Although it’s a necessity more often than not, owning a car is also a major expense. One of the biggest factors that push up your vehicle’s expenses are the tires- you can’t drive without them, your car doesn’t perform well when they aren’t in top shape, and replacements always seem to cost an arm and a leg. Although it may seem like there’s no winning, there are in fact a handful of simple tips and maintenance checks you can perform on a regular basis to maintain the health of your tires for as long as possible.
Unfortunately, there’s no life hacks out there that can make your tires last forever. However, with a little effort and regular maintenance of things like your tire pressure, alignment, tread wear and more, you could get a few more months out of your tires and help them, and your car, perform at its absolute best.
Regularly checking and maintaining the proper tire pressure for your vehicle is probably the easiest way to instantly improve your car’s performance and tires’ lifetime. Your tires are the first factor when it comes to supporting your car on rough roads, gripping the pavement in all sorts of weather conditions, and even has an influence on your vehicle’s gas mileage. If your tires aren’t properly inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended air pressure, you risk lowering your fuel economy, increasing your stopping distance, slowing down your acceleration, increasing your turn radius and even blowing out your tires on rough terrain. In fact, a survey performed by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration Crash Causation found that a surprising 1 in 11 vehicle accidents involved a car with some sort of tire issue.
Maintaining your tire pressure isn’t just about constantly pumping them with air. Driving on over-inflated tires will actually cause them to wear down faster, and could put you at an increased risk for hydroplaning in wet weather or blowing out a tire on rough roads. Driving with under-inflated tires will create more friction between your car and the road, wearing down a disproportionate amount of your tire tread quickly and lowering your gas mileage significantly. To be more specific, you could lower your average fuel economy by almost 4% just by driving on under-inflated tires!
In order to prevent any of these easily-avoidable problems from showing up, it’s important to regularly check your tire pressure with a pressure gauge. Most experts recommend checking your tires once a month, as tires slowly expand and contract over time, gradually altering their PSI as they go. When you do check your tire pressure, try to do so in the morning before you’ve driven anywhere; temperature changes can cause fluctuations in your tire pressure, and you want to ensure the most accurate reading possible. When the weather is cold, you’ll lose about 1 PSI for every 10 degrees the temperature drops, and warmer weather in the middle of the day or hot rubber that’s been driving around for a while will give you a reading slightly higher that what the actual pressure is. It’s important to make sure you’re regularly checking your tires even if they seem fine, as the tire pressure monitoring systems in cars usually don’t warn you that your tire pressure is off until they have lost about 25% of their inflation. Depending on your driving habits and location, you can see a lot of tire wear and lost fuel economy in the time before your car warns you that your pressure is off. Just remember, when you’re topping those tires off, make sure you’re filling to the manufacturer-recommended PSI on the driver door jamb, not the maximum PSI printed on the tire’s sidewall.
While you start to regularly check your tire pressure, make sure you’re also checking how your tires are wearing down. Whenever you drive anywhere, friction between the road and your tires will naturally wear down your tire tread over time. It’s an unavoidable part of driving, however there are steps you can take to make sure your tread lasts as long as possible.
In most vehicles, only one or two tires at a time are typically “driving” the car; the front tires of a FWD car, for example, carry most of the burden of moving the car forward. Even AWD vehicles typically switch between which wheels are delivering the most power depending on the driving conditions, causing uneven wear on your tires. Further, depending on your typical driving routines, you may find certain tires wear down faster. For example, someone who makes frequent right turns while driving may see that their tires wear down on the one side faster than the other.
It’s important to regularly have your tire tread checked and your tires rotated to make sure that all of your tires wear down evenly, giving you the optimal fuel economy and vehicle handling. Rotating your tires switches their location on the car, making sure all your tires wear down as evenly as possible. When your tires are rotated, your mechanic will switch the sides your tires are on and swap the front and back tires to ensure even wearing. Experts recommend that you have your tires rotated between about every 5,000 and 8,000 miles to make sure they all wear down at an even rate. For a quick insight into whether your tread is still good or not, stick a quarter in the tread. If Washington’s head is covered at all, you should be in the green.
Keeping Things in Line
Aside from checking your tread and regularly rotating your tires, you’ll also want to be sure that your tires are balanced and aligned whenever you’re getting them rotated. Even brand-new tires and wheels have imperfections, and virtually all tires, no matter how high of quality, will have a heavy spot somewhere that causes an uneven distribution on weight. This can not only wear down your tread quickly, but can lead to problems with your tire alignment, causing more problems with your handling and fuel economy.
On top of driving on unbalanced tires, bumping into things or hitting potholes can cause alignment issues with your car’s tires. When you drive on misaligned tires, you can greatly decrease your car’s handling and lower your gas mileage significantly. You can tell your alignment is off if your car tends to pull to one side or the other while driving, or if your steering wheel shakes while driving or accelerating. You can also easily check your alignment from your driveway just by looking at your vehicle; if your alignment is off, your tires may look “pigeon-toed” (tires facing slightly inward) or “duck-footed” (tires facing slightly outward) when looked at from head-on. Even the best driver with the best vehicle and tires could suffer major drops in performance and fuel efficiency, as well as drastically decrease the lifespan of their tires, with even the slightest tire misalignment. Most mechanics recommend checking and adjusting your alignment every 6 months on average, or after any major impacts that may have thrown it off (accidents, potholes, hitting a curb, etc.).
The last few maintenance items to keep in mind regarding your tires are simple, yet commonly overlooked, ways to stretch the life of your tires, no matter what your driving habits are. First off, always keep in mind that your tires are like shoes for your car; you wouldn’t wear flip-flops in the snow, so why would you use summer tires in the Winter? Different tires are produced for specific road conditions, vehicle sizes and weights, and temperatures. By using the wrong tires for your vehicle or for the conditions you’re driving in, you can see a massive drop in the way your vehicle performs, as well as a significant decrease in how long your tires last. With that being said, make sure you always use the appropriate tires for the weather you’re driving in, and make sure they’re the size recommended by your vehicle manufacturer.
Last, but certainly not least, even easier than maintaining your tire pressure is to simply keep your tires clean. Even the smallest twig or rock stuck in your tire’s tread could throw off your handling and change the way your tires grip the road. It’s good practice to check and clean your tires on a regular basis; once or twice a month, maybe after you give your car a wash, visually inspect your tires for any damage or debris stuck in the wheels or tread. It’s a good idea to give them a nice wash using tire and wheel cleaning products to remove any corrosive materials from the rubber and protect against damage from the sun. After that, using a firm-bristled brush, scrub the treads clean of debris to make sure your tires are clear of damaging foreign objects. Keeping your tires clean could save you hundreds of dollars, as an otherwise perfect tire can instantly be rendered useless by just the smallest puncture in the wrong spot.
Overall, there are plenty of factors that go into deciding how long your vehicle’s tires will last. Even the most expensive tires on the market are useless, and can even do harm to your vehicle, if not properly maintained. By simply being mindful of your driving habits and the condition of your tires, and by handling small routine maintenance items regarding them, you can significantly increase the life span of your tires, saving you money and helping your car to perform at its best.
At Holbrook Auto Parts, we know the importance of high-quality, affordable tires. That’s why our Tire & Auto Glass Center carries new and pre-owned tires for virtually all vehicle makes, models and years. If you’re in need of a new set of tires, or if you’re just looking to have some maintenance done on your current tires, you won’t find a better deal that at Holbrook Auto!
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