Tire care is essential to maintaining good drivability for your vehicle. Because tires are exposed to different driving conditions, temperatures and storage areas, it is difficult to pinpoint a tire's life span. But with regular maintenance checks, you can extend the service life of a tire.
Kurt Berger, manager of consumer products and engineering at Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, says that it is important for drivers to perform regular inflation pressure checks. At least once a month, make sure your tires (including your spare tire) have proper inflation. Jim Davis, public relations manager for Goodyear, explains that the recommended tire pressure number is located on a placard on the driver's side door or in the glove compartment. Don't refer to the inflation number stamped on the tire's sidewall. Berger recommends checking the pressure in the morning before you drive, because driving causes tires to heat up and inflation to increase.
Underinflated tires can cause uneven tire wear and affect gas mileage. Ron Margadonna, product category manager for Michelin North America, says that properly inflated tires may increase fuel effectiveness by 1 mile per gallon. Drivers can purchase a digital pressure gauge to measure a tire's inflation. Or many gas stations provide free tire pressure gauges with their air compressors.
"Properly inflated tires will benefit the vehicle's performance, provide evenly wearing tires for longer tread life, and even help improve fuel efficiency," Davis says.
Be sure to focus on the appearance of your tires, too. Kevin Kochan, senior engineering technician at Yokohama Tire Corp., says a regular inspection can identify signs of tread wear and tire damage. Make sure there are no cuts, bulges or unusual wear patterns. If abnormal wear occurs, it can lead to alignment and wheel issues, according to Ray Cox, AutoMD.com's senior mechanic. Berger recommends doing a visual check at least once a month or after every fuel fill. If a car owner does not feel comfortable checking tire tread depth or inflation, most tire retailers (e.g., Goodyear) will perform this task for no charge.
Tire rotation is another important step for proper maintenance. To determine when your car needs its tires rotated, Kochan says to look at your vehicle's owners manual for instructions. If there isn't a specific rotation time, tires should be rotated approximately every 5,000 miles. That means a tire rotation probably should take place at every oil change.
Some variables, such as regular tire checkups and driving speeds, are within your control, but with other conditions -- for example, improper road maintenance -- there is only so much you can do to prevent tire damage. Although tires are designed to handle some road situations, they aren't completely resilient to all road conditions, according to Margadonna. Cox recommends trying to avoid potholes and curbs when driving and parking. If you regularly drive on rough roads, it may lead to flat or damaged tires or trauma to the wheels. Look for potholes especially after heavy rainstorms.
If you must drive on streets with holes and rocks, Kochan suggests driving slowly and carefully. And be aware of your speed, rapid starts, sudden stops and taking corners at high speeds. These driving techniques can wear down your tires at a faster pace.
When it comes to keeping your tires clean, it is best to stick to soap and water. Margadonna recommends cleaning with soap, water and a brush. According to Berger, you should avoid using tire shine products on an excessive basis; some products contain ingredients that could accelerate tire aging.
Drivers should take the time to check tires regularly. In the long run, you will save money by prolonging the lifetime of your tires.
"Although tires are often overlooked by drivers, many automobile experts consider tires to be the most important components on a vehicle," Davis says. "After all, they are the only contact points where the vehicle touches the road surface. If you keep your tires properly inflated and rotate them on a regular basis, they should provide mile after mile of trouble-free service."