Tires are critical and expensive. But if you use these tips, your next set should go farther than any you’ve owned.
The right pressure ensures that the tire is making the proper amount of contact with the road—not too much or too little, as is the case with under- or overinflated tires. This also means that the tire will last longer because it’s riding on the most reinforced section and makes for a smoother ride. Spend a few bucks on a tire gauge, and check each tire once a month. To find the correct pressure: Consult your owner’s manual or the sticker inside the driver’s- side door. Don’t rely on the number embossed on the tire—that figure can differ from the owner’s manual.
Road surfaces can have a huge impact on tire life. Smooth highways inflict less wear than gravel roads and pothole- ridden city streets. Generally, highway miles are less damaging than city miles because they involve less turning, which puts lateral stress on the tires. The amount of weight you’re carrying also matters.
Any aggressive maneuver puts more wear on your tires than calm, smooth moves. Jackrabbit starts, sudden braking and harsh turns increase wear and tear on that area. Faster cruising speeds also cause more tire wear than slower ones, thanks to the heat generated at higher speeds.
If you’re driving a frontwheel- drive vehicle, front tires have a tougher job than rear tires. If you have a rear-wheel-drive car, rear tires wear faster than front tires. To ensure that all four tires wear evenly, check your owner’s manual to see how often you should have the tires rotated. If a tire ever needs to be replaced, always also swap out its axle-companion. And any time you’re replacing just the front tires, put the new set on the back and move the back ones to the front. If you use snow tires, that’s great, but you can severely damage them by keeping them on too long into the spring.
When to call it quits:
Periodically check your tread depth by sticking a quarter (not a penny) down head-first between the tread blocks. If part of Washington’s head is covered by the tread, you’re good to go. If the top of his head is exposed at any point, it’s game over. And even if you’ve hardly put any miles on a set of tires, they’re not made to last longer than five or six years, so you should look into replacing them if it has been that long.