The closure of tire plants and an increase in raw material cost has seen the price of tires rise year on year. There’s no end in sight to these price increases, so extending the useful life of your tires is good for safety and good for your pocketbook. Here are five ways to keep your tires healthy for longer while offering you all the grip you need to keep you safe.
Balance and Rotate Tires Every Second Oil Change
Rotating tires (changing the location of each of the tires on your car, e.g. swapping from front to back), keeps each of your tires from becoming unbalanced. Tires to the front of your car in particular usually take more of a beating that your rear tires, so like flipping a mattress it’s best to swap them around from time to time.
You generally want to rotate tires every 7,000 – 10,000 miles, which is conveniently around the time of every second oil change. The best tire service centers will offer this service at a reduced price if you purchase tires from them, and most will offer it as part of a comprehensive maintenance visit.
At the same time, get your tires balanced to ensure they’re straight. This reduces wear and tear on the tires and chassis while reducing vibration and noise in your car.
Keep Tires at the Correct Inflation
Every time you get into your car you should take a quick glance at your tires to see if there is any issue. Sidewalls with bulges indicate there’s a low-pressure issue. Checking the tire pressure at least once a month will ensure your tires are running at the optimum inflation at all times. Many vehicles now offer a Tire Pressure Monitoring System that will warn you when a tire is in need of inflation.
Keeping tires correctly inflated ensures that there’s not too much tread exposed to the ground, which can prematurely age your tires and give you poorer gas mileage.
Cover Your Tires
When you plan to store your car for a long period of time (such as with a classic car) cover the tires and reduce the load carried in the car to avoid sidewall cracks.
As part of your normal maintenance routine, use tire protectant to shield tires from ultraviolet light, particularly in the summer. Clean tire sidewalls with a professional product, paying particular attention in the winter to remove salt and debris.
Avoid Potholes and Poor Roads
Sometimes we can’t choose where we have to drive, but when possible avoid particularly poor roads that will put stress on the tires. Drive slower on poor roads, and remember to keep a safe distance from the car in front at all times so you won’t need to engage the brake unexpectedly. Keeping a safe distance will also allow you more time to avoid potholes in the road as best you can.
Realize that hitting a pothole at speeds of upwards of 20 mph can cause significant damage to tire sidewalls; 40 mph is even worse. Keep an eye out in bad weather as potholes are more likely to appear.
If you’re inevitably going to hit a pothole don’t try to swerve off at the last moment. It’s better to slow down as much as you can, as rolling over a pothole at high speed is much more likely to cause damage than a slow speed maneuver. If you’ve followed the guide above to make sure you keep your tires at the right inflation then potholes should not cause too much damage to your tires.
Periodically Check the Tread
A good inspection can tell you a lot about your tires and how your driving habits are affecting them. If you notice that a tire is wearing more on the outside edge this is a sign the wheels are misaligned. The best way to check alignment is at an automotive service center that uses an alignment track.
All this talk of extending the life of tires might have you tempted to run tires past their useful life. Once tires are finished you need to replace them quickly or risk serious injury as they’ve lost traction, seriously affecting the car’s handling and braking. You want to ensure that your tires have plenty of tread left to give you traction. A quick test is to use a penny in the tread groove – if you can see all of Abraham Lincoln’s head then your tires need replacing.