Where the Rubber Meets the Road

I’m a very simple guy. I like a cold beer and a bloody burger, and I love old muscle cars. Nothing sexier to me than a ‘66 GTO, although it’s hard to beat a fastback Mustang for classic American looks. And of course, AC/DC. It’s always a chore for me when I’m hauling down the highway to decide which I’d rather listen to: the opening riff of “Back in Black” or the rumble of an American V8.

Being a classic car guy, I’m always kinda unsatisfied. I can always upgrade to a higher-performance air filter or some lowering springs, maybe some adjustable shocks or an aftermarket exhaust system to add a few more horses. Some of these upgrades can be handled by anyone with a willingness to get their hands dirty, while others require some more specialized equipment and knowledge.

Let’s start with the basics: wheels and tires. They’re a snap to upgrade and you’ll immediately notice an improvement in handling.

When you drive, you only have four points of direct contact with the road (your car tires), and the information transmitted between them and your hands on the wheel makes all the difference in how connected you feel to the road, and how confident you feel going around corners. Think of a car like a band. You’ve got your steering, braking, handling and suspension, which work together as a team. Plus, each can be upgraded for more performance.

Most modern car manufacturers engineer car tires and wheels for three things: ride, comfort and — these days — fuel mileage. The only trick is that if you improve in one area, you’re likely to suffer in another. You want a sweet summer tire with a high sidewall? It’ll help your car handle better, but you’ll feel more of the road, you’ll have to be more careful when it rains and you may lose a few mpg’s in the process.

More road feel means exactly that: for better or worse. You’ll be more in tune to the road for driving, but you’ll also feel more of the bumps and imperfections. And since summer tires are designed differently from winter or all-season tires, they’re not designed to repel rain but rather stick better to a hot road.

The other good thing about wheels and tires is there are so many places that offer car tires online so you can really improve the look of your ride as well. Plus, many offer side-by-side comparisons, so when you shop for car tires online you can hopefully find top-rated tires.

We’re even seeing customization from original equipment manufacturers, where they’ll offer a new car with a couple different wheel and tire sizes and a variety of different wheel looks so you can customize it right from the factory.

Bear in mind that aftermarket tires will be anywhere from a little to a lot more expensive, but you’ll see noticeable differences in your handling and grip.

And once you get that going, you’ll suddenly want to upgrade with things like slotted ceramic brakes for better stopping, or some lowering springs, a suspension upgrade, maybe some adjustable shocks. The bottom lines are your imagination and, of course, your wallet.

Editor’s note: Advance Auto Parts carries a wide selection of tire supplies and digital tire gauges,  performance quality brakes and suspension parts, plus tons of other quality auto parts to get your projects in gear. Get your order fast—buy online, pick up in store.

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