Contemporary car tires do more than simply keep you in touch with the ground. Part of the overall design of the vehicle, tires contribute to the safe handling of your car in a variety of road and weather conditions. Interactive sensor systems can now feed back information on tire condition to dashboard indicators. However, that doesn’t absolve the driver from understanding and conducting periodic inspections and maintenance.
Probably the most important aspect of proper tire operation is inflation to the correct pressure at all times. Underinflated tires use more fuel and can cause premature wear, leading to early replacement.
- Know your pressure – recommended tire pressures are usually listed on a decal in the glove box or on the driver’s side door jamb. Your owner’s manual will have the information also.
- Front and rear tires may have different recommendations for pressure.
- Tires themselves may have recommended pressures embossed on the tire. In case of differences, use the car manufacturer’s recommendation.
- Tire pressure recommendations are based on cold tires. After driving some distance, tires and the air inside will heat up, raising the internal pressure.
- Pressure gauges at service station air pumps may be inaccurate. Buy your own quality gauge.
Tire pressure monitor systems can help. There are two types of systems. The first uses information from the ABS system to deduce and indicate a tire that’s low. This system, however, can’t determine when all tires are low. The second system has sensors within each tire, and reports tire conditions independently for each one.
Follow your car manufacturer’s recommendations for tire rotation. These provide time frames and patterns for rotation. Some vehicles will switch only between front and back, keeping each tire pair on the same side. Other cars may have recommended patterns that swap sides as well.
A necessary step when new tires are bought and mounted on rims, weights are added to the rim to allow a tire to spin evenly. An out of balance tire can cause rough handling or a noisy ride. In extreme cases, tire performance and wear could be compromised.
When it is time to replace tires, purchase in pairs, if not replacing all four at once. Put the new tires on the powered wheels. If your car is front-wheel drive, the new tires go there. The best of the worn tires can go on the rear. This pattern changes for rear-wheel drive vehicles.
Every month or so, take a look at your tires. Note any damage to the tread and sidewalls. Uneven wear is a sign of problems with inflation or alignment. Watch for crack, embedded objects or bulges and refer issues to your mechanic or tire shop.
Don’t Forget Your Spare
Always have a spare tire on board. Contemporary cars almost always use a small, lightweight temporary tire now. Check its inflation periodically. The smaller tire requires higher air pressure, usually 60 psi. General guidelines for its use are no faster than 80 kph for no more than 80 km.