Before our 2012 MINI JCW Coupe even hit 20,000 miles, it had already been fitted with six new tires. Including the original tires from the factory, that makes 10 different tires in a little over a year. Some of this can be explained by the fact that the run-flat tires are only supposed to be replaced, not repaired, but I would venture a guess that our spirited driving is probably more to blame.

With a 1,400-mile trip planned for the holidays, we decided to be smart and add that most recent set of tires, for safety's sake. The over-$1,200 bill was the subject of much discussion around the office. "They cost how much?" "That thing needs tires, again?!?" I'm pretty sure that last question was mine.

Sometimes you never realize how important tires are until you're driving on a brand-new set. Gone was the "thump, thump" that had become a staple of highway journeys. (We may have attempted to repair a run-flat or two, against manufacturer's advisement.) There was more grip when cornering, and the ride had become more pleasant overall.

I was never happier with our new rubber than in the few minutes after my sister called to inform me that an unexpected snow and sleet storm was beginning to create some very undesirable road conditions in my small hometown. Many of the roads to my final destination are hilly, winding, 2-lane strips with little traffic and even less room to pull over in case of an emergency.

The snow and sleet mixture came in hard and fast. Before I knew it, the lane markers had disappeared under a white blanket of snow and travel speeds had dipped accordingly. While my current hometown of Atlanta doesn't see much of this type of weather, I did spend the first 25 years of my life in the North, so I knew what to expect.

Fitted with a fresh set of tires, the MINI was able to make it the last 25 miles of the trip without incident. Sure, there was the occasional flash of the traction control warning light, but that just means it's doing its job, right? The MINI was able to climb the hills and navigate the turns without a complaint, and I made it to my destination just 15 minutes later than originally planned.

Tires are the connection between a vehicle and the road. Whether it's the type of tire you choose, the condition your tires are in or just the pressure to which they are inflated, tires are among the most important parts of your entire car. While we complained that our 2012 MINI JCW Coupe chewed through them at a slightly alarming rate, we know that to keep us and other drivers on the road safely, tires cannot be overlooked. So before your next trip, even if it's just down to the corner market, make sure you give those tires a quick once-over. You never know if an unexpected snowstorm is about to come.

author photo

Kristopher Affayroux is a car data analyst with the AutoTrader content team. He's a long-time car buff whose background stretches from vehicle appraisals and auctions to automotive insurance and mechanical upgrades and personalization. When he's not tinkering with his personal rides, Kristopher spends his time rooting for his favorite MLB and NFL teams.

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