How Regular Tire Maintenance Can Save You Money in the Long Run

August 1, 2023
By Brian Alba
7 min read
How Regular Tire Maintenance Can Save You Money in the Long Run

Tire maintenance is a critical aspect of vehicle ownership that often gets overlooked. However, it's not just about safety—proper tire care can also significantly extend the lifespan of your tires, leading to substantial cost savings over time.

This article delves into the key strategies for maintaining your tires, from regular inspections and correct inflation to tire rotation and choosing the suitable types for your vehicle.

Decoding Your Tires: A Comprehensive Insight

Tires come with numbers and indicators on the sidewall that offer critical information about the tire's size and type. For instance, 'P' stands for passenger vehicle tire, while "LT" means light truck tire.

1. Reading Tire Size

The initial three-digit number in tire size, such as 215 in P215/65 R15, indicates the tire width in millimeters. After the width, a slash and a two-digit number follow, denoting the aspect ratio or the tire height as a percentage of its width.

2. Aspect Ratio

Tire manufacturers calculate a tire's aspect ratio by dividing the tire's sidewall height by width. If the aspect ratio of a tire is given as 70, this signifies that the height of the tire is 70% as tall as its width.

3. Tire Types and Sizes

Tires usually come in various widths (in inches): 8, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, 22, 23, 24, 26, and 28. Tires in these sizes are typically found on different vehicles.

Regular Tire Inspections

Regular tire inspections are an integral part of tire maintenance. Conducting routine checks can help you catch issues early on before they escalate into more significant, potentially dangerous problems. Here's what you need to know about performing regular tire inspections:

1. Frequency of Inspections

Inspecting your tires at least once a month and before long trips are recommended. This includes checking for wear and tear, ensuring proper inflation, and looking for any visible damage.

2. Checking for Wear

Tire tread gradually diminishes with use. To assess the wear, you can utilize the penny test. You can gauge the depth by inserting a penny into various tread grooves on the tire. If the tread consistently conceals some part of Lincoln's head, it implies you still have a tread depth of over 2/32", which is the lowest safe limit.

3. Checking for Damage

Inspect your tires for any indications of damage, including cuts, punctures, cracks, bulges, or embedded objects. If you observe any such problems, it is advisable to get your tire professionally examined to decide whether a repair or replacement is necessary.

4. Tire Pressure

It's crucial to monitor tire pressure since both excess and insufficient inflation can hasten deterioration, reduce gas mileage, and potentially cause tire failure. Utilize a tire pressure gauge to confirm your tires are inflated to the level suggested by the manufacturer.

5. Tire Age

Even when your tires appear to be in good shape, bear in mind that it's typically advised by most manufacturers to replace them every six years, irrespective of their usage. The manufacturing date of your tire can be identified on its sidewall, following the letters "DOT" in a four-digit code. The initial two digits signify the week it was produced, and the final two denote the year.

Proper Tire Inflation

Proper tire inflation is a crucial aspect of tire maintenance that directly impacts the lifespan of your tires, vehicle performance, and safety. The vehicle manufacturer usually provides the recommended tire pressure, which can be found in your vehicle's manual or on a sticker inside the driver's door.

1. Correct Tire Pressure

Tires filled to the proper PSI (pounds per square inch) ensure optimal tread contact with the road, leading to better handling and braking, reduced tire wear, and improved fuel efficiency.

2. Monthly Tire Pressure Checks

You should check your tire pressure at least once a month as part of your routine maintenance. This is because, on average, tires lose approximately 1 PSI per month and for every 10-degree Fahrenheit change in temperature. A good practice is to check your tires when they are 'cold,' that is when your vehicle has been parked for a few hours or hasn't been driven more than a mile or two.

3. Underinflation vs. Overinflation

Keep in mind that overinflated tires can result in decreased traction, premature wear, and a harsh ride. On the other hand, underinflated tires can cause increased wear and tear, tire overheating, and reduced fuel economy.

4. Vehicle-Specific Tire Pressure Specifications

Each vehicle has its own specifications for tire pressure, but most fall between 28 and 36 PSI. It's essential to adhere to these specifications to ensure your tires' longevity and optimal performance.

Choosing the Right Tires

Choosing the right tires is crucial for maintaining your vehicle's safety, performance, and efficiency. Here are some key factors to consider while making your selection:

1. Understanding Your Vehicle's Requirements

Your vehicle's owner's manual or the driver's side door jamb placard will provide the recommended tire measurements and specifications. This information includes tire size, load index, and speed rating.

2. Tire Type

The type of tire you need depends on the climate where you live and your driving habits. For instance, all-season tires are suitable for most climates and offer a good balance of performance and longevity. Summer tires provide excellent grip and handling in warm weather but are unsuitable for winter conditions. Winter tires, on the other hand, offer optimal performance in snowy or icy conditions.

3. Budget

Tires come in a range of prices, and while it might be tempting to save money with cheaper options, remember that tires are an investment in your safety. Higher quality tires generally offer better safety, handling, ride quality and may even be more cost-effective over time when considering cost per mile.

4. Tire Size

The size of your tires can significantly impact your vehicle's performance and safety. Larger tires may have a greater rolling radius, affecting handling and fuel consumption.

5. Brand

Some reputable tire manufacturers include General Altimax, Michelin, and Nokian. Each brand offers a range of tire models designed for different vehicle types and driving conditions.

6. Tread Pattern

A tire's tread pattern affects its grip and handling and how it disperses water. Some tires have asymmetric tread patterns for sporty handling, while others have symmetrical tread patterns for longer tread life.

7. Replacing Tires

Usually, it's advisable to change all four tires simultaneously as varying tread depths could result in them rotating at diverse speeds, which may harm the drivetrain.

Driving Habits and Tire Lifespan

Driving habits significantly impact the lifespan of your tires. Understanding how your driving style can affect tire wear and how you can extend your tires' life is essential. Here are some key points:

1. Driving at Top Speeds

High speeds can generate excess heat, accelerating tire wear and potentially even causing a blowout. If you regularly drive at high speeds, your tires may not last as long as they should.

2. Improper Tire Pressure

Maintaining the correct tire pressure is crucial for tire health. Both overinflation and underinflation can lead to uneven tread wear and reduce the lifespan of your tires.

3. Harsh Cornering and Braking

Aggressive driving habits, such as harsh cornering and sudden braking, can cause significant stress on your tires, leading to rapid and uneven tread wear.

4. Failing to Perform Wheel Rotation and Alignment

Regular wheel rotation and alignment can help ensure even tire wear, extending the life of your tires. Neglecting these maintenance tasks can lead to premature tire wear.

5. Driving Style

A fast and sporty driving style can also shorten the life of your tires. Strong acceleration and braking, as well as fast cornering speeds, can lead to increased tire wear.

6. Carrying Heavy Loads

Regularly driving with heavy loads can stress your tires more, leading to faster wear.

7. Driving Over Road Debris

Frequently driving over road debris can cause cuts, punctures, and other damage to your tires, potentially shortening their lifespan.

Unlock the Secret to Longer-Lasting Tires Today

Your tires are more than just a vehicle component—they are your trusted comrades, carrying you safely on every road and in every weather condition. The secret to their longevity lies not in magic but in regular maintenance and mindful driving practices.

Every step you take plays a pivotal role in extending your tire's lifespan, from the right inflation to timely inspections, choosing the right tires, to understanding your vehicle's requirements.

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