Nokian Tires

by Richard Atwell
(c) Copyright 2007-2011

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As a bus owner you'll be well familiar with the fact that 185R14C tires aren't a popular size in USA but one european manufacturer, Nokian of Finland, sells several models in this size as well as the wider 195R14C if you prefer those.

Nokian Tires are some of the best tires available. If you can afford them I highly recommend getting a set. I personally feel the value of good tires and shocks are underrated. As VW owners our parts tend to be at the low end of the price scale and typical tire prices for other cars give us sticker shock.

With the baywindow, VW bestowed it with a unique and wonderful riding experience but it's often obscured behind sub-optimal or mismatched parts. When mounting the typical truck or passenger tire and gas shock absorber this is often the case and people are amazed with the ride after fitting proper equipment.

I like Nokian because their:

Unfortunately they aren't the easiest tires to find in your home town or mine so I've been ordering them online from Tire Factory.

Tire Factory is a Nokian dealer that offers free shipping. They are based in Michigan so you only pay sales tax there. Simply have your tires shipped UPS to your house and then have them mounted locally (I've done this 3 times now because local tire selection hasn't been very good wherever I've been living).

I've arranged a bus owner's discount at Tire Factory until Oct 15, 2007. Goto their e-commerce website at tiresbyweb.com and when you checkout enter TYPE2 into the discount code field. The discount is $5/tire but the discount only shows up as $20/set of 4. If you order more or less tires you'll only see a $20 discount but you will get $5/tire.

If you want to speak to a human being, call 1-800-576-1009 and ask for Ryan at x771. He can take your order and knows about the list member discount for Type2.com.

By default, some extras are added to your shopping cart you can delete. Don't bother paying for the chrome valve stems. If don't know much about the road hazard warranty that's offered. I've found that Discount/Americas Tire Co. will fix flats for free if you've been a past customer so that's what I do.


Winter Tires:

Nokian makes two winter tires in 185R14C. Which tire you need depends on the dominant type of weather your area receives:

winter guide

All three tires have similar qualities but excel in their own areas as seen in the venn diagram.

mtn snowflake

All 3 tires have the mountain snowflake symbol on the sidewall (aka severe service symbol) meaning they are all true snow tires. I call the CS a "true all-weather" because the rubber compound is slightly harder than a winter-only snow tire so it won't wear down during the summer months like a traditional snow tire. The CQ won't last as long as the CS when the roads are dry but it's a better snow tire. The C2 also uses a softer compound like the CQ so it is not suited rated for long life on dry roads.

How many weeks of snow do you normally get? How cold does it get?

Style Load Index Speed Rating Tread plies Sidewall plies Load Range Load Rating Max Pressure Made in
CS 100/102 S 2 steel + 2 poly + 1 nylon 2 poly 1873 lbs LRD 65 psi Finland
CQ 100/102 Q 2 steel + 2 poly + 1 nylon 2 poly 1873 lbs LRD 65 psi Finland
C2 100/102 Q 2 steel + 2 poly + 1 nylon 2 poly 1873 lbs LRD 65 psi Finland

CS tread CS snowprint
Hakkapeliitta CS and CQ Snow print for CS
C2 tread C2 snowprint
Hakkapeliitta C2 Snow print for C2

Both snow prints were taken with the same depth of snow. You can see how the C2 makes greater contact with the ground.


Improving traction:

The C2 is available in studded or non-studded versions. You can use them non-studded and decide to stud them later if you wish but you'll have to clean the stud holes because the tire shop won't. A word on studding...

Snow tires are a heck of an improvement over all-seasons but when you are on ice or worse, icy slush, studs are required to provide the missing traction. All police and emergency services stud their tires in winter where there is risk of losing traction.

One thing I hate about snow is that when it comes down light 'n' fluffy around freezing temps, the first people that drive down your neighborhood street quickly pack down the snow into ice making it dangerous for those who follow afterwards. Where the sun doesn't shine when the melt begins, ice remains. If only it were possible to clear the snows from the street just as people clear their own driveways but alas this is too larger a task for the average neighborhood and cities can only budget to keep the main roads clear.

If you have a lot of ice (or very hard packed snow) in your area you might consider studded tires. You can stud just the rear wheels just like you would do for tire chains.

The obvious drawback of studs is the noise that they make compared to a non-studded tire. While much quieter than chains, the noise is still noticeable. Also keep in mind that the stopping power of studded tires is actually reduced on wet/dry roads so take care.

While popular in Scandanavian countries where studding was invented, usage is on the decline in USA. Many warmer states actually ban the use of studded tires year round not because they are ineffective but simply because of the extra wear they caused to pavement. Check your local regulations before studding.

Because the bus is RWD and the weigh distribution is 47/53, you may find yourself getting stuck on mild inclines where there is ice and slush even with good winter tires. Prepare for this scenario and put 4 50lb. sand bags in the back of the bus over the engine compartment. This is increase you traction during these moments and save you from requiring a push or a tow.

As they say, "ice and snow, take it slow".


VW's recommendations:

Some advice from the owner's manual with my comments:

owner's manual pg53

The labeling "all season tires" was largely a marketing idea after the invention of radial tires that proved to work better in snow. What VW is saying is that radial ply tires are better than bias-ply in the snow but they are still inadequate because the tread is the wrong design and the rubber hardens in the cold.

Tire pressure decreases 1 psi per 10F. Keep your tires inflated to the correct level no matter what the temperature is. What VW is essentially saying is that a 30F drop in temperature requires you to adjust the inflation pressure by 3 psi.


Summer Tires:

This is the tire I'm currently using on my bus right now and it's great. I've heard that it's going to be replaced by the Hakka C soon so this might be the last chance to get a set. (Note: the green stripes are a factory marking and they wear off immediately).

Style Load Index Speed Rating Tread plies Sidewall plies Load Range Load Rating Max Pressure Made in
NRC2 100/102 S 2 steel + 2 poly + 1 nylon 2 poly 1873 lbs LRD 65 psi Finland

Nokian NRC2
NRC2

NB: ask your tire store to mount this tire with the DOM (date of manufacture) code on the outside because this is a bi-directional tire that can be mounted either way. Good shops do this automatically, some don't.


Mounting:

Mounting and balancing fees are usually included in the price of a tire purchase when you go to your local tire shop. When you bring your own tires into a shop there you may find that the store wants to charge you almost as much to mount a tire as they charge for their currently advertised bait and switch special which includes M&B.

Last time, most shops wanted to charge me $25-$30 per tire for M&B but I managed to locate a Firestone dealer that charged $15/ea which was more in line with the price I was expecting to pay. Call around first to see how much money you can save.

Since your bus is likely older than the average employee there, you'll be doing yourself and the shop a favor by telling them the following:

If you find a tire shop that already knows this info you have accidentally travelled in time to 1979. :-)


References:

History:

09/18/07 - Created
12/18/08 - Added snow print photos
09/08/11 - Fixed broken photos, added translate button, updated footer