Compared to the wide variety of design and material content options of wheels–whether factory-installed or specialty aftermarket models–tires can seem a little boring. They’re round and basic black. . .what else can you say about them? But can you think of a more essential component of your car? After all, tires are the only point of contact that your vehicle has with whatever surface you’re driving on. You rely on them every time you turn on the engine and start out on your journey. You’re going nowhere without them, and they need to be in good, dependable working condition at all times.
Tires do more than roll: they affect how your car handles and brakes, smoothly and precisely. To do that, they need to be properly inflated, balanced, aligned and rotated, be inspected for cuts or punctures, and have correct tread depth.
Savings and Safety: Two Critical Reasons for Taking Care of Your Tires
Fact: Frequent checking of and maintaining proper tire pressure can help save you money.
Keeping your tires inflated to the proper pounds-per square inch (psi) pressure (as indicated on the information sticker on the driver’s side door sill) can extend the life of your tires, so you don’t have to replace them as often. Under- or over-inflated tires wear out unevenly, resulting in as much as 20% less tire life in some cases (48,000 miles of service vs. 60,000, for example). Fuel savings factor in here, too: “soft,” under-inflated tires mean you’re using more gas because of a higher rolling resistance–it takes more engine energy to move your car.
Fact: Well-maintained tires give you a more secure, safer ride.
Remember to inspect your tires regularly–monthly, if possible. Examine treads and sidewalls for bulges, cuts, punctures or severe wear, to head off any chance of blowout or tire failure. If you drive over potholes and debris, live in a cold climate, or are a regular long distances driver, you should inspect your tires more often (and always before taking a long trip).
Good tire tread depth is essential to maintain traction and to shed water on wet roads. Check the tread at least once monthly for excessive and uneven wear.
Tires on the front and rear of your car operate at different loads and perform different steering and braking functions, so the tires at each corner wear unevenly. It’s essential that tire rotation is part of your regular scheduled maintenance (recommendations are usually for tire rotation every 5,000-7,000 miles). While you do it yourself, or your mechanic’s doing the job, have your tires balanced when they’re rotated. This involves attaching small weights to the wheels to minimize vibrations and uneven wear.
Uneven wear can also result from improper tire alignment — the measurement of the position of the wheels compared to manufacturers’ specs. Alignment outside the specified range could affect handling and fuel economy, too. Always get re-aligned whenever you install new tires.
Keep in mind safe, preventive driving measures for longer, safer, more economical tire life:
–avoid hard acceleration and excessive speeds; this will help reduce the risks of damage by road hazards, heat build-up or rapid air loss, which could lead to sudden tire failure
–do not exceed the tires’ load capacity; again, too much weight on your tires can cause excessive heat and tire failure
–pay attention to your ride: be aware of unusual vibrations or thumping noises, or a pull to one side, which can signal an out-of-balance tire, excessive tread wear, or a tire with a separated belt
–don’t spare the spare! replace any tire that’s damaged with your spare (which of course should be properly inflated and in good condition), and have all your tires checked by a professional