While each piece of a vehicle works in cooperation, the tires can be the most important part of a vehicle. Knowing how to take care of your tires can save time and maintenance costs. Considering that tires are the only place where a motor vehicle touches the road, they have an important role in safety, gas efficiency, and engine health.
Whether it is checking tire pressure regularly, or making sure to attend to alignments and seasonal turnover, the health of a vehicle’s tires is a direct representation of the quality of a vehicle’s maintenance.
Car Tire Maintenance Tips
The Tire’s Purpose
From being the key component in sending the message from the steering wheel to the road, tires control the direction of the car. The traction provided by tires takes the power from the engine and turns it into usable force that projects the driver in their chosen direction.
The air held in the tires acts as a shock absorber that prevents unpleasantness while driving. In addition to these fundamentals, tires act as a necessary safety feature in terms of keeping tread with the road.
In order to ensure a universal level of understanding, the method of gaging a tire’s size is based on an agreed-upon code. A set of five values are assigned in order to surmise the necessary information quickly, ensuring all tires are a match to the vehicle and each other.
The first number referenced is the width of the tire measured in millimeters. The second number listed after the forward slash is the aspect ratio which is a percentile representation of the section height to width of a specific portion of the tire. The next number succeeding an ‘R’ is a measurement of the wheel’s diameter in imperial inches.
The last number refers to the load index, which is a standardized number used to represent the relative carrying capacity. The final number in the tire sizing code is the speed index. Denoted by letters, the speed at which a tire is capable of traveling increases as the alphabet ascends, excepting the letter ‘H’ which acts in place of ‘U’.
What are tires made out of?
These ever-present vehicle components are created in over four hundred worldwide factories. The main component is rubber, a naturally occurring latex. This material sourced from the ‘Hevea brasiliensis’, also commonly referred to as the rubber tree. The rubber is assembled and cured, in conjunction with other polymers that allow the material to be malleable until final production.
A tire can be broken into two necessary components, the internal structure which offers strength and structure and factors into the grade, and the external structure where the tread can be found and acts as a functional safety feature.
Popular Kinds of Tires
Though many consider tires to be broken into summer and winter categories, the advancement of safety and motor vehicle practices have created a great many types and styles of tire:
-All season tires (ideal for areas without major seasonal shifts, due to their diverse usability, these are susceptible to accelerated tread damage)
-All terrain tires (suited to more difficult roads from tarmac to gravel, and ideal for off-roading vehicles)
-Mud Tires (best for areas with challenging terrain, and are most often seen on trucks or recreational vehicles designed to deal with the elements)
-Truck Tires (tires designed and used on trucks)
-Performance tires (higher end tires designed for tight turns and easy maneuverability of the motor vehicle)
-Winter Tires (ideal for icy and snowy situation, but must be changed after the season is over to prevent degradation of the vehicle’s tread)
-SUV Tires (tires designed and used on SUV’s)
-Low Profile tires (designed to improve function and lengthen the shelf life and usability of the tires themselves)
Proper Tire Maintenance
After finding the right tire type and size to suit your vehicle and needs, the next step is ensuring proper and continued maintenance to get the most out of the tires themselves. Obviously, tires are subject to wear and tear. The very nature of an item that holds tonnes of weight and is constantly being abraded on roads demands proper maintenance.
While each vehicle is unique, and the owner’s manual of a vehicle will be the best indicator of the specific machine’s needs, there are some standard expectations for tire maintenance to ensure the most cost efficient and usable tire experience. These include:
- Tire rotation (the redistribution of the tire locations to ensure even wear on the treads)
- Air Pressure (increasing safety and promoting fuel efficiency, air pressure helps gain the most shelf life out of the tires)
- Side Walls (due to the lack of reinforcement as seen on the treads, the sidewalls can be the most vulnerable part of the tire as visible damage can indicate issues to come)
- Treads (the quality of the groove on the outside of the tires)
Some common questions
Why is tire rotating important, we all know tires wear down?
This process rearranges the tires of a vehicle to ensure even wear on the rubber and treads. Due to the uneven distribution of weight in vehicles, often the front and back sets of tires will be unevenly used. To mitigate this, tire rotation balances the use of each tire.
How does air pressure effect driving experience?
More than just a point of maintenance, air pressure in tires is a key safety concern. Subject to temperature, the specifications for ideal tire pressure are generally listed in the owner’s manual of the vehicle. Generally, tire pressure ought to be between 32 to 35 psi (pounds per square inch) during cold weather. A tire pressure gauge is a handy tool to have in the glove compartment. Not only does proper tire pressure improve safety, but it also increases gas efficiency due to the reduction of effort put into the drag and friction of the tires on the road.
How do I check the treads on my tires?
When the vehicle is off, take a quick look at the outer part of the tire (the part that contacts the road). These indentations are a critical component of getting proper traction on the road. Tread for winter tires will typically be more pronounced because the nature of grip needed on slippery conditions is different than dry ones. First, check for how pronounced the tread is. Does it look worn down? Is the wear even on the different parts of the tires and the different tires themselves? Using these cues, the operator can deduce if there is sufficient tread to safely drive.
What are some red flags for sidewall conditions?
While most of the tire has cords that run beneath the tread, acting as a reinforcer of the form, the sidewalls (the parts just above the rims) do not. Called the sidewall, this can be the most vulnerable part of the tire as it is the weakest, but in many ways the most exposed. When doing a walk around check, take a look at the sidewall of each tire. Check for indents, or malformations, and ensure that the tire is sturdy against a kick. With the sidewalls intact, the tire can continue working. Should an issue with the sidewall present itself, patches are generally not sufficient and the tire will likely need to be replaced.
Points of Order
While tires can be an unpleasant cost, the safety that they purchase is irreplaceable. A vehicle’s safety and utility only increase when proper tire safety and maintenance is upheld. Consult the user manual for the vehicle, and ensure that air pressure and sidewalls are safe before beginning travels.
Follow the Law
The rules of the road are set for a reason. Many places make it a legal necessity to have winter tires by a certain point of the year. Not only are these regulations put in place to promote safety and reduce accidents, but the cost of a fine will often equal the cost of simply having replaced the tires. Adhering to the rules of the road in terms of tire tread and maintenance will help everyone get home safely.
Do Product Research
As with anything, properly understanding the product (the set of tires) will facilitate a good relationship with the item, making upkeep easier. Knowing what you need in terms of tire type, grade and speed rating will ensure that you have the best, safest experience with your vehicle’s tires.
Over 200 million tires are purchased annually in the USA. An industry worth billions, tires continue in popularity due to their high utility and absolute necessity. The savvy motor vehicle operator ensures proper maintenance of tires, and always keeps a spare handy. Having a car jack and the tools to change out a tire on the go make driving easier and prevents accidents. Thorough research and understanding of tires, their use, and upkeep, promotes a positive driving culture.