An often-overlooked part of car maintenance, the tires, like the rest of a vehicle, need appropriate care to be safe, last longer, and perform as expected. Being in direct contact with the road, tires contribute to many aspects of vehicle performance and safety, such as vehicle handling, fuel efficiency, braking, and overall control of the vehicle. Fortunately, good tire maintenance is simple and effective, and with our tire maintenance tips you’ll be road-ready in no time.
To ensure tires wear at approximately the same speed, it is important to get your tires rotated according to the schedule in your owner’s manual. This is typically every 5,000–7,000 miles. During a tire rotation your tire professional should inspect your tires’ condition for any issues and inform you of any necessary corrections.
Once monthly and before any long trips, you should check each of your tire’s air pressure using an accurate tire pressure gauge. You can find your vehicle’s recommended inflation in the owner’s manual or on an information sticker on the driver’s side door jamb, or for older cars in the glove box or gas tank cover. Tire pressure recommendations are provided for a vehicle with ambient or “cold” tires, so it’s important to check the air pressure before the vehicle has been driven, or else the tire pressure could be inaccurate. If the tire pressure is too low or high, add or release air as needed.
In order to grip the road safely your tires need tread. Look at your tires to see if there are any obvious signs of tread issues, such as tread wear, raised portions (bulging) of the tread or sidewall, under or over inflation, cracking, or tire balding. If no visible issues are present, you can check depth using the “quarter test.” Start by taking a quarter and placing it upside down into your tire’s tread groove (area with the lowest tread.) Take measurements across the tire’s tread on the outer edge, center, and inside edge. If you can see above the top of Washington’s head, you have less than 4/32” of tread and you should start looking for new tires. If you don’t have a quarter, you can also substitute a penny for this test, the only difference being that if you can see above the top of Lincoln’s head on the penny your tire has less than 2/32” of tread (below the legal minimum) and you definitely need a new tire.
Approximately every 15,000 miles you should have a trained technician balance your wheels. This adjusts any weight imbalances and can help your ride feel smoother and reduce unnecessary wear and tear on your tires, struts, and shocks.
Once a year or every 12,000–15,000 miles it is important to get your tire alignment checked by a professional. This adjusts a vehicle’s suspension and steering systems and can affect tire wear, fuel economy, and vehicle handling and safety. If you feel your car pulling or drifting left or right when driving straight, your steering wheel vibrates or is off-centered, or you notice uneven tire wear during your regular inspections, these could be signs you need to get an alignment, so take your vehicle to a professional shop to get checked.
Avoiding tire damage can sometimes be as simple as just driving carefully. When on the road try to avoid hitting sharp objects and debris, potholes, or curbs. Hitting these objects can not only damage your tires but throw your car out of alignment or damage other parts of your vehicle, so use caution!
No matter how hard you try to avoid it, sometimes tire damage just happens. When it does, it is important to have a spare with you so you don’t get stranded with a flat. Once monthly, just as often as you check your regular tires, you should check your spare for proper tire pressure, visible issues, damage, or age-related deterioration. If any issues are present you should get your spare replaced or repaired ASAP so you have it in case of emergency.
Proper tire inspections and maintenance done regularly and before long trips can help prevent tire damage, but it’s not always avoidable. If you do damage your tires, make sure to take them to a professional and have them repaired or replaced as needed. This will save you problems down the road and keep you from having to travel on your spare for longer than necessary.
With these tire-tips you should have smooth sailing on the road ahead. But of course, if you suspect any vehicle issues or have questions, make sure to go to a professional automotive shop for assistance. Safe travels!