Do I need highspeed tires if I don't drive at high speeds?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Dec 01, 2002

Dear Tom and Ray:

I recently purchased a 1999 Toyota Avalon XLS. It's a great car, but the manual requires "H" rated tires. From what I understand, "H" rated tires are for speeds up to 130 mph. I never drive over 75 (OK, maybe 80 sometimes on the highway, when no one is looking). "H" rated tires cost more and are harder to find, especially with a high-mileage warranty. My dealer and tire salesmen says I should use only "H" rated tires. Mechanics tell me "H" rated tires are unnecessary, unless I'm going to Europe, where I might drive at those higher speeds. Bottom line -- what problem would I have if I put "S" (112 mph) or "T" (118 mph) rated tires on my Avalon? -- Wayne

RAY: I don't think you'd have any problem, Wayne. But our lawyer, J. Cheever Loophole, tells us we can't recommend that you do that. Here's why.

TOM: Even though you don't ever plan to drive 120 mph because you're a sane, rational human being, the car is apparently CAPABLE of going that fast. And because it's possible to drive the car that fast, Toyota has to equip it -- and recommend that you equip it -- with tires that will stay intact at that speed.

RAY: So you could, for instance, buy lower-rated tires, and you'd probably be fine as long as you never approached their limits. But if your crazy, lead-footed mother-in-law borrowed your car one day and decided to "see what she could do" on the salt flats, she might never come back.

TOM: And what would be the downside? Ah! The car wouldn't come back, either.

RAY: Well, do what you think is best, Wayne. But we recommend that you stick with the "H" rated tires, to be on the safe side.

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