It goes without saying that no matter what size tire your vehicle requires, quality new tires typically are not cheap. That being said, there are several basic ways to protect your new or used tire investment. First and foremost, consider improving your driving habits. If you have driving habits that include fast turns, fast starts and fast stops, be aware that all these actions cause more tire wear. Driving at excessive speeds will also limit your tire tread life.
Speeding generates more heat in the rubber and as a result leads to faster tire breakdown. It is probably obvious that avoiding tire contact with curbs, potholes and rocks is a good idea.
A visual inspection of your tires will reveal any abnormal tire wear, cuts, bulges, separations and so forth, which may mean it’s time for a new tire. Also pay attention to any unusual noises, pulling, or vibration while driving. This can also signal that it’s time for new tires.
To get the most life out of your tires, It is necessary to pay regular attention to tire pressure, wheel alignment, and tire rotation. These few simple actions will make your tires last longer.
TIRE PRESSURE AND TIRE LIFE
Do you remember the last time you checked your tire pressure? If you’re like most people, it’s likely been a while and you may not even own a tire pressure gauge. And if you are like 80% of Americans, you are driving around on at least 1 under-inflated tire.
Once a month, your tire pressure should be checked. If you don’t currently own one, get yourself a tire pressure gauge and check your tire pressure when the tires are cold. It’s best to do it in the morning before the car has been driven anywhere at all or at least a few hours after its last trip. Even driving just a few miles can warm up the air inside the tire, causing it to expand thus giving you an inaccurate reading. A warm summer day will also expand the air inside the tires. When filling your tires, remember to leave a little room for air expansion while you are driving.
If once a month seems like overkill, you should be aware that tires can lose one or two pounds of pressure per month. If you neglect this task for just a few months, there’s probably more rubber meeting the road than the tire manufacturer intended. Having more rubber in contact with the pavement means more surface area to wear out… not to mention the fact that it can negatively affect you gas mileage.
If your vehicle is equipped with TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) it will remind you when your tires are low on air. Basic TPMS systems alert the driver when a tire is low and/or going flat with an exclamation point inside a tire symbol on the dashboard. The more sophisticated TPMS systems provide tire pressure readings for each tire.
WHEEL ALIGNMENT AND TIRE LIFE
Once your tires are inflated properly, you should also check to be sure they are properly aligned. Many tie shops will check your wheel alignment using laser beams and other computerized equipment. A computerized wheel alignment is the most effective and precise way to determine if your wheels are out of alignment. There are a couple of ways to check for alignment problems for yourself… right in your own driveway.
In order to check for camber (the tilt of the tire toward or away from the frame of the car) stand in front of the parked car (or behind it, if you’re checking the rear tires). If the tires tip in — in other words, the tops of the tires appear closer together than the bottoms then the tread will wear away much faster on the inside of the tires than it does on the outside. If the tires tip out… bottoms closer than the tops — there will obviously be faster tire wear on the outside of the tires.
You can check the toe or stance of the tires. Start by thinking of the tires as feet. The fronts of the tires in either case are where the toes would be. Toe in is when the fronts of the tires are closer together as if your car is standing pigeon-toed, and the tread will wear from the outside. Toe out means the rear of the tires or the heels are closer together. This will cause the tires to wear more quickly from the inside. This tire wear pattern is called “feathering.”
If you notice your tires are slightly off angle or if you notice uneven tread wear patterns, it’s time to get your tires aligned if you are interested in increasing your tire life. An alignment will also determine if you have front end parts that may be worn out and need to be replaced.
TIRE ROTATION AND TIRE LIFE
If you are going to get the maximum life out of a set of tires, it goes without saying, that your tires will last much longer if they are rotated on a regular basis. Rotating your tires regularly will ensure even tire wear all the way around.
Rotating the tires requires removing and relocating each tire to a new position on the vehicle. Front tires wear differently than rear tires, depending on whether it’s a rear-wheel-drive or front-wheel-drive car. Left tires wear differently than right tires depending on the number of turns taken in either direction. Everyone has curbed a few tires in their life. Regular tire rotation means you won’t be curbing the same tire every time.
It is recommended that your tires be rotated every 6,000 to 8,000 miles. If your car has a full-sized spare, make sure that the spare tire is included in the rotation as well. Most people will not do this even though it can substantially increase the life of all of the tires.
A little tire and vehicle maintenance can save you big money on tires in the long run.