How to Extend the Life of Your Tires

by Jason Spratt

Tires Are The Most Neglected Part of Your Car

Tires are the most neglected part of your car. You probably don’t think about them much, unless they go flat, make noise, or look ugly. But they’re the only thing that connects your car to the road, and they affect everything from your fuel economy to your handling to your safety. You owe it to yourself and your car to take care of your tires, and it’s not that hard. Here are some tips on how to keep your tires in good shape, so you can enjoy your drive and save some money.


Air Pressure: It Matters More Than You Think

The first and easiest thing you can do for your tires is to check their air pressure regularly. And by regularly, I mean at least once a month and before any long trips, not just when the low tire pressure warning light comes on. Under-inflated tires are bad for many reasons: they wear out faster, use more gas, and can cause a blowout. Over-inflated tires are no better: they ride rougher, handle worse, and are more prone to damage from potholes and debris. So how do you know what the right pressure is? It’s not the number on the tire’s sidewall, that’s the maximum pressure. The correct pressure is usually on a sticker inside the driver’s door or in your owner’s manual. Use a gauge to measure it, not your eyeballs or your thumb.


Rotation: Share the Love

Your tires are like your friends: you should treat them all equally, but some get more attention than others. That’s why you need to rotate them every 5,000 to 7,500 miles, or as often as your manufacturer recommends. This means swapping the front and rear tires, and sometimes the left and right ones too, depending on the type of tires and the drivetrain of your car. This way, you make sure all your tires wear evenly and last longer. This is especially important if you have an all-wheel-drive car because if your tires have different tread depths, you can screw up your drivetrain and end up with a big repair bill.


Driving Habits: Be Nice to Your Tires

How you drive affects your tires more than you think. If you’re always stomping on the gas, slamming on the brakes, and taking corners like you’re in a rally race, you’re not only risking your life and others but also wearing out your tires faster. Try to be smooth and gentle with your inputs, and coast to a stop whenever you can. It’s safer, more efficient, and better for your tires.


Load Lightly: Don’t Overdo It

Your car has a limit on how much weight it can carry, and so do your tires. Overloading your car puts extra stress on your tires, which can cause them to overheat and wear out faster. It can also affect your handling, braking, and stability. So don’t stuff your car like a turkey, and check your tire’s sidewall or your owner’s manual for the maximum load rating. And don’t forget to adjust your tire pressure accordingly if you’re carrying a heavy load or towing a trailer.


The Path Less Bumpy: Watch Where You’re Going

You can’t always avoid the hazards on the road, but you can try to minimize the damage they cause to your tires. Potholes, curbs, nails, glass, and other debris can puncture, cut, or bruise your tires, or even knock your wheels out of alignment. If you see something in your way, try to steer around it or slow down before you hit it. And if you do hit something, check your tires for any signs of damage as soon as possible.


Alignment and Balance: Keep It Straight and Smooth

If your wheels are not aligned properly, your tires will wear unevenly and your car will pull to one side or vibrate. This can happen if you hit a pothole, a curb, or something else that jolts your suspension. To prevent this, you should have your wheels aligned by a professional when you get new tires, and then check them periodically or whenever you notice a problem. You should also have your tires balanced, which means making sure they spin evenly and don’t wobble. This should be done when you get new tires, and then every 10,000 miles or so, or whenever you feel a vibration.


The Professional Touch: Get a Second Opinion

Even if you follow all these tips, you still need to have your tires inspected by a professional at least once a year, or more often if you drive a lot or in harsh conditions. They can spot issues that you might miss, such as cracks, bulges, or uneven wear. They can also measure your tread depth, which tells you how much life your tires have left. A quick way to check this yourself is the penny test: stick a penny into your tire’s tread groove with Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you. If you can see all of his head, your tread is less than 2/32 inch and you need new tires.


Invest In Quality: Don’t Be Cheap

When it’s time to replace your tires, don’t be cheap. Buying quality tires is not only a smart investment for your safety and performance but also your wallet in the long run. Cheap tires might save you some money upfront, but they’ll cost you more in gas, repairs, and replacements. Do your research and choose tires that are known for their durability and longevity, and that suit your driving style and conditions.

Tires are the most neglected part of your car that you should care about, but you don’t. They affect everything from your fuel economy to your handling to your safety. By following these tips, you can extend the life of your tires and keep your car running smoothly and safely. Keep them properly inflated, rotate regularly, mind your driving habits, and give them the care they deserve. Your tires will thank you, and so will your bank account.

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