Date registered: Mar 2005
Vehicle: '01-E320 & 02-ST2
Location: John 15:18-19
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Quoted: 35 Post(s)
RE: Advice for an auto moron - Tires for a '98 SLK 230 - plus shocks question
Welcome to the forum.
In reverse order, I think I would probably avoid the "German mechanic" you reference in your post. Worn shocks don't cause wear down the center of the tread as you describe, so it's probable he's tossing that out there simply to sell you something you don't need. Don't get me wrong: it's entirely possible that your shocks are worn and need replacement, but for him to suggest that would cause the tire wear you describe means he's willing to misrepresent facts to you in order to sell you stuff, and that's not a great way to start off a repair shop relationship. Particularly since he didn't even inspect the car...like I say, I'd avoid him. (FYI, there is no specific mileage replacement for shocks, it requires a physical inspection and a couple of tests.)
You can indeed order tires from the Tire Rack; I've done that myself in the past. They have a great wealth of information about tires with recommendations, etc. as well as survey feedback info on specific tire models. The SLKs tend to come with more performance-oriented rubber and people often replace them with the same. The only issue I have with ordering from TR is that you have to find a place to install them, and the shops TR recommends were stunningly expensive (more than $40 a tire as I recall to mount and balance).
Your profile doesn't say where you are, but it's probable you have an America's Tire outlet near you. I believe in supporting the local merchant and they have an excellent reputation (I have a friend who absolutely will not purchase tires from anyone else, that's how well he's been treated). It's also nice to have a local vendor to go to in the event you have a tire problem in the future, and you can also get a rebalance/rotation agreement from them to enhance tire life. If you go to them and describe the tire you're looking for (sounds like long life is a key for you) they'll make some good recommendations as well. (Personally I'd stay with a premium brand.)
On the wear issue, wear down the center of the tread is typically a sign of overinflation more than anything else (I see you think they might have been underinflated if anything, but...). There are some very high-performance tires out there with different tread compounds across the different planes of the tread, which could also account for irregular wear, but I'd bet it's more related to the inflation pressure. Follow the manual's recommendation, MBZ recs often seem a little soft so some folks push it up.
If you want some specific tire recommendations, I'd suggest reposting this over in the SLK forum (actually, probably do a search there first) stressing that you're looking for tread life as a primary factor.
Take care and enjoy the ride,