Tire Talk: What To Know About Tires

What You Need To Know About Tires

By Craig Olson

Service Manager, Tempe

Properly maintaining your vehicle’s tires is key to extending the lifespan of the tire, as well as your own safety. Whether you’re a new driver or an old pro, here are the things you need to know about tire inspection, maintenance intervals, and the tire maintenance light.

Let’s start with the tire maintenance light. Most modern cars have built in sensors for the tire pressure and monitoring system (TPMS). When the TPMS light comes on, it signals that there is a pressure problem in one of your tires. While it might be tempting to ignore it, DON’T. Driving with low tire pressure is dangerous, plus you risk damaging the tire or causing uneven tread wear. In order to get the TPMS light to go out, you’ll have to stop, check the tire pressure and add air.

Tire Inspection Tips
Regular tire pressure checks – Did you know that tire pressure affects the wear of the tire as well as your gas mileage? Overinflation of tires produces a bouncy, bumpier ride and poor-handling. Driving on underinflated tires can cause premature wear from the increased surface friction. Make a habit of checking your tires once per month, before any long road trip, and each time you get an oil change, or you can stop by Auto House for a free tire inspection and pressure check any time.

Pro Tire InspectionTip: Warm air expands, cool air contracts. For the most accurate PSI readings, check tire pressure levels and inflate tires in the morning when it’s cool. Don’t forget to check the pressure on your spare tire, too!

Know your recommended PSI– Tire pressure is measured in pounds per square inch, or PSI. Each vehicle has a recommended tire pressure that will produce the best gas mileage, road handling and tire life. Most passenger cars and trucks will have a recommended PSI somewhere between 32 and 35 PSI. The recommended PSI for your vehicle can be found inside the door of your car or inside your Owner’s Manual. 

How to check your tire pressure (Since we’re a family kind of business, we love Dad, How Do I?)

Regular tire tread checks – Tread wear is one of the biggest indicators of your tire’s overall condition. There are three main ways to check tire tread that are far more effective than just glancing at them occasionally. 

  1. Tread Depth Gauge – Not everyone has one lying around, but this is the most accurate way to measure the depth of the remaining tread.
  2. Tread Wear IndicatorsTread wear indicator bars are small, raised bars in the grooves of your tires between the tread markings. These bars are placed around different points of the tire to measure how evenly the tread is being worn down. If the tread has worn down to the indicator bar level, it’s time to get new tires. 
  3. Ask Honest Abe – Not the most accurate way to measure, but definitely the most fun! Insert a penny between the tire treads with Abe’s head facing down. If most of his head is covered, you can rest easy, you still have some wear left in the tires. If you can see most or all of Abe’s head, it’s honestly time to head to the tire store to get some new tires. (Or you can come over to Auto House, because we can get any brand or type of tire you want.)

Regular tire rotation – Rotating vehicle tires every 3,000-5,000 miles is another important way to improve the lifespan of your tires. In a tire rotation, each tire is moved to a new position on the vehicle (ie, driver’s side front to passenger side rear) to promote more even tread wear. While there are a number of different rotation patterns, the most important thing is to just do it. (In case you’re wondering no, rotating your tires won’t affect your vehicle alignment.)

Watch for surface and sidewall cracks, pits, tears and cuts: The intense desert heat can dry out your tires, making them more likely to fail prematurely. While the tread might look fine, there may be small cracks or separations where bubbles can form, which can cause the tire to pop suddenly, which is dangerous on or off the road. So if you haven’t checked your tires lately, we recommend having them evaluated by a tire professional. (We just happen to know a few.)

What to Look For When Buying Tires
Each vehicle comes with it’s preferred brand and type of tire. And of course, you wouldn’t put the same type of tires on a sports car as you would on an SUV. But just because it looks great and feels great does not mean it’s the only option to buy tires that work well.

The first thing to consider is the type of driving you do. If you’re mainly driving short distances around town, you’ll want tires that have a longer lifespan. If you’re driving more frequently and longer distances, you’ll want tires with more stability. 

When it comes to tire brands, it is really all about preference. The most expensive tire might not be the best choice for you, and the cheapest tire will always be the cheapest option and it may end up costing you more in the long run..The middle-tier tires are usually the best choice for consistency and longevity. 

Most tires will have some form of manufacturer warranty, and new cars will include a separate tire warranty covering defects. Tire warranties are usually around 5 years and 60,000 miles, but will vary by the tire manufacturer. You can also opt to pay extra for a tire replacement warranty that covers road hazards, but that decision is up to you. .

One last thing to remember about tires: their age. Some people don’t drive a lot, and so the car’s tires don’t get a lot of wear and tear. While the car may be old and still have low mileage, that doesn’t mean the tires are fine. Manufacturers recommend tires be removed from service ten years after their manufacture date—which is listed on the tire. The DOT code is printed on the sidewall of the tire. The code can tell you all sorts of things, but in this case, the last four digits of the DOT code are the most important. The first two numbers in the series indicate the week of the year and the last two indicate the year of manufacture. 

Finally, remember that Arizona’s dry heat can wreak havoc on more than just car batteries and wiper blades. Our hot and dry weather can impact the wear of the tire just like the elastic waistband on last year’s summer shorts. If you haven’t checked your tires lately, it’s time.

Schedule tire inspection and maintenance with Auto House today!

Want to really get into the nitty gritty details of your tire treads and how they are wearing? Michelin has a great tire inspection tool here.

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