Tires are very important but often overlooked components of auto maintenance. Even the highest-rated performance vehicle can fail you if you have incorrect or worn-out tires.
I drive a 4Runner when the weather is too bad for me to feel safe in my Mustang. Living in the mountains you can be caught off guard by snow or ice, and if that happens you don’t want to question the performance of your tires. However, these are all-season tires: not simply snow tires alone.
My current set of these tires was put on my SUV when I got it in November 2005. I’ve put 40, 000 miles on the car since then and my tires still have more than half of their tread left. However, if you are hard on tires or don’t get them rotated or keep them properly inflated it doesn’t matter how well-constructed and durable the tires are: they will still wear down and need replacement sooner.
I know this because my younger brother got a new set in November of 2005 when I did, and he ended up needing new tires in late 2007. He had put about 45, 000 miles on his 4Runner since getting the tires but he is not as careful a driver as I am, and his tires failed the old penny check.
I live in an area where I drive on a lot of dirt roads and roads that are paved but not with the smooth pavement-kind of like the tar and gravel pavement that tends to wear down tires. I also have a two-story house built into a hill with the main floor on level with the driveway and the basement door being down the hill. I regularly drive my car down the hill and around the house if I have a big item to put in the basement, and these tires do well on grass, even if it’s raining.
I have hydroplaned a few times with these tires and have never lost control of my car. They seem to direct water away from where it can cause you to lose traction, and they perform well in the snow. My road and the secondary road that it branches off of are never plowed during snowstorms until a few days later than the main roads, and when I've ever needed to get out these tires have never failed me. I do avoid driving in icy conditions because I know that no tire performs well on roads that are extremly iced over.
Yes, they are expensive. But they really do set my mind at ease, and if you are mindful of your driving and keep up with alignments and rotations then they should last you a long time. I’ve had my mechanic tell me he removed a nail from one of my tires when my car was in for an oil change, and I never would have known. I think that lesser-expensive tires have to be replaced more often so the cost might even out if you can keep them over several years.
The best thing about these tires is that I don't worry about being stranded. I have about a 15-minute stretch of time between my house and cell-phone service, so if something were to break down on my car I'd be at the mercy of passersby to help me get in contact with Triple A or a family member or friend. I can honestly say that with these tires there is a significantly decreased chance that a tire problem will cause me to be stranded or late. I do have a spare and I know how to change a tire, but on many of the two-lane roads where I live there isn't enough shoulder room to get off the road and safely change a tire.
These tires are worth the added expense for the added security I feel even if I can't avoid running over a stick in the road or for those unseen metal objects that can cause a flat.
Update On Nov 08, 2009: I had these tires on my 4Runner for four years, and I put 55, 000 miles on them. I just got another set, and Michelin has redesigned the tire. The guy at the tire place told me they are supposed to last even longer than the previous LTX M/S tires.