Ultimate Tire Maintenance Guide
Tips & Tricks To Maintain Your Tires
Without a doubt one of the most significant features of your car is the tire. Your tires are what make contact with the ground, and so it is crucial to ensure that they are in solid condition. A tire in good condition will ultimately dictate your safety and other essential vehicle parameters like braking, acceleration, steering, handling performance and even fuel economy. Having the knowledge of a few essential things that need to be maintained for optimal tire performance can help you decrease your fuel bills and extend the life of your tires drastically.
Table Of Contents
1. How To Care For Tires?
By caring for your tires you can not only increase their service life but also ensure you have a safe drive. Start by inspecting your tires as that will guide you towards any budding issues that need to be addressed first. Then assess your tread depth and tire pressure to determine tire condition and extend its life.
2. Inspect Your Tires
The first step towards maintaining your tires is to inspect them regularly. This includes looking for signs of uneven wear, the tread depth and the pressure of each tire.
- Uneven Tire Wear: Uneven tire wear is evident when one section or shoulder of the tire is worn more than the other end. You may notice that one side has a deeper tread depth than the other side of the same tire. If your tires have uneven wear, then the cause may be improper wheel alignment, worn out suspension and steering components or under/over-inflated tires. Inspect your suspension system components and have your vehicle aligned to prolong tire service life.
- Under-inflated Tires: Underinflation causes the tire edges to bulge out from the sides. However, under-inflated tires look very similar to tires that have proper inflation levels. So it is best to carry out a pressure test to affirm the condition of the tire. Underinflation can cause the outer edges to wear more than the contact patch resulting in uneven tread wear.
- Over-inflated Tires: Overinflation is most clear from tires that have their contact patch or the middle section worn more severely than the edges.
- Tire Sidewall Damage: If the tire’s sidewalls have visible fissures, cracks or deep grooves, then it can be an indication of damaged tire sidewall. This can happen due to many reasons such as tire age, underinflation, exceeding maximum tire load capacity, etc. Damage to the tire sidewall compromises their construction and therefore is a safety hazard and has to be replaced.
2.1. Assess The Tread Depth
The tire tread enhances the traction or grip with the ground surface, which is necessary not only for acceleration but also for braking. The tread also expels water when driving on wet roads, preventing hydroplaning (when the tire rides over a layer of water instead of the ground) which increases wet and snow traction. If the tread is severely worn out, the vehicle will travel longer distances before stopping and accelerating and will also be prone to skidding and sliding due to loss of grip. It is always recommended to replace the tire as they approach 1.6 mm tread depth as that is the minimum tire tread that maintains a safe tire contact patch. A simple way to check the tread depth of any tire is to insert a toonie within the tread of the tire at different intervals. If the rubber reaches the bear paws, then your tires are likely new. But if the silver end is completely visible, then you should replace the tire as the tread is worn past the safe limit.
You can also find the tread depth using a tire depth gauge that will give you an accurate measurement of your tread depth. Alternatively, many tires come with a minimum tread depth indicator. When the tread decreases significantly, the indicator becomes flush with the tread and this is a sign that it’s time to replace the tires.
2.2. Assess The Tire Pressure
Having a brand new tire with lots of treads but not having sufficient air pressure can be just as hazardous. When the tire pressure is low, the rolling resistance (the opposing force to a rolling tire) of the tire increases. As the rolling resistance of the tire increases, more energy or fuel is required to move the vehicle which results in increased fuel consumption and a decline in the handling and acceleration performance. According to a study conducted by the U.S Department of Energy, when the tire pressure drops to 50% of the recommended tire pressure, the vehicle consumes 5-7% more fuel. And at 75% of recommended pressure, the damage is by about 2-3%. Lower pressure does not just increase your fuel bills but is also a serious safety hazard that can damage the construction of the tire permanently. Low tire pressure also increases tire wear, reduces vehicle braking and handling performance and can even result in a tire blowout.
If your vehicle has a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) then it will probably alert you when you need to inflate or deflate your tires. But in vehicles without this system, you must manually check the tire pressure in each wheel and maintain the tire pressure at the recommended unit by the manufacturer. The recommended pressure is usually listed on the driver’s door jamb or can be found in the owner’s manual.
As a rule of thumb, you must check your tire pressure every two weeks. You can use a tire pressure gauge to learn the tire’s air pressure. Since air pressure is dependent on the temperature, make sure to check the tire pressure before and after the season changes. This also means that taking the tire pressure reading on a tire that was recently driven is going to be higher since the tire is heated due to being driven. Only take readings when the tire is at ambient temperature and has not been driven recently.
3. Carry Out Tire Rotation
Tire rotation is a practice where the rear and front tires are interchanged in some fashion which helps increase tire lifespan and also minimizes the chance for uneven tread wear. Every tire bares different loads and hence wears at different rates. The front tire wears differently than the rear ones and the same goes for the left and right tires. By regularly rotating the tires, we can eliminate uneven tire wear, alleviate the tires under heavier loads and extend the life of tires by ensuring that all tires wear out relatively equally. This also smooths out the ride.
The pattern of tire rotation is different among front and rear/four-wheel drive cars and can also vary according to the manufacturer. It is performed every 6 to 12 months or about 10,000 to 12,000 km. You can refer to your owner’s manual for manufacturer recommendations on tire rotation intervals and patterns. Tire rotation can only be performed on vehicles that run the same tire size on all four wheels and also cannot be done on worn-out tires.
4. Ensure The Tire Are Balanced
5. Carry Out Wheel Alignment
Wheel or tire alignment is an adjustment of the angles in the steering and suspension geometries that control the tire contact with the ground. Aligning the wheels helps maintain optimal contact patch with the ground and helps increase handling performance of the vehicle. The wheel alignment can be disrupted with wear and tear of various suspension and steering components and can also be caused by sudden jolting of the tires when going over potholes or other uneven road surfaces. Unaligned wheels can cause vibrations, can pull the vehicle to one side, causes uneven tire wear and reduces tire lifespan as well as fuel economy of the vehicle.
Wheel alignment requires the use of specialized equipment and can only be performed by certified technicians. You must carry out wheel alignment every year or two, especially when you notice irregular tire wear or when the vehicle pulls in one direction.
6. Use The Right Tires
If you want to maximize the lifespan of your tire, then using the right tire type is essential. Different tire types are designed to be used in different weather and driving conditions. Using a summer tire during the snowy winter months is not only going to affect your safety and handling dynamics but also deteriorate the tire tread rapidly. Since the tires are not designed to be used in such weather conditions, it ends up costing you shortened tire service life as well as jeopardizes safety. Even all-season tires that are well all-year performers, have their limits and daily-ing them in temperatures below 7℃ (45℉) is going to have adverse effects on their longevity.
So switching tires between winter and summer months is crucial for maintaining safety, best handling, steering and braking performance as well as maximizing the service lifespan of the tire. To understand the right tires for your driving and weather needs consider reading our tire buying guide.
7. Follow Good Driving Habits
Following good driving habits help reduce wear and tear on not just the tires but even the brakes, suspension and steering components. Tire spinning is one of the fastest ways of wearing out the rubber on your tires. Unless you own a dragster, tire spinning is not recommended. Other useful tips for responsible driving includes coasting instead of ramming the brakes when approaching a stop, carrying light, and following general road rules and regulations.