TIRE MAINTENANCE 101
PROTECTING YOUR WHEELS!
Tips to Maintain Your Tires — When it comes to protecting the four wheels that get you from point A to point B, there are tried and true tips that not only ensure a safer commute, but help extend the life of your tires. Knowing that any kind of problem — from a pesky flat to tread separation — can be a colossal hassle, take the time at least once a month to make sure you are putting your best foot forward when it comes to tire maintenance. Keeping your tires in shape means you are safe behind the wheel. It’s as important, and simple, as that!
CHECK YOUR TIRE AIR PRESSURE MONTHLY
This is perhaps the easiest, but often overlooked, tip when it comes to tire care — maintaining the correct pressure. It is important to note that the wrong air pressure can result in sluggish handling, increase in stopping distance and wear and tear on your vehicle as well as can heighten the risk of a blowout. Don’t try eyeballing the pressure as some tires tend to always look under-inflated. Instead, ensure there is adequate pressure to carry your vehicle’s load. Tires can lose about 1 pound per square inch of air (PSI) each month and a tire can lose even more in colder climates. That is why checking the pressure is so important. It not only is found to be the cause of traffic crashes, but under inflated tires mean you are getting fewer miles to the gallon and paying more than you should. You can improve your gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure. Also, it is important that you use the pressure recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer to ensure optimal vehicle performance. This means you need to make sure that your tires are appropriate for your vehicle and that the Pounds Per Square Inch recommended for the tire matches what your vehicle’s manufacturer recommends for your car.
To obtain the most accurate reading, be sure to check the pressure when the tires are cold, or have not been driven in several hours. This will give you the most accurate reading.
To check your tire pressure, which can be done at home or the gas station, you will need an accurate tire pressure gauge. Battery-operated digital gauges are available or a more traditional stick-type gauge can be found at most gas stations. A good gauge should cost about $15, which is a worthwhile investment when considering the fact that you will be extending the life of your tires.
With the manufacturer’s PSI handy, remove the end caps of your tires’ air valves (make sure you don’t lose them!), place the tire gauge into the valve stem and press down quickly to get a reading.
Check the PSI reading and compare to what is recommended for your vehicle. It is important to take a few readings to eliminate any anomalies.
If the reading is above the recommendation, push in the valve to let out some air and if it is below the recommendation, fill your tire with air until you reach an ideal level.
All in all, this step should take just a few minutes and will be well worth your effort!
HAVE YOUR TIRES ROTATED
Since tires, without a doubt, experience uneven wear, it is important to have them rotated on a regular basis. Tire rotation can be beneficial in several ways, including preserving balanced handling and traction and even out tire wear, as well as provide performance advantages. A technician can accomplish this by rotating your tires by moving them to different wheel positions on your vehicle. This gives tires on drive wheels a rest and evens out wear. Rotating your tires anywhere between 5,000 and 8,000 miles lengthens the life of your tire, which should be your goal. The time to rotate a tire does vary and is often dependent on the tires themselves, your driving habits, wheel alignment and suspension condition. In most cars, only one or two tires “drive” the car at a time, which speaks to the importance of rotation. Usually the tires on the front axle need to accomplish very different tasks than the tires on the rear axle. It should be noted that if you let your mileage stretch to 10,000 or more, tires have the chance of developing wear patterns that will affect the ride. Tires should be rotated in only one direction and by a professional who can demount them. Many stores you purchase tires from provide a free tire rotation, and if not, they are fairly inexpensive.
It is to your advantage when all four tires wear together. It is also important to replace tires in sets of four so as to maintain the original handling balance.
BALANCE YOUR WHEELS
Tire balance, which is the distribution of mass within a vehicle’s tire, is something that is important to maintain and be cognizant of. When rotating your tires, that is the perfect time to have your wheels balanced. By doing so, you can avoid vibration and uneven tire wear. Other symptoms of unbalanced tires include problems in steering, bad shock absorbers and wheel bearings and poor fuel economy.
With the use of a specialized machine and small weights, your technician can expertly balance your wheels. This process is an easy one and contributes to the longevity of your tire. It is also necessary because, as you drive, your tires lose balance, which is why periodic tire balancing is important. Over time, tread wear causes the distribution of weight around the tire to change, which leads to the imbalance. Long term damage occurs when tires are not balanced, as they can wear out quicker and make it unsafe to drive. Even worse, they can cause damage to other parts of the vehicle. Driving with tires that are not properly balanced puts undue stress on your shocks, bearings and wheel assembly. They also cause tires to emit loud nosies while driving. That, coupled with alignment issues and vibrations, are the tell tale signs of an unbalanced wheel.
BIANNUAL ALIGNMENT CHECK!
Another way to prolong the life of your tire is to check for misalignment twice a year. A sign of this is if your car pulls or drifts left or right or the steering wheel vibrates or shakes. Misalignment is often caused by hitting a curb or something in the road. Even the smallest misalignment can have negative effects, including a reduction in fuel efficiency and an increase in tread wear. Take your car in every six months and have the alignment checked. It is something that is worth your time and money.
TAKE A LOOK — INSPECT YOUR TIRES!
Lastly, it is important to take a close look at your tires from time to time, and not just when you hit something as a tire may be damaged inside. Investing in an internal inspection from time to time is a great move, especially since a tire can fail quickly! In giving the tire a close look, make sure to inspect the tire treads as well. They should be deepest at the midpoint and the wear pattern should be relatively even at each side. Tires with unevenly worn treads should be replaced, unless the problem is caught early enough and there is ample tread depth left.
While any of these steps may seem arduous, most are simple and save you from unnecessary repairs or costs. They help make your tire last longer and your drive that much safer. Just by following these quick tips, you can extend the life of your tires, improve your vehicle’s ride and have a safer drive overall!