Your tires serve as the only contact between your vehicle and the road. That’s why it’s essential that you care for them properly and replace them when needed. We’ve got you covered with a comprehensive guide to your car and truck tires.
Function of the Tires
Your tires feature many functions. The most important include:
- Weight-bearing – your tires must have enough air pressure to carry the weight of your vehicle and what’s inside it.
- Absorb shock – the tire and air pressure reduces road vibration and bumps with the help of the suspension.
- Delivers the power from the engine – tires move the vehicle thanks to the energy coming from the engine. Tires also provide traction and braking performance.
- Translate steering movement – tires control the direction of your vehicle. They are responsible for stability and capability while driving.
When is it Time to Replace Your Tires?
Aside from your tires getting old, there are some things you want to watch for with your tires.
These are some aspects you want to inspect on a regular basis:
- Air pressure amount
- Trouble with balancing or alignment
- Trouble with suspension or steering
- Uneven wear
Most of these situations just need some attention. The problems below could indicate the need for new tires.
- Bulging or cracking to the tread or sidewall – indicates weakness and wear
- Anything poked into the tire like screws or glass
- Tread starts to pull away from the tire body
- Worn tread – typically you would do a penny test. Stick a penny in the tread, top first. If the tread doesn’t reach his head, you need new tires.
How Long Do Tires Last?
There’s no magic number when it comes to tires. Wear depends heavily on how the tires are used and the driver’s habits. If you drive 12,000-15,000 miles a year, you can expect that a typical set of tires might last three to four years.
Some people assume that driving less means their tires will last longer, but that’s not true. Cars that only go out on the weekends tend to suffer from aging tires which wear prematurely.
What Tires Should You Buy?
When selecting the right tires, there are several aspects to consider. You need to evaluate:
- The weather conditions you tend to drive in.
- The worst weather situation you would be in.
- Type of road you travel on.
- Your driving style.
Then, you’ll want to look in your owner’s manual to see what the manufacturer recommends. There is a variety of tire types. Understanding the purpose behind them helps you to make the best decision.
All-season tires are cost-effective and offer a smooth ride in a variety of situations. These are mainly used on passenger cars and provide adequate traction during wet conditions.
Performance all-season tires offer better braking and handling than the typical all-season tire option. Many sports cars prefer to use this type. An ultra-performance tire provides even better handling and steering, especially in wet conditions.
Summer tires feature soft rubber that offers traction in the warmer months. They are suitable for dry or wet roads. All-terrain tires work best for light-duty off-road usage but still provide decent performance on the paved road. Many light-duty trucks and SUVs will use this tire.
Winter tires are geared for travel in the ice and snow. The rubber holds up to freezing temperatures and offers superior traction. They aren’t meant to drive during the warmer months. An upgrade to this would be the performance winter tire. This provides even better traction and higher levels of grip. You would use these in areas that receive a large amount of snowfall and ice.
When to Use Winter and Summer Tires
Winter tires are meant for use when the temperatures hit near freezing. They provide drivers with additional grip on icy and snowy roads. It’s one of the best ways to prepare for winter travel. You can leave your winter tires on your car throughout winter as long as the temperatures remain near freezing. Once the temperatures rise, you’ll want to replace them with all-season or summer tires instead.
In the same regard, you don’t want to use summer or all-season tires during winter weather. They won’t provide the grip you need, often crack during the cold temperatures and lead to shorter tire life.
Understanding Tire Size
Tires come with their own language which tells the user what type to buy. It’s featured in a series of letters and numbers found on your sidewall, that might not mean a lot to you at first. This language is universal, so once you understand it, purchasing your tires is a breeze. Reading tire specifications gives you access to the:
- Tire width
- Aspect ratio
- Wheel diameter
- Load and speed indexes
Your speed index is typically a letter from J to Z. This corresponds with the maximum speed recommended at the associated load. It tells you how fast the tire can go and maintain its strength. The higher the speed rating is, the more handling and control you’ll have at the higher speeds.
The Load index indicates how much weight your tires can support safely. This number is stamped onto the sidewall and located right after “Max Load.” You’ll often see this number listed as a rating code. Multiply the load rating by four and you’ll understand how much your car or truck can hold safely on its wheels.
The Tire type is the first letter found in the series. This is either a P for passenger vehicles or LT for light trucks. Then, you’ll see the tire width measured in millimeters. It’s the first three-digit number. So if you have a P215/65R15, you know that your width measures 215 millimeters.
The aspect ratio shows the tire’s height compared to the width. In that same tire above, the 65 designates the height equals 65% of the width. The larger this number, the bigger the sidewall is. Finally, you have the diameter. It measures one end to the other. Our example shows us that the tire fits on a wheel with a 15-inch diameter.
Why is Wheel Balancing Important for the Tires?
Whenever you mount a new tire to a wheel, it must be balanced. You want to ensure that the weight is evenly distributed on the axle. The wheel balancing machines sense differences as small as ¼-ounce. That might not seem like a lot, but it makes a huge difference.
Consider the fact that this small amount of weight continues to travel at excessive rates around the axle several hundred times each minute. This momentum leads to severe vibrations. If you multiply this discrepancy by four wheels, that wobble becomes very noticeable and puts uneven pressure on your tire tread. Your tires become hot and start to wear unevenly. It also leads to additional stress on the suspension system and wheel bearings.
The trouble with wheel balancing is that it’s not a once and done event. As soon as you begin to pull away from the service station, your tires start to get unbalanced once again. That’s why it’s recommended you have them rotated and balanced every 4,000 to 6,000 miles.
Final Thoughts on Tires
Your car tires are essential to your safety, but also complicated and hard to understand. Ensuring that you purchase the right set of tires for your car helps you to get home in one piece at the end of the day. Take time to understand the differences between tires and pick the type that’s right for you.