Category Archives: tire tread wear

When is it time to replace my tires? When do I need new tires for winter?

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snow tiresWisconsinites, prepare yourselves now. Soon the temperatures are going to drop, and that inevitable white stuff is going to cover the ground—and the roads. We all know what that means: slippery roads, slow driving, less traction. Basically, all the components of winter driving. Are you ready? More importantly, is your car ready? And your tires?

We all know our tires are the most important part of winter driving, since they are the sole contact point between your car and the road. They are your sole source of traction when the winter weather gets dicey, or one of our unpredictable winter snow storms pop up. Obviously, you don’t want to find out you need new tires when you’re in the middle of a blizzard, but you don’t want to spend money on new tires if you don’t need them. So how do you know when you need new tires? What are some signs that those tires need to be replaced?

  • 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 winter 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.

If you can’t tell if your tires need to be replaced, or you’re looking for new tires, contact Tire-rifik or schedule an appointment. One of our experienced mechanics can tell you if your tires are good enough to make it through another year of winter driving, or if a new set of tires are needed for our wintery Wisconsin roads. They can also discuss your tire options for the winter; for some drivers, a good set of snow tires make sense (find out if snow tires are right for you in our blog post). Make sure you don’t procrastinate; our Wisconsin winter will be here before you know it.

All Your Tire Rotation Questions Answered

rotating your tiresWhat is tire rotation? Tire rotation is when your mounted tires are moved either side-to-side or front-to-back. The exact 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 should I rotate my tires?

The exact number of miles depends on your owner’s manual, but a good general guideline to use is every 5-8,000 miles. Usually that number coincides with an oil change appointment depending on how many miles you drive annually.

Why should I rotate my tires?

Tires are one of the most important parts of your car. That’s why regular tire rotation is an essential car maintenance task that shouldn’t be ignored. Tires need to be rotated to maintain even wear on each tire, which extends the life of your tires (saving you money!). This is especially true for front wheel drive vehicles which use the front tires primarily for traction. Another benefit of tire rotation: the peace of mind knowing that your tires aren’t bald in the front which minimizes the risk of losing traction while driving.

Uneven tire wear can also be caused by a car out of alignment, so a tire rotation is also a good chance to check the wear patterns for signs your car needs an alignment. You can find out more about why your tires need an alignment in our recent blog post. A tire rotation also gives your mechanic the opportunity to check your brakes to see if they are in dire need of replacement and to check and correct low tire pressure. Tires with low air pressure can compromise your gas mileage and also wear down your tires prematurely.

Where can I get my tires rotated?

Schedule an appointment at Tire-rifik in Watertown. They can rotate your tires, perform an oil change if needed, and check your tire pressure and brakes.

Summer Car Care Checklist

summer car care tire tips
Are your tires ready for our Wisconsin summer?

Wisconsin summers are hot and humid. What does that have to do with your car? Our Midwestern summers are tough on them, making summer car maintenance even more important to keep your car on the road—and not on the side or in the ditch. If you want to avoid being stranded on one of our summer sauna days, use this simple and easy summer car care checklist to keep your vehicle on the road and running in peak condition:

  1. Check your fluids. Extreme summer heat means your engine needs optimal fluid amounts and lubrication performance to cool and protect your engine’s moving parts. Have your oil, coolant, transmission fluid, brake fluid and power steering fluid checked and flushed (if due) to make sure your engine can withstand the heat and humidity of our Wisconsin summers.
  2. Inflate your tires. At the very least, have your tire pressure checked to make sure your tires are not under or overinflated. Tires with incorrect tire pressure levels compromise gas mileage and accelerate tire tread wear. To make sure your tires are performing at the very best for the summer, use this simple test to make sure you have adequate tread wear to last the summer.
  3. Test your battery. Contrary to popular belief, summer—not winter—is the hardest time of year for batteries. Hot weather is a battery’s worst enemy, so make sure to have your battery tested and look for signs that your battery is dying.
  4. Replace your windshield wipers (if needed). Make sure you can see through those inevitable Wisconsin storms and downpours with new windshield wipers. Ask your mechanic to also check your headlights and tail lights to make sure you have strong lights to get you through our summer Wisconsin rain storms.
  5. Make sure you have brakes when you need them. Brakes are one of the key parts of your vehicle that you need all year round. Have a mechanic inspect your brakes to make sure your rotors can make it through the summer.
  6. Stay cool with a car air conditioner check. If you’re worried that your car’s air conditioner is giving out, don’t panic. Blowing warm air does not mean that your system can’t be fixed or needs a major, expensive repair. Schedule an appointment to have a trusted mechanic diagnose the problem, recommend possible repairs and give you a quote.

Unfortunately, even after double-checking everything on the summer car care checklist, part failure and car breakdowns do happen. Keep your local tow truck phone number in your cell phone, and in your emergency car kit. When it comes to your car, an ounce of prevention, and summer car maintenance, can keep you on the road no matter how high the temperature climbs.

Beginner’s Guide to Tire Shopping

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.

Why does my car need an alignment?

alignment keep cars going straight down the road
If your car is pulling to the side of the road, it’s time for an alignment.

Ever been to a chiropractor because your back is “out of wack”? Or have an injury because your body is misaligned? Just as your muscles, bones and joins can have issues from daily walking, sitting, running and jumping, your car is also prone to more severe problems from daily wear and tear of driving.

It’s not that surprising, is it? Our Wisconsin winters wreak havoc on our roads, which in turn beats up on cars—from shifting pavement, potholes and ice that causes our car to slide and bump. The result: your tires and suspension are out of alignment (just like your body), which can cause other problems:

  • Uneven tire tread wear.
  • Car that pulls to the right or left.
  • Steering wheel that is not centered when driving straight.
  • Steering wheel vibration.

While you can drive with these issues (not always safely!), a car with alignment issues costs more in the long run. A car without regular alignments needs tires more often (because tires wear faster) and needs more suspension part repair and replacement. More importantly, driving in a misaligned car can cause accidents especially during our icy, treacherous winter roads in Wisconsin.

Every model of car needs a different, precise alignment so this is not something that can commonly be done at home. Just like you wouldn’t trust your body to an amateur to adjust your alignment, you shouldn’t trust your car alignment to just anyone. Take your car to Tire-rifik, where a certified alignment technician can perform a full car alignment:

  • Inspect your steering and suspension system.
  • Check your tire condition and air pressure.
  • Adjust your camber, caster and toe angles, if adjustable, to the manufacturer’s specifications. (Additional parts and labor may be necessary on some vehicles – see your customer service advisor for details)
  • Road test your vehicle to insure your alignment is a straight forward alignment.

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.

Talk to your mechanic about how often your car needs an alignment, and keep it on a regular schedule. Often, you can have your car alignment checked as part of your spring car maintenance or car work before winter. The amount of time between car alignments is dependent upon the amount of miles you put on your car, as a car alignment is recommended every 6,000 miles.

When is it time to remove my snow tires?

michelin_tires_watertown_tire_shop“When is it time to remove my snow tires?” sounds like a question with a pretty clear answer, right? Unfortunately the answer is not always so clear with our unpredictable Wisconsin winters (remember that snow storm that hit in May years ago?). While the call to remove your snow tires is a judgment call based on our unpredictable Wisconsin winter, there are two general guidelines to remember when making your decision:

  • Wait until the threat of snow has passed. Yes, this is Wisconsin after all. We are aware that the threat of snow has not passed until June. When the temperatures start hitting the 40’s or 50’s on a regular basis, it’s time to take those snow tires off—but try not to make the switch too soon. You don’t want to get stuck in a spring snow storm on all-season tires when you bought a set of snow tires for safety and increased traction.
  • Don’t wait too long. The soft rubber compound that makes winter tires a reliable snow tire is the same compound that burns off on hot roads. With this in mind, make sure you remove (or have your mechanic remove) snow tires before the roads dry out and the temperatures heat up. If you leave your snow tires on too long, you won’t be able to use that same set of snow tires next year.

Consider buying a second set of rims for your snow tires to ease snow tire removal and remounting. One set of rims would be for your all-season tires, and the second set would hold your snow tires. This philosophy has two advantages:

  • You don’t have to go through the hassle of breaking the bead, removing and remounting tires during the fall and spring.
  • While the cost of a second set of rims can be costly, it can save the cost of a tire because you don’t have to worry about damaging your snow tire or all-season tire during the removal and mounting process.

If you have any questions about snow tires and removal, contact our trusted mechanics at Tire-rifik in Watertown. They can answer questions about snow tires, purchasing the right set of snow tires or a second set of rims for your snow tires or all-season tires—any questions you might have about tires and our unpredictable Wisconsin winters.

Regular Car Maintenance You Shouldn’t Ignore

engineIt’s easy to ignore regular car maintenance. When life gets busy, and schedules get hectic, finding the time for regular car maintenance gets tricky. When it seems like you don’t have time, factor in the inconvenience later when your car breaks down because you didn’t take the time for regular car maintenance. Regular car maintenance is essential to staying on the road, and staying out of the ditch. Regular car maintenance like:

  1. Oil changes. An engine without regular oil changes is an engine that costs their owner thousands of dollars over the life of the car. The cost of regular oil changes and time spent saves car owners money and inconvenience when your car breaks down. Ask your car mechanic how often you need an oil change, as the amount of miles can vary depending on the type of oil.
  2. Get your tires checked and rotated. Regular rotation of your tires ensures that tires wear evenly, and can even prevent surprise flat tires. An inspection of your tires can also find holes that allow air to leak slowly.
  3. Brake inspections. It’s normal for brakes to make occasional squeaking sounds when they get wet. If the squeak doesn’t go away, or if the noise is a grinding noise, your vehicle needs attention. If you don’t get your brakes looked it, and possibly replaced, brake failure is inevitable—leaving you in the midst of an accident you caused or in a ditch waiting for a tow truck.
  4. Replace your spark plugs. True story: a friend of ours delayed having the spark plugs replaced on her truck, leading to a $1,000 bill to replace the catalytic converter. The catalytic converter had plugged up because of faulty spark plugs. The moral of the story is to ask your mechanic when it’s time to replace those spark plugs, and follow through with the repair sooner than $1,000 later (or worse).
  5. Ditching that disgusting air filter. We won’t tell you how disgusting your air filter can get, but we can tell you that part of your regular car maintenance should include replacing or cleaning that gross air filter. A dirty air filter can choke your engine of air, causing performance issues and damage over the life of your car.

Don’t forget to regularly replace your windshield wipers and headlights—two parts of your car vital for proper vision when driving. The good news is that you don’t need to shoulder the task of regular car maintenance alone. Take your car to your trusted car mechanic or shop so they can keep records of your car’s regular car maintenance, and make recommendations based on those records. At the end of the day, don’t take the task of regular car maintenance lightly—so you don’t end up with heavy costs and inconvenient car repairs later.

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.

Must-Haves for your Car Emergency Kit

winterize_watertownNot planning on breaking down or getting stuck during our Wisconsin winter? No one does, but it’s best to prepared for when (not if, but when) you are stranded with a broken down car. Start by purchasing a plastic container or box to store these items in:

  • Roadside assistance card or tow truck phone number. Don’t be left scrambling trying to find the number at the last minute. Program these numbers into your cell phone, and carry your card in your purse or wallet. Add a copy of your card to your emergency kit.
  • Flashlight. Make sure you test the flashlight from time to time, and that the batteries are still strong. You never know when you need a flashlight, and you don’t want to be left in the dark.
  • Blanket. Pack a warm, thick blanket that can keep you and your family warm when you are stranded.
  • Jack and lug wrench. Most cars come with a jack and lug wrench for changing a tire, but some of the smaller, more compact car models do not. Make sure you have everything you need when you have a flat tire.
  • Jumper cables. Wisconsin winters seem to bring out the worst in car batteries (find out why in our recent post). Carry a set of jumper cables all year long, as summer is actually the worst time of year for weak car batteries.
  • Boots. Ever tried to shovel out your car with soaking wet shoes on? Not pleasant. Pack an old, waterproof pair of boots that you can use in case you get stuck.
  • Snow shovel. Be prepared for the inevitable snow that comes with our Wisconsin winter, and the winter driving that comes with it. A foldable or small shovel is handy for digging your car out of a full day of snow, or cleaning out around when your tires when you go off the road.
  • First aid kit. Wisconsin winters are slippery, and sometimes—any time of the year—people get sick. Always carry a small first aid kit with you for those just-in-case times, and make sure a pair of plastic gloves is included so you don’t come in contact with other people’s body fluids.
  • Rags and hand sanitizer. Working on your car can be dirty, so carry a few clean rags and small bottle of hand sanitizer so you can clean your hands when done.

Make sure you know how to use jumper cables (for step-by-step instructions click here) and change a tire. Next, schedule an appointment so experienced auto mechanics can make sure your car is ready for winter driving or that long trip to Grandma’s. Test your tires to see if they can make it another season, and you’re ready to hit the road safely and prepared.

Give the gift that keeps giving…tires?

michelin_tires_watertown_tire_shopYou may have never considered a set of tires as a Christmas present, but maybe you should. A set of tires can make anyone’s eyes light up, and for very good reason:

  • Tires can keep your son, daughter, cousin, friend, niece or nephew on the road. With our Wisconsin winters, a set of all-season or snow tires can improve traction when traveling through the snow. By giving tires, you’re not only keeping your gift recipient on the road, you are also giving yourself the peace of mind knowing they are safer.
  • The gift of tires is the gift that your gift recipient can use all year long. If you buy all-season tires, your gift recipient can keep driving through the Wisconsin snowy winters and summer thunderstorms. If you buy snow tires, your gift recipient can remove their existing all-season tires and have them remounted in the summer. This simple act saves them money by lengthening the life of their tires.
  • A driver with old tires is a driver at risk. Don’t know how to tell if you need tires? Read our recent blog post for an easy way to tell. Tires without adequate tread lose traction and can even hydroplane on wet roads putting your gift recipient at danger during our wet Wisconsin weather.
  • For a gift recipient on a budget, new tires are a huge help. We all know a college student or single parent who is counting their pennies. New tires are not always in the budget, but necessary for anyone who needs to get back and forth to work or school. Tires are a practical gift that gives you, and them, peace of mind about their driving and budget.
  • Tires are perfect for car owners who regard their cars as their babies. Know someone with a muscle car or project car? Give them tires for one of their most highly prized possession so they can take their baby out for a spin, and enjoy time together on the road.

Whether you are giving the gift as a practical necessity, or fun accessory for their project car, contact or stop in at Tire-Rifik. We can help you find the proper size tire that makes you, and your gift recipient happy. Now your only challenge is finding wrapping paper and a bow large enough to cover your set of tires.