Tire Care

By DiAnne Crown

September 6, 2018 6 min read

You can get the longest life and best performance out of your new tires and protect your riders by following a few basic tire care rules. They're not complicated, but they are crucial.

*Air Pressure

"The biggest thing is air pressure," says Gary Williamson, owner of Tuffy Auto Service Center. "Follow the auto manufacturer's guideline printed on the vehicle door sticker. There are pressure recommendations on tires, but tires fit on many kinds of vehicles, and what works on an Acadia, for example, won't work on an Impala. Use the air pressure numbers on the door sticker, and keep that constant pressure all year."

No sticker? Check the owners manual or search the internet for the recommended air pressure for your make and model.

According to Goodyear's website, "maintaining proper tire inflation pressure is the single most important thing you can do to promote tire durability and prolong tread life. Underinflated tires are the leading cause of tire failure and may result in severe cracking or component separation. ... It reduces load capacity, allows excessive sidewall flexing and increases rolling resistance, resulting in heat and mechanical damage. Overinflation increases stiffness, which may deteriorate ride, and generate unwanted vibration. Overinflation also increases the chances of impact damage."

Air pressure is such an important part of tire maintenance, says Williamson, that cars manufactured after 2008 are required to include a tire pressure monitoring system that alerts drivers to excessively low tire pressure.

For the best results, have air pressure checked when the tires are cold, says Goodyear. And "to avoid injury, never attempt to reinflate a tire that has been run on while severely underinflated. Progressive air loss may result from punctures, cuts, curbing, impacts, or partial bead unseating."

A handy time to check the pressure is when you take your car in for an oil change. However, checking the pressure and condition of your tires may not be part of the "quick" lube shops' service, and the pocket pressure guides are said to wear out after about a year, so Williamson recommends having a full-service shop check your tire health every three months or so.

*Tire Rotation and Alignment

"The second-most important thing in tire care is rotation, usually about every 6,000 miles," says Williamson. This will not only protect the life of your tires but also comply with the tires' warranty requirements. And be sure to check your alignment at least once a year to avoid premature tire wear.

*Replace Worn Suspension and Steering Components

When shocks and struts become worn, vehicle handling, braking and stopping distance are all affected, which affects tire wear and can even lead to a blowout. Williamson suggests checking at 50,000 miles, depending on an individual's driving conditions and habits.

*Repair It?

Some leaks and punctures can be repaired. Punctures may be repaired with a plug patch, but by the third puncture, it may be time for a new tire. However, "we can't repair a leak in a sidewall or on the curved edge where the top of the tire and the sidewall meet," says Williamson. "A leak in the tire bead, where the tire meets the rim of the wheel, usually due to corrosion on an aluminum wheel, may or may not be able to be repaired. It's the most common leak we see. When we can, we clean the bead of the rim to get a good seal with the tire again."

*Life Expectancy, Shopping Guide

"Buy tires for your expected use," says Williamson. Tires need to be replaced every five years or so. If you are a low-mileage driver, there's no point in buying 80,000-mile tires. They'll dry out before you get to use them up."

The "drying" is another important part of tire technology. "You can see when tires are dry-rotting from the outside," Williamson continues. "You can see tread separation and cracking, both of which are very dangerous. But tires dry out from the inside, too, and you can't see that. There are dates on every tire. I'm a big believer in the five-year rule for tire replacement."

You should not only purchase the mileage tire you need but also decide what you value most. "Today you have options of many comparable tires that are very competitive with more expensive name brands," Williamson says. "You can purchase a reliable tire without sacrificing your budget."

The main considerations are the depth and the placement of treads that channel water (the main tread pattern) and of sipes, which help tires heat up and grip the road for better traction in wet, snowy and icy conditions and also cool tires down when the road surface is very hot. Higher-quality treads, various rubber compounds and higher mileage ratings all add to the price of a tire, explains Williamson. Buy what you need.

The buyer's guide at https://www.utires.com/articles/tire-buying-guide-best-tires-car details types of tires for various purposes, climates and driving styles.

*Bottom Line

The best car care includes regular attention to your tires. A well-maintained suspension system, steering components and wheel alignment will protect the health of your tires -- and you.

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