that directly competes with the other, a lower tread wear might imply a tire with better performance - even if that isn't the case. I honestly can't remember the last time I looked at tread wear ratings. There are better factors to use for your tire selection, so don't put too much stock in this detail. Here's more information at Tire Rack if you want some further reading.
A slightly better way to judge a tire is by looking at its performance type and by comparing it to its peers. As I said earlier, we're interested in maximum or extreme performance summer tires for our Astons. These tires are made for spirited driving on dry pavement. Traction will be best when they're warm, so you might want to take it easy when they're cold. Unlike competition tires, these are just fine on the street and, with some diligence, in cold weather. But if you get too feisty on a cold, wet day, they can prove a bit slippery.... which is what happened to me when I wrecked my grey V8 Vantage at Summit Point a couple months ago.
Keep in mind that there is a variance in performance in all scenarios - cold, hot, dry, wet, etc - within a tire category. So don't assume that all extreme summer performance tires are uncontrollable on a wet road.
My Used Rubbers
My grey car had Hankook Ventus Evo V12 tires installed when I bought it. They were a fun, cheap tire. They weren't great in the rain, and the traction wasn't the best, but being able to overpower the tires in a turn made it really easy to control with throttle steering. While fun in certain situations, the tire's lack of composure in the wet kept it from being a usable year-round tire and the lack of ultimate grip on track kept it from being an out-right performer. So, once the Hankooks had expended themselves, I switched over to Michelin.
The Michelin Pilot Super Sport (often shortened to MPSS, PSS, or Super Sport) is a fantastic tire. While not stellar when cold, they're still quite usable and stable so they can be used throughout the year. While that isn't an endorsement for using them in the snow, I will say that I was caught in an ice storm at one point, and was able to drive the car over two hours through it to get home. There were literal icicles hanging from my car when I finished the drive!
I've used the Super Sports in a wide variety of situations through the last few years: that ice storm, track days, commuting in DC metro area traffic, even some accidental mud-roading (oh, the lengths I will go to for some wine!), and they've been a fantastic all-around tire that can handle just about anything. They weren't perfect, but no tire is - tires are, again, a function of compromise. But technology advances, and with that comes a replacement for the Pilot Super Sport: The Pilot Sport 4S (often shortened to MPS4S, PS4S, 4S, etc etc).
The Pilot Sport 4S is a better tire than its predecessor in every way. Performance when warm and dry is very slightly improved - no surprise there because it was already stellar in that area. The biggest improvement is in cold and rainy situations. It's far better handling in incliment weather than the Super Sport, which is where improvement was needed most. The Pilot Sport 4S is still a new tire so sizes are limited, especially in certain regions of the world. But if you can get them in the sizes you need, these are fantastic tires!
Pick a Size, Any Size
Speaking of sizing, let's get into that.
-I had OEM-sized Hankooks on my car at first: 235/40R19 in front and 275/35R19 in rear.
-When I switched to the PSS, I upped the size very slightly to those found on the V8 Vantage S: 245/40R19 in front and 285/35R19 in rear. This gave me a slightly wider and slightly taller tire.
-Going to the PS4S, I went much wider but reduced the overall height of the tires: 265/35R19 in front and 305/30R19 in rear.
I'm a big advocate for using the V8VS sizing on all V8 Vantages if you're sticking with the standard wheels, or aftermarket wheels with the same width and diameter like the 19" Redpants fitment sizing. You get a slightly wider tire, which increases the contact patch of the tires on the pavement. You also get a slightly taller tire, which gives you what amounts to a slightly longer final drive ratio (very slight) as well as a slightly taller ride height. This is a nice bonus for people that want that tiny bit of extra clearance so they don't scrape as easily in driveways or speed bumps (sleeping policemen for the Brits). The changes are very small but they are a nice little improvement, and there are no ill effects. So, in my humble opinion, there's no reason not to go with the larger size if you need new tires anyway.
If you're installing a much wider set of wheels, like I did on my grey car with the BC Forged RZ05 wheels in 19" Widepants fitment, you can fit a much wider tire as well.
But this is also where things get a little tricky. There are a few things to consider when picking out non-OEM sizes for tires. Here's the basic way I narrow down the search. All of this assumes you're picking a tire that actually fits inside the wheel well and doesn't rub or scrape on the fender, fender liner, suspension, etc.
1) Wheel diameter. I've discussed previously that style is subjective for picking out wheel sizes, and that I'm a big fan of 19" wheels on the Vantage because, to me, it's the right combination of wheel diameter and tire sidewall (read: tire meatiness). Not only that, it's also very difficult to find higher-performance tires in larger diameters. If you want to get a performance tire, you'll want to stick with a 19-inch diameter, if not 18 inches.
2) Wheel width. This is going to determine how wide of a tire you can fit onto the wheel.
3) Tire diameter. The tire diameter is a function of its width and aspect ratio. That is, a wide tire with a high aspect ratio (say, 265/70R17 tires I have on my Toyota 4Runner) are going to be much taller overall than the 265/35R19 tires I have on the front of my grey V8 Vantage. In this example, the tires on my 4Runner are 31.6" tall, while the tires on my Vantage are 26.3" tall. That's a huge difference. So, when picking out tires you'll want to make sure that the tires are similar overall diameter and that the overall diameters for the new tires are similar to the OEM tires fitted by Aston Martin.
4) Intended use. If you're looking for a track-only tire, a streetable competition tire would be great. But don't expect it to last long or be brilliant in the rain. Likewise, an all-season tire is going to severely compromise your track performance for the sake of tread life and usability in crap weather. Let's be frank at this point and say that most Aston owners take a different car when it's pouring down rain. Crap weather isn't high up on our priorities when it comes to tire selection. For the vast majority of us, we're interested in maximum/extreme-performance summer tires.
5) Tread life. As I said earlier, this isn't something I use, nor is it too applicable for most of us. Frankly, again, we're used to hemorrhaging cash for our cars when it comes to certain things. Tire tread life isn't a place to scrape a few saved pennies.
And with that point about saving money, I'm going to end the list of criteria with a note of what isn't mentioned: cost.
Do not skimp on tires. This is not the place to save money. Your tires are all that keep you and your car connected to the road. The contact patch of a tire is incredibly small, and you've only got four of them under ideal circumstances. In hairier situations, you may have fewer. Or none. But let's not go there, you're screwed regardless at that point. Anyway, back on track. Tires are one place where cost should not be a determining factor. I highly recommend the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S tire, and they're not outrageously priced.
I'm out of wine
So now comes the part of the blog where I've killed my bottle(s) of wine and it's time to wrap things up. There really are a ton of things to consider when it comes to choosing tires. The first thing I ask people when they ask for advice is what their intended use is for the tires they want to buy. If they want a great all-around street tire for their OEM wheels that can handle crap weather but still put down some great lap times, get the Michelin Pilot Sport 4S in V8 Vantage S sizing. If you want to get wider wheels and tires to match, the MPS4S is still a great option, but ultimately tire selection will depend on which tires are made in sizes that fit the wheels you want to put on your car. I like to use products before I recommend them, so I'm obviously going to lean toward Michelin. But I don't want to discount the options from other manufacturers like Pirelli and Continental - I simply haven't used them.
Regardless of which you choose, I will say to ditch the OEM Bridgestone RE050 tires. Those are just shit.
One Last IMPORTANT Note
Tires do have a shelf life! Let me state that in another way: Tires go bad with age. Tread is one measure, age is another. Both are valid.
Just as warranties, service intervals, and other things are measured in "x number of miles, or x number of years, whichever comes first," so too are tires. Tires are made of rubber, and that rubber does dry out over time. It doesn't matter how much tread life a tire has left if it's falling apart due to age.
To help illustrate this, here's what the tires looked like on our red V8 Vantage project car when we first bought it. You can see the tire actually coming apart on the right side of this one!
I'm willing to bet this was the original Bridgestone RE050 that was on the car when it was first built. This is what ten years can do to a tire, even if it hasn't been driven through its tread. If you rarely drive your car, keep in mind that time does matter just as much as miles for service intervals. I've yet to have a set of tires last more than a few years, even on my daily driver vehicles, but typically a tire should be replaced after 5 years to ensure you don't come across a situation like this! Just imagine if the tire had separated at highway speeds - again, tires are a matter of safety as much as they are for performance!
I've added a listing for the Exterior Black Pack! It's for the Vantage and includes a black 6-bar grille, black window trim, and black exhaust tips. I'll be installing one on my grey car in a couple of weeks so you'll be able to see it in detail. (I'll be skipping the grille due to requiring the Aston Martin Racing mesh grille for my lightweight bumper beam, but I've covered grille installation elsewhere.)
We've been getting a lot of questions about the carbon fiber side sills I have on my grey car lately, so I've made a listing for them. They're full carbon fiber and are supplied with new margin sills, but they come unpainted so keep that in mind. They need to be shipped by freight, so please contact me if you're interested in ordering a set!
My girlfriend Clare has been helping out tremendously with Redpants, and has her own email address now! She does all the social media for me and helps with packaging and shipping as well. If you want or need to reach her, you can do so at Clare@Redpants.LOL
I've been trying to get her to do the videos because she's way prettier than I am, but she's got no interest at being on camera so you'll have to keep seeing me in them.