Over the life of your car, new tires can be one of the most expensive replacements—and one of the most important safety aspects of your car, especially when you need traction (like when it’s raining and snowing!). Here’s how to get the most out of your next set of tires—both for performance and budget.
Check your tire pressure.
An underinflated or overinflated tire can accelerate the tread wear of your tires, causing you to need new tires sooner. With an overinflated tire, less of the tread is touching the road, accelerating the wearing of certain parts of your tire tread. The result: you need to replace a tire because parts of it are more worn than others. An underinflated tire does the opposite: more of the tire is wearing down faster. Tires not wearing properly can cause blown tires and needs more frequent tire replacement.
To avoid uneven tire tread wear, check your tire pressure by using a tire pressure gauge, or by asking your mechanic to fill your tires to the proper pounds per square inch (PSI) listed in your owner’s manual or on a decal on the bottom of your door frame (driver’s side). Don’t forget to check your spare tire, in addition to all four tires. One final warning: don’t wait for your TPMS warning light on your dashboard to come on to check your tire pressure. By, then it may be too late because many TPMS lights don’t appear until your car is 20% under standard air pressure.
Tires can actually lose or gain pressure with the seasons. Check your tire pressure seasonally, or ask your mechanic to check your tire pressure at every oil change appointment.
Rotate your tires.
Tires need to be rotated to maintain even wear on each tire, which extends the life of your tires. This is especially true for front wheel drive vehicles which use the front tires primarily for traction. There is no hard-and-fast rule for when your car needs a tire rotation, but a good general guideline to use is every 5-8,000 miles (sometimes less for the warranty-ask your mechanic or tire salesman). Usually that number coincides with an oil change appointment depending on how many miles you drive.
Remember too, that the way you rotate your car may vary from the traditional front to back and cross in the front. Asymmetric and uni-directional tires, or vehicles with different size tires on the front and back, may need a different tire rotation. Check your owner’s manual or talk to your mechanic to find out when, and how, your tires need to be rotated.
Check for uneven tire wear—and car alignment.
Uneven tire wear can occur on a car out of alignment, so a tire rotation is also a good chance to check the wear patterns on your car for signs your car needs an alignment. You can also tell in another way: when you drive.
An unbalanced car typically has a vibration or shake that becomes progressively worse as the car’s speed increases. The speed at which the vibration first becomes apparent varies depending on the size and weight of the tires and wheels, the size and weight of the car, the sensitivity of the steering and suspension, and the amount of imbalance. The vibration or shake usually starts in at 35 to 45 mph and increases in intensity as your speed increases. A car out of alignment can wear down your tires prematurely, as well as your car’s suspension parts.
Be aware of worn car suspension parts.
Worn car suspension parts can wear your tires unevenly and prematurely. Watch for signs of worn suspension parts, such as if your car leans abruptly forward when you brake, oil on your shock, sudden pulling to the right or left, or a lot of bouncing when driving. Include your vigilant driving with regular tire maintenance and checks and you’ve done everything you can to make sure your tires are a long-term investment—and not a short-term mistake.