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4 Things You Should Do to Maintain Your Tires

Tread Depth - Audi Mission Viejo

Image via Flickr by Rich Moffitt

Tire maintenance is at the center of ensuring a vehicle’s full safety capability and total lifespan. Following a simple maintenance routine not only keeps you from too quickly buying new tires, but helps you avoid costly repairs throughout the life of your vehicle. In fact, tires require more frequent attention than any other part of the car. Here are four care recommendations to follow regularly for optimal tire performance.

1. Choose the Right Tread Depth

The right tread depth determines a car’s ability to handle different weather conditions. For snowy or wet roads especially, the proper tread depth is essential. Too often, drivers neglect buying winter tires, but when road conditions prove dangerous, all-season tires simply won’t hold up. With worn down or improper tread depth, it’s easier to hydroplane on wet roads or lose traction in the snow.

For a general tire tread condition check, simply use a penny. Holding it upside-down, insert the penny into a groove. If Lincoln’s entire head stays visible, the tread’s too worn down, and it’s time to invest in new tires.

Along with the traction grade of your tires, the treadwear, or rate of wear of the tire, is found on the actual tire. One hundred is the baseline grade treadwear according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Uniform Tire Quality Grading (UTQG) system. AA is the highest grade for traction, and any grade below a C is not suitable for driving.

Treadwear and traction go hand-in-hand, causing suspension and braking issues. If the tires wear very unevenly, excessively, or quickly, check for a suspension issue or schedule an alignment.

2. Rotate Your Tires

Regular rotation of tires helps maximize treadwear. Plus, your tires will last much longer, saving you money in the long-run. During a rotation, a mechanic removes each tire and wheel to place them in a new position, so that each tire wears evenly.

Some car models offer a monitor that gives rotation guidelines in a live digital format, and most car manuals include a suggested rotation period; however, plan on rotating the recommended time period of every six months or every 6,000 to 8,000 miles. Abnormal vibrations through the chassis or steering also indicate a need for a tire balance check and tire rotation.

3. Check Tire Pressure

Both tire underinflation and overinflation cause a long list of issues, from reduced fuel economy to tire failure that causes blowouts and accidents. Each car owner should own a tire-pressure gauge and monitor their pressure monthly, as most tires lose about a 1psi, or one pound per square inch, in that time span. Weather also affects tire pressure, with warm weather increasing and cold weather decreasing the pressure by about one to two pounds with every ten degree change. Keep in mind, it takes about half of an air pressure depletion for a tire to appear flat.

Measure tire air pressure when the tires are cool, not warm from driving. Find the advised pressure on the inside of the driver’s door frame, glove box door, fuel door, and in the owner’s manual.

4. Tire Alignment and Balance

Alignments help tires wear evenly and at a proper pace, as well. An alignment refers to adjusting a car’s front and rear suspension parts. A car that vibrates or pulls to the left or right suggests a possible suspension issue and warrants an alignment. In addition, a car’s alignment often falls out of balance with any substantial impact from a railroad crossing, pothole, or car accident. Always pay attention to a change in steering or handling and check if the tire tread on the inside shoulder shows signs of more rapid erosion.

Cars equipped with front-wheel drive (FWD) or independent rear-suspension necessitate alignment of all four wheels. Generally, an owner’s manual gives an estimate of how often to align your car for safe driving. When going for an alignment, also check the balance. If you’ve replaced a tire or bought a whole new set, make sure to schedule both a balance and alignment.

With these four check-ups turned into a regular routine, you’ll notice a dramatic change in your car’s handling, fuel efficiency, and maintenance costs. Maintaining your tires guarantees your investment will last longer and keep you secure with each ride.