Category Archives: selecting the right tires

Beginner’s Guide to Tire Shopping

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20141102_094250It’s hard to be a beginner in the midst of the tire aisle trying to determine the right tire for your car, truck or van. There are so many different options and tire features, and all you want are tires that can make your vehicle go down our Wisconsin roads. However, don’t make a beginner’s mistake and believe that all tires are equal or that the cheapest option is the right tire for your vehicle. Instead do your research and use this beginner’s guide for tire shopping:

Select the Right Tire for Driving Condition

What do you need your tires for? A muscle car you only take out in the summer? A minivan that needs to get the kids back and forth to school? A comfortable and a great ride when you want to take a drive?

If you need cars for your muscle car, look for tires with a higher speed rating. For day-to-day use, you do not need tires with a higher speed rating, but you do need tires that can provide a nice, quiet ride and maintains safe tread depth. Do your research, and be honest with yourself—and the experts you consult—about your driving style. If you have to venture out in the worst winter conditions, select a tire with a proven record on winter roads.

Another strategy for tire selection is to stick with what works. If you are happy with the performance of the current tires on your vehicle, replace your old tires with the same tires that you had before.

How to Determine Tire Size

It’s easy to find the size of the tire you need for your vehicle. Tire sizes are found on the tire, in your user manual and often on the inside of the driver-side door. Look for three numbers, such as P255/55R17.

The P indicates that the tire is intended for passenger cars. You may also commonly see the letters LT, which is for a light truck. The first numbers are the width, in millimeters, between the two sidewalls. The second number, in this example 55 is the aspect ratio. The number is a percentage, and the higher the percentage, the larger the sidewall of the tire. The last number, 17 in this case, is the diameter of wheel that the tire fits on.

Question of Snow Tires

All-season tires, the most common tires on our cars, are designed for rain, heat, cold and snow. They give you a good all-around tire for those conditions, but the “take” is that they are not specially equipped for winter. Constructed with a softer compound and tread pattern designed specifically for getting through winter precipitation, snow tires can dig down and find traction on even the roughest roads. If you HAVE to venture out on winter roads because of work or school, snow tires get you there.

Once you’ve gone through these simple criteria, visit a tire shop and ask them what tires work best for you. They can make recommendations based on what they’ve seen work on other Wisconsin customers, and can handle the extreme heat and cold of our Wisconsin weather. A good tire shop can also assist with a full car alignment so your new tires wear evenly and you can get the most miles out of your tires.

When do I need new tires?

michelin_tires_watertown_tire_shopThe extreme cold or our Wisconsin winters, and 90 degree days of our summers are hard on our cars—especially our tires. Since your tires are one of the most important players in you staying on the road, and out of the ditch, a periodic inspection is essential to keeping away those painful flat tires and damage from going into a snowy ditch or sliding through a rainy intersection. So how do you know when it’s time to replace your tires? Just look for these signs of tire replacement (and use these easy tests!):

  • Hardness. Did you know that even if you don’t drive frequently or on long trips, you may still need new tires? Tires don’t always wear down to replacement; they often harden over time, making them a lot harder to drive in slick weather. Any mechanic can tell you if your tires are hard and ready for replacement.
  • Doesn’t hold air. If you have to add air to your tires regularly, or your tire sporadically goes flat, an alarm should be going off in your head. Adding air to your tires is not normal, and eventually you’re going to be stranded somewhere with a flat tire.
  • Very little tire tread left. Not sure if you have enough tread? Use the old coin trick. Put a penny into the tread of your tire. If you can completely see Abraham Lincoln’s head, you need new tires. Make sure you try this trick in a few different places on the tire. Tires can wear differently, leaving some tires with uneven tread depth.
  • Excessive cracking or blistering. If you have cracks or blisters on the sidewall of your tire, you need to get your tires checked as soon as possible. Excessive cracking or blisters are tire injuries that can lead to a blow out, leaving you stranded by the side of the road or at home not able to get to work or school.
  • Tread wear indicator bars show. You won’t see tread wear indicator bars when your tire is new. As the tread of your tire starts to wear down, you will notice bars in the bottom of the groove in several locations around your tire. Just as the name implies, tread wear indicator bars are a clear sign you need to get those tires to a repair shop for inspection, and possible replacement.

Still don’t know if you need tires? Schedule an appointment with a Tire-rifik technician in Watertown. They can check your tires over for signs of tire replacement, and can make recommendations for new, affordable tires if you need them. Don’t delay, get your car checked today so you can stay on the road and out of the ditch during one of our freezing cold Wisconsin days or on one of our steamy summer days.

5 Parts of Your Car to Have Inspected Before Driving to Grandma’s

winterize_watertownThe holidays are here, and you’re headed to Grandma’s for a mouth-watering holiday dinner. You packed your emergency winter kit, a snow shovel, and a bag of salt for traction. You even invested in snow tires. You feel like you can handle any winter driving emergency. But is your car ready for the long trip?

Even if you keep your car in tip-top shape, chances are your car needs a bit of “tuning” by an auto mechanic to make sure it’s ready to traverse our Midwestern snowy roads. This short check-up is affordable, and ensures that the major systems of your car are ready for winter driving:

  1. Brakes. Winter driving involves extensive stopping, and you don’t want your brakes to go out when you need them the most. Have your brakes inspected to make sure you have enough pad thickness for confident stopping, and your brakes are engaging evenly.
  2. Tires. If you’ve decided snow tires are right for you, contact a mechanic about mounting the new tires. If you’re keeping your existing all-season tires on the car, have a mechanic check the tread wear indicators (one of the signs you need new tires), or check them yourself. When you put a penny in the tread of your tires, you shouldn’t be able to see all of Lincoln’s head. If you can, it’s time for new tires that can battle through the snow.
  3. Battery (and battery connections). Don’t know why winter is so hard on batteries? Read our recent blog post, and have your battery tested by a mechanic. An experienced mechanic can also inspect your battery connections and clean off any corrosion or rust.
  4. Headlights. You need to be able to see the road, right? Headlights are inexpensive and essential for every Wisconsin driver.
  5. Windshield wipers. Don’t make Grandma worry about you because you went into the ditch due to poor visibility. Windshield wipers make a big difference when you need to clean off all the snow piling up on your windshield.

As long as you have your car in the shop, have your mechanic also check your fluid levels and radiator fluid. You’ll need a full tank of windshield washer so you can have a clean windshield on your trip. And with the freezing temperatures, you don’t want a radiator full of water to freeze and causes an expensive repair.

Don’t procrastinate about getting your car into the shop for a winter tune up. Make an appointment as soon as possible. Wisconsin auto repair shops are busy this time of year, preparing cars for upcoming holiday travel and winter driving. Your car appreciates the check-up, and your family will appreciate not worrying about whether your car can make the holiday drive.

How to Select the Right Tires for your Car (Simplified!)

michelin_tires_watertown_tire_shopOverwhelming. At least it feels like it when faced with all the different kinds of tires available for your car. Don’t panic. Selecting the right tires for your car is easier than you think. Just start with a few questions and research to find the tire that is a good fit, and a good value. You don’t have to blow your budget to get the right tires for your car, but you do have to know the answers to a few simple questions:

What do I want from my tires?

What do you need your tires for? A muscle car you only take out in the summer? A minivan that needs to get the kids back and forth to school? A comfortable and a great ride when you want to take a drive?

If you need cars for your muscle car, look for tires with a higher speed rating. For day-to-day use, you do not need tires with a higher speed rating, but you do need tires that can provide a nice, quiet ride and maintains safe tread depth. Do your research, and be honest with yourself—and the experts you consult—about your driving style. If you have to venture out in the worst winter conditions, select a tire with a proven record on winter roads.

Another strategy for tire selection is to stick with what works. If you are happy with the performance of the current tires on your car, replace your old tires with the same tires that you had before.

What size do I need?

It’s easy to find the size of the tire you need. Tire sizes are found on the tire, in your user manual and often on the inside of the driver-side door. Look for three numbers, such as P255/55R17.

The P indicates that the tire is intended for passenger cars. You may also commonly see the letters LT, which is for a light truck. The first numbers are the width, in millimeters, between the two sidewalls. The second number, in this example 55 is the aspect ratio.  The number is a percentage, and the higher the percentage, the larger the sidewall of the tire. The last number, 17 in this case, is the diameter of wheel that the tire fits on.

Do I need snow tires?

All-season tires, the most common tires on our cars, are designed for rain, heat, cold and snow. They give you a good all-around tire for those conditions, but the “take” is that they are not specially equipped for winter. Constructed with a softer compound and tread pattern designed specifically for getting through winter precipitation, snow tires can dig down and find traction on even the roughest roads. If you HAVE to venture out on winter roads because of work or school, snow tires get you there.

Ask your friends what has worked for them and read through online reviews for outside opinions. Remember to screen the reviews and look for others who drive in similar conditions. You’re not going to have the same experience as a driver in Florida—the driving conditions and weather is different in the Midwest. Also take into account their driving style. Some drivers are harder on tires than others, and their tires reflect that difference in wear.

When you’ve made your decision, or if you are trying to decide between just a few options, visit a local tire shop and ask what they’ve seen on cars that have come in. They can tell you what tires would be ideal for our Wisconsin weather and maintains adequate tread depth, giving you the maximum value for your investment, as well as traction and a good ride no matter what the weather and road throws at you.