Hankook Tires: A Horror Story

I’ll be the first to admit I absolutely love my little Ford Fiesta. At just 2,500 pounds and change and 148 lb./ft. of turbocharged direct injection goodness and getting as much as 45 MPG on road trips, it’s probably the best car I’ve ever owned. Yeah, it’s nothing super special but the price was right, it drives well and it’s a manual transmission – what’s not to love?

Well, how about the OEM tires? Seriously. In order to maximize the fuel efficiency of the SFE (Super Fuel Efficiency) model Ford decided to pair the 1.0L I3 engine with low-rolling resistance tires. Well that’s all fine and good – but at least they could have picked something better than the shitty ass Hankook H426s that come stock on the car! At just 26,000 miles, one of the tires was on the brink of catastrophic failure and the other three were starting to head that way.

I was lucky I noticed the one tire that was about to go because if I hadn’t noticed it when I did I might not have a car today. I noticed it in Little Rock. The left front was showing significant tread separation and had I not noticed it when I did I’d have probably had a blowout (on a drive tire no less!) on the way home from Little Rock. Yeah, not good. Luckily I did notice it and got to the nearest tire shop (which happened to be a Firestone – a nice reputable brand) and got that thing replaced.

Well, it wasn’t but a few hundred miles later that the other front tire started really showing signs of impending failure (same thing – tread separation around the entire circumference of the tire) and the two rear tires weren’t that far behind. Not wanting to take a chance, I completed the transition to Firestone Champion Fuel Fighter tires and chucked those Hankooks in the fucking trash!

There is absolutely no reason for a tire to fail at 27,000 miles under normal driving conditions. None. Hell, back when I was a broke college student I put some cheap ass Walmart brand (Douglas Performance) tires on my ’00 Focus ZX3 and even those lasted me nearly 70,000 miles! You mean to tell me cheap ass Walmart tires outlast a big name tire like Hankook? I don’t buy it for a second.

If it is a silver lining out of all this, I noticed impending failure of the tires before they had a chance to fail and I acted accordingly. I won’t say I’m a car nerd or anything, but I do meticulously take care of my vehicles – maintaining the correct tire pressures, checking oil levels regularly and changing engine oil, rotating tires and changing filters as required per the specified maintenance schedule. I’m a big believer in protecting big investments, no matter what they are.

Another silver lining? Ford better fucking reimburse me for the cost of the set of tires. I doubt I’ll get it all back because the Firestones were predictably more expensive than the Hankooks but I’ll be happy if all I’m out of pocket is the difference of what it would cost to do a direct OEM tire replacement. I’ll pay that little extra for a better tire.

Oh, and so far, the Firestones have proven superior – they’re quieter, they handle better and have better wet traction (something that really showed up with the recent deluges we’ve had here). I’ve not had an opportunity to do a direct apples-to-apples comparison of fuel economy but as the tires I opted for are also low rolling resistance I don’t see why it would change those numbers. The only downside is these have a lower speed rating than the Hankooks, but I don’t drive 118 MPH on a consistent basis so that doesn’t affect me at all (even though my car is surprisingly capable of that speed).

Anyway, all I have to say is don’t buy Hankook tires. Just don’t do it. Oh, and Ford, please for the love of everything good switch to a different OEM tire for the Fiesta SFE. It’s too good of a car to put such a terrible tire on.

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