Most people, even if they’re car enthusiasts, don’t really think that much about tires. In reality, tires are essentially the unsung heroes of automotive equipment. The performance of a vehicle relies heavily on not only what type of tires are installed, but also how they’re maintained. Everyone can stand to learn and put into practice some solid tire maintenance tips.
Keep Your Tires Inflated
One of the easiest and most essential items for tire care is keeping each tire properly inflated. The vehicle manufacturer actually prints how much air pressure to maintain in the tires, placing the info on the driver’s doorjamb.
Overinflating the tires will cause the middle of the tread to wear out faster, while keeping them underinflated will cause the sides of the tread to wear down quicker.
Balance and Rotate Tires Regularly
You should also have the tires rotated and balanced on a regular basis, protecting against uneven wear. If you have an all-wheel or four-wheel-drive vehicle, all four tires need to match each other and have about the same amount of wear, or you could be facing some expensive mechanical repairs later.
Driving Habits Affect Tire Life
You must be aware of how you’re driving, because your habits behind the wheel impact tire maintenance in big ways. Doing jackrabbit starts, or quickly accelerating off the line, on a regular basis will wear down the tread. The same thing goes for whipping through turns. If you hear the rubber squealing on the pavement, that’s not a good sign.
Driving faster than the speed rating for your tires can cause the rubber to break down prematurely. There’s a reason why tires have different ratings, so know yours and stay below that number. You also need to know the load index for your tires, because carrying too much weight in your vehicle can cause the tires to suddenly fail.
When Possible, Avoid Road Hazards
When driving, always be scanning ahead of your vehicle for anything that could damage the tires. Obviously, sharp debris like scrap metal, screws, broken glass or nails are bad to drive over, so you need to do everything reasonable to avoid them. While punctures in the tread area can be fixed, as long as the tires aren’t too worn down, damage on the sidewalls cannot.
Hitting potholes, especially large ones, can also cause serious damage to a tire. The impact might be enough to cause the tire to completely blow out, or it could result in a flat spot or another type of blemish.
Remember that the faster you hit road damage, the more likely it will result in a tire replacement. The same can be true of running over curbs or islands, so give yourself enough room to make turns. If you can’t avoid running over obstacles, slow down as much as you can safely, and hopefully your tires will survive the ordeal.
Purchase New Tires When Needed
When your tire tread is worn too much, you need to buy a new set of tires. It might not always happen at the most convenient time, but keeping your tires fresh is necessary. One way to tell if your tires are too worn is if the wear bars, which run perpendicular to the tread pattern, have emerged.
Most people don’t have a tire depth gauge, but you can stick a penny in the tread. If Abraham Lincoln’s head is visible, the tires are too worn and should be replaced.
Maintaining Nitrogen-Filled Tires
As they become more popular, a growing number of car owners are wondering how to maintain nitrogen-filled tires. Because of the nature of nitrogen molecules, they don’t seep out of tires nearly as much, so the pressure stays more consistent.
Still, during the fall and winter as temperatures drop, more nitrogen needs to be added. If the tire pressure is too low and nitrogen isn’t available, owners can add air. This is better than running around on a low tire. You should never use a vacuum to suck out the air later, because that can distort the shape of the rubber and lead to serious damage.
Tire Cleaning Tips
When it comes to tire cleaning tips, you need to keep in mind that it’s not just a matter of washing and leaving it at that. You need to be thorough in rinsing the tire, because soap buildup actually can be harmful.
Apply a high-quality tire dressing, which will not only make the rubber look great, but will also protect against rotting and cracking. You want to use water-based dressings only, which are usually a white liquid. Many solvent-based tire dressings actually dry the rubber out, accelerating cracking, and are tire car products that should be avoided.