You never hear people brag about the tires on their cars unless these owners are hardcore enthusiasts. There are often discussions about aftermarket wheels, but very few about the rubber they’re shod with. And we really should change that.
We want to focus on tire maintenance for this article because it’s often overlooked. We have features like ‘How to know when it’s time to change your tires,’ but there’s always more to add in the quest for knowledge and safety.
Trying to figure out when to change tires is a common question, even for long-time car owners, so we’ve put together a comprehensive set of pointers on maintaining the life of your tires, and a list of things to check in order to find out when it’s time to get a new set. If you haven’t been following any of guidelines tips before, it’s high time you begin doing so.
Periodic rotation of tires is one of the most basic techniques to ensure even tread wear. There are a few basic tire rotation patterns that you can follow, and you can check them out here. Do remember, though, that these are merely the most common patterns—optimizations vary for different types of tires.
Just like regularly rotated tires, properly aligned wheels help prolong the lifespan of your rubber. Misaligned wheels not only keep your steering wheel off-center and cause wiggles and vibrations, but also cause uneven tire wear.
Tire pressures can change quickly over the course of the day, depending on a lot of different factors. Keep your tires at the recommended pressure indicated on your owner’s manual to ensure an even ride, maintain even tread wear, and help prevent the tires from cracking.
Some modern cars have built-in tire pressure monitors that make this task much easier. If you’re driving an older vehicle, it wouldn’t hurt to go to a shop or a fuel station to have your tires checked every week. Better yet, get your own tire pressure gauge. It’s actually a pretty good idea—this feature tells you why.
This is the first guideline in our previous feature on how to keep your tires fresh and flat-free, which you should also check out. Keep in mind the type of driving you normally do and select rubber that best fits your needs. For a daily driver, example, tires with high tread-wear rating and good handling on both wet and dry surfaces are preferable over grippy performance-oriented rubber.
Speaking of buying new tires, here are indicators that it’s time for you to change to a new set. Keep these in mind when inspecting your tires.
The most common indicator of tire health is tread wear. If you travel hundreds of kilometers on a weekly basis, there’s a good chance your tires will wear out quickly.
Shallow tread depth means less traction, which puts your car at risk of losing control, especially under wet driving conditions. It’s not safe to wear out your tires completely before replacing them—if you’re trying to be ‘practical’ to save a few pennies, compromising your safety is not the way to go.
Monitor tread depth so that you’ll avoid wearing out your tires completely. We’ve previously written about how to easily check your tires’ treads—you can check out that story here.
Your tires get bruised over time—that’s a given—and cracks will naturally start to appear. However, this issue isn’t exclusive to old tires—new rubber can get cracks as well, especially if your regular route features highly abrasive surfaces. Consider, too, that some cleaners have been said to be too harsh on tires, so it’s best to use a trusted brand even if it might mean spending a few more bucks.
On the other hand, bumps or bubbles appear on tires that have been subject to hard impact. Running into a curb, hitting a pothole, driving fast over a sharp speed bump, overloading a tire, and running flat are some of the factors that cause tires to bloat. These bubbles, which can be found either on the sidewall or along the tread, are unfortunately irreparable; you’ll have to get a new set because driving with the damaged tires is very dangerous.
Some tire manufacturers provide a warranty based on mileage. Since it’s almost impossible to keep track of tire mileage if you rely solely on your memory, it’s best to write down the details on a piece of paper you’re less likely to lose, such as the purchase receipt.
Check the reading on the odometer upon buying the new set of rubber, and scribble it on the receipt. Keep a photocopy of the receipt with your car’s registration inside the vehicle just to be sure you have it with you whenever you’re on the road. Do note, however, that going past the tire mileage warranty doesn’t automatically mean that your tires need replacing. This isn’t the end-all to determine whether or not you should get new tires—you still need to consider all the other factors before coming to a decision.
Low overall wear and mileage do not necessarily mean the rubber can still go for another couple of years or so. Most manufacturers recommend tire replacement at seven years, and it’s best to go by that. So, in the rare case that your tires stay intact for almost a decade without showing any signs of aging, just go out and purchase new ones at that point. Don’t wait for a tire to burst while you’re driving on the highway.
Again, age isn’t something you can see, so you should remember when you last replaced your tires. If you’re the forgetful type, then follow our tip about making a note on the receipt when you purchase new tires. As previously stated, receipts should be kept, anyway, so you might as well leave a copy of it inside your car.
But better than the receipt is the tire’s manufacturing date stamped on the sidewall. Look for the tire identification number, which is composed of four different sections of text—an example is DOT R8D4 8MJR 1918.
According to Bridgestone: “Following the letters and numbers are indicators for the tire’s manufacturer and the date of manufacture. The last four numbers you see tell you the date of its production. The first two numbers indicate the week of manufacture, while the last two numbers are for the year. ” Based in the example above, the tire was manufactured during the 19th week of 2018.
Did we miss anything? Let us know in the comments.