Car and truck tires may not be one of the most flashy car parts, but they play an important role in safety on the road. Your tires are the only part of the car that is in constant contact with the road, and one of the most vital safety components when road conditions are hazardous.
Like other car parts, tires need regular maintenance to keep them performing well when the road is icy and wet. Tire maintenance can also extend the life of the tires and save funds by maintaining peak gas mileage.
Why: Maintaining optimal tire pressure plays a role in gas mileage and tire life. An underinflated or overinflated tire can accelerate the tread wear of your tires. With an overinflated tire, less of the tread is touching the road wearing parts of your tire tread more quickly. An underinflated tire does the opposite: more of the tire is wearing down faster. A tire not wearing properly leaves you vulnerable to blown tires and more frequent tire replacement.
How: Look on the door frame or in the owner manual to determine the optimal pounds per square inch of each tire (psi). Purchase a tire pressure gauge. Remove the cap from the tire stem, and insert the tire pressure gauge into the tire stem. You should not hear any air escaping during this time. The tire pressure gauge should either electronically or manually give you the psi of the tire.
How often: Tire pressure should be checked at least once a month, and more often when the temperature drastically changes or if the tire is consistently low on air (if the tire is often low, schedule an appointment with a mechanic to see if the tire can be fixed). Do not rely on simply looking at tires or on the Tire Pressure Monitoring Sensor warning light on the dash. Sometimes TPMS sensors do not light up until the tires can be 20% under optimal tire pressure. You can also ask your mechanic to check tire pressure when you schedule an oil change.
Why: Driving tires with low tread (bald tires) is a safety hazard. As the tire tread wears down and have minimal tread, tires cannot channel water correctly. Tires with low pressure can also blow prematurely.
How: Do the penny test. Take a penny and place it into the tread of the tire, then check to see how much of Abraham Lincoln’s head you can see above the tread. If you can completely see Lincoln’s head, you need new a new set of tires. Place the penny in several places around the tire. Tires can wear unevenly, leaving you with low tread and an unsafe tire. If you notice extremely uneven wear, schedule an appointment with your mechanic. Uneven tire wear can be a sign of a problem, such as a worn suspension part, alignment issue, or improper tire pressure.
How often: Tire tread should be checked as early as 15,000-20,000 miles after purchase. In addition to the penny test, the tire tread bars are going to start to show.
Why: Tires can wear unevenly if left in the same position, leading to premature wearing and replacement. Unevenly worn tires can also prematurely wear down suspension parts and cause unsafe driving. During a tire rotation, mounted tires are removed and repositioned from side-to-side or front-to-back.
How: Schedule an appointment to have your tires rotated. The exact tire rotation pattern is dependent upon the tires. Cars with different-sized tires are limited to changing the same size tire with another tire of the same size (whether that’s side to side or back to front). If your tire tread patterns are asymmetrical, tires can only be swapped back-to-front and vice versa.
How often: The general guideline is every 6-8,000 miles or six months if you do not put a lot of miles on your car or truck. If you are getting an oil change every 3,000 miles, schedule a tire rotation with every other oil change.