Tires! As always
How does Lexus select tires for its vehicles
, an excellent question—and a good opportunity to address the array of tire questions that come in from Lexus owners and fans.
First of all, an answer to the above question: The fact is, the performance specifications of the tires on each Lexus model have been precisely engineered to suit that vehicle, and that’s a call made at the engineering level.
The Chief Engineer decides exactly how he wants the car to handle, and how the tires can contribute to that,” explains Charles Hubbard of the Lexus College. “That spec is passed on to the tire manufacturers Lexus uses, such as Michelin, Goodyear, and Dunlop.
As Hubbard explains it, a foremost concern to the engineering teams is to craft a tire that “magnifies the car’s smoothness, quietness, and ride.” After that, they match the tires to the way the suspension has been dialed in.
This can be very complex; for example, Hubbard cites tires on which the inner and outer sidewalls are engineered with different strengths, to improve performance when cornering.
I hope that answers things—let’s hit some other common tire questions from Lexus owners:
What tire options do I have when buying a Lexus?
As drivers generally know, there are three basic types out there: summer tires, which are higher-speed performance tires best suited to highway driving; all season tires, which are year-round tires designed to provide better traction in winter conditions; and snow tires.
Most Lexus models come with all-season tires standard; the LX and GX models, which are rated for off-road use, come standard with mud-and-snow-rated tires. In most areas of the country, Lexus OEM tires are suited for year-round use.
Some performance models, like the IS F, offer larger optional wheels that can accommodate tires with a wider tread and lower aspect ratio. This improves handling and cornering capability—suited, as mentioned above, for those particular vehicles.
How do I know when my tires are worn out and ready to be replaced?
The legal minimum tire tread allowed in most U.S. states is 1/16th of an inch. By law, every tire sold in the U.S. has a tread wear indicator; this is a raised bar of material 1/16th of an inch high running across the tire tread. When the tire has worn down to the indicator, the tire is no longer legal for use. But before that happens, the comfort, performance and safety of the tire can become diminished. That’s why your Lexus dealer makes it a point to check your tires as part of your regularly scheduled service.
Can tires go bad just sitting?
Lexus vehicles, of course, use high-quality tires, but all tire materials eventually break down with age, and things like sunlight and ozone can accelerate this process. Special tire covers are available for vehicles that are stored for long periods of time.
I have one tire that keeps losing air. What’s going on, and can it be fixed?
The most common cause of slow leaks is an embedded nail that was lying on the road. In these cases, the tire can most likely be fixed at the dealer, but it must be removed from the rim to do so properly. Note that your Tire Pressure Warning System must be recalibrated after the tire is remounted, but your dealer can handle that. (Also, note that, outside of emergency repairs, Lexus recommends against pressurized emergency spray repairs for a permanent fix—they can interfere with your Lexus’ Tire Pressure Warning System.)
I damaged one of my tires and have been told I should replace all of them. The tread looks fine on the others, so why not just replace the one?
It’s important that all your tires wear evenly, which is why Lexus recommends a regular tire rotation every 5,000 miles. If your tires are worn, a newly added tire will literally be a different size than the three existing tires, which can impact performance and safety. If your existing tires are relatively new, you may be able to add a single tire. Your dealer will tell you if that’s the case.
I’ve been told a differently sized tire will give me better performance. Should I try that?
It’s not something that Lexus recommends. Using tires that weren’t specified for the vehicle can have safety ramifications; the stability control could be affected, braking could be affected, and the speedometer sensor could provide incorrect data.
Where should I get new tires?
Hubbard recommends that most Lexus owners get them at their dealer. The extremely knowledgeable Lexus Enthusiasts out there who live and breathe Lexus-vehicle modifications (and inherently don’t mind voiding their warranties), of course pursue aftermarket tires in cool-looking ways, but for most Lexus owners, it’s their dealer who knows how to perform the necessary wheel alignment and how to replace the tire pressure warning valves and transmitters.
Also, Hubbard points out that going to the dealer helps ensure you get tires that match the OEM specs that Lexus engineers set for your vehicle. Tires from retailers—even tires produced by the same manufacturer with the same rating info—may not be of the same quality.
He cites an example from his own experience, in which a Lexus owner was having an ongoing handling issue. The tires were fine, as was the suspension and alignment, and still the problem wouldn’t go away. Finally, they ran the serial numbers on the tires, and discovered they were aftermarket replacements. The tires were replaced and the problem went away.
—CLARK HEIDEGER, LEXUS AUTOMOTIVE EDITOR