Getting the Most Life Out of Your Tires

Tire lifespan is important because they are one of the few parts that can cause an accident if something goes wrong with them while driving. Obviously, the most important element is safety – but there are multiple benefits to extending the life of your tires. 

They also improve your gas mileage, which ends up saving you money. We could all use savings on gas with the way prices are soaring. 

In addition to improving fuel economy and safety, making your tire last longer helps reduce carbon emissions by reducing unnecessary waste of natural resources like rubber. Knowing how to make your tires last longer should become part of everyone’s daily routine for these reasons alone.

Different Types of Tires

Many different types of cars are available today, each having its own unique set of features. One of those distinctive features happens to be the type of tires the vehicle takes. 

Some may have all-season radial tires, others may use high-performance summer radials (also known as HSRs), and still, other brands might offer snow/ice radials. If yours doesn’t have any type of winter tire, then you need to know what to look for next time you go shopping for new tires. And no matter which brand you choose, always keep in mind that you must match the right kind of tire to the conditions where your car spends most of its time. 

For example, it’s probably not a good idea to buy low-profile tires if you plan to go offroading. Likewise, you shouldn’t get offroading tires if you’re going to be doing most of your traveling on the highway. 

If you’ve ever read the side of your tire or ordered them, then you’re probably aware of the number that reads “PXXXXX” or “LTXXXXX.” The P means they are passenger tires, and the LT stands for light truck. 

The choice between passenger and light truck/SUV tires varies depending on factors such as size requirements, intended usage, and budget. Generally speaking, passenger tires tend to wear down faster than their counterparts since they usually sit closer to the ground compared to heavy-duty trucks. But let’s face it — who wants to drive around town in a giant pickup anyway?!

Light Truck/SUVs often feature larger wheels, bigger brakes, stronger axles, and better traction control systems. They perform best in tough situations such as steep inclines, slippery roads, and deep mud. 

Although lightweight pickup trucks aren’t designed for hauling big loads over rough terrain, you could install specialized tires called “all-terrain” or “offroad.” These tires provide improved handling capabilities and superior grip even during extreme wet and dry conditions.

So now we’ve got the basics covered. Let’s move on to why you want to make your tires last longer!

The Importance of Making Your Tires Last

There are dozens of things going on inside a regular tire during normal operation when you think about it. All those moving pieces require power, so the engine needs to work harder to keep everything running smoothly. 

That means higher gas consumption and increased pollution. Even though modern vehicles already include advanced emission controls, they still emit greenhouse gases such as CO2, NOx, and unburned hydrocarbons (HC). So tires play a large role in overall environmental impact, especially considering that people typically replace only 1% of their original tread depth annually.

Other problems caused by poor maintenance practices such as underinflation, improper wheel alignment, and incorrect tire pressure occur regularly but could potentially lead to major accidents if left unchecked. Underinflated tires lose efficiency and won’t protect against skids or crashes as much as properly inflated ones. 

Improper wheel alignments result in excessive heat buildup and damage to brake pads and rotors. And misaligned rims can actually increase stopping distances. 

Having unevenly worn tires increases braking distance up to 35%. Therefore, proper inflation, good alignment, and timely replacement of old tires are essential elements in preventing serious collisions. 

Lastly, having too small of a tire gap (i.e., wearing out your spare) leads to potential loss of steering control. This problem occurs mostly among drivers who live in areas prone to frost heaves (when the soil becomes saturated with water after freezing and expands upward, causing puddling.) When the ice melts underneath the car, the resulting slushy layer causes a dangerous amount of friction between two adjacent tires.

Now that we understand why it’s important to make your tires last longer, here are a couple of common mistakes that can ruin your chances of achieving long-lasting results:

Not Replacing Your Tires Fast Enough

As mentioned earlier, tires are one of the few components that affect safety at highway speeds. According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, driver error accounts for 90% of traffic fatalities. 

A lot depends on the experience level of the driver and the quality of the vehicle itself. However, there is one thing that every driver can do to improve his or her odds — change your tires before you notice any signs of degradation. 

Changing your tires early allows you to catch small issues before they escalate into major wrecks. Also, changing your tires sooner rather than later gives them adequate time to fully acclimate to the environment they are used to.

Using Cheap Tires

Although cheaper than OEM ones, cheap tires tend to produce lower mileage. Not only are they less durable, but they also lack certain key ingredients found in expensive premium products. Because of inferior construction materials, these tires’ longevity isn’t guaranteed either.

Be sure not to make any of these mistakes as time goes on. In the next section, we’ll look at the primary reasons for your tires wearing prematurely. 

Common Reasons for Premature Tire Wear

Although there are several possible reasons for premature tire wear, here are some of the main culprits responsible for shorter lifespans:

Improper Installation

Poor mounting procedures, using the wrong valve stems, installing non-OEM bolts, etc., can significantly shorten the life span of your tires. One way to prevent this from happening is to ensure that you follow instructions exactly. Don’t attempt to have tires installed that aren’t made for your vehicle. If you want an upgraded product like mud or offroad tires, your vehicle may need a suspension upgrade. Check with an automotive mechanic or tire manufacturer before taking these steps. 

Underinflation 

Underinflating your tires can decrease their effectiveness by 20%-30%, thus shortening the expected service life of your tires. Proper inflation ensures optimal contact between the tire surface and the pavement. To determine the correct PSI, check your owner’s manual or consult with a professional mechanic. Always inflate slowly and remember that air volume decreases as temperature rises.

Poor Maintenance 

Maintaining your vehicle well includes taking care of your tires. Worn-out tires aren’t capable of absorbing bumps and impacts without buckling. Regular inspections are crucial for identifying slow leaks, cuts, bulges, cracks, separation lines, and bald spots. If you see any abnormalities, schedule an appointment immediately to have them repaired professionally.

Excessive Load

Driving beyond capacity puts added strain on the entire suspension system, including the tires themselves. Heavy loads put additional stress on the outer sidewalls and inner beads, eventually leading to failure. Larger diameter tires also suffer more frequently because they roll slower across the road. Overloading a trailer, boat, or camper van reduces the carrying capacity, resulting in reduced MPG. So pay attention to the max payload rating listed in your owner’s manual.

Worn Grooves

Groove wear happens gradually over time, but sometimes users fail to detect it until it gets worse. Uneven tire grooving creates a greater risk of aquaplaning if exposed to sudden rain showers. Also, uneven grooving affects steering response and stability. If your tires have been showing obvious groove wear, consider buying new ones. Otherwise, you could end up damaging your vehicle’s transmission or differential gears.

Five Tips to Make Your Tires Last Longer

With all the information above, hopefully, you know what not to do. Here are some additional tips to get the maximum life possible from your tires. 

Buy the Appropriate Size 

Buying smaller tires instead of standard sizes can save money upfront, but it also increases rolling resistance. Smaller tires make the risk of blowouts and puncture greater as well if they’re under-fitted for your vehicle. You need to make sure you have the right height and width of tire. 

Use Premium Synthetic Rubber 

Synthetic rubbers resist aging and cracking better than traditional rubbers. They also allow for consistent expansion and contraction, even through multiple heating cycles. High rebound rates and exceptional durability make synthetics ideal choices for sport utility vehicles, minivans, and commercial fleets.

Get Regular Alignments

Having perfect alignment improves tire longevity by minimizing rubbing and maximizing cornering capability. Steering knobs should feel centered, and your mirrors shouldn’t stick out further than the fenders. Additionally, misalignment contributes to faster tire wear.

Avoid Harsh Chemicals and Intense Heat

Chemicals such as antifreeze, oil, grease, etc., corrode steel belts within the hubcaps, increasing the likelihood of rust. On top of that, corrosive substances create acidic compounds that can erode the metal spokes. If you park outside in direct sunlight, wash your car thoroughly whenever necessary. Additionally, if you live in an area with extreme heat, try to park out of direct sunlight. This super-heats your tires which can lead to cracking and over-inflation. 

Check Your Tire Pressure Daily

Check your tire pressure daily to maintain optimum performance. Have your tires checked yearly by an authorized technician. Using the recommended PSI gauge, fill your tires up according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Never exceed the maximum loading capacities listed in the driver’s manual, and never under-inflate below the suggested minimum PSI. 

If you’re ever in an emergency situation, you should always have a spare on hand. In the following section, we’ll give you a quick guide for changing your tire. 

Quick Guide for Tire Changing

If you don’t already have one, you need to stock your car with a tire-changing emergency kit. This includes a scissor jack, a four-way, and a spare tire. You can make things much easier by having an impact wrench and a floor jack, but we’ll assume that most people ride with the minimum. 

Step One

Pop your trunk and remove all of your supplies. This includes the four-way, your scissor jack, and your spare tire. Place the jack under the outer edge of the car closest to the tire that needs to be replaced. Make sure your emergency brake is set. Slowly raise the jack until it’s just shy of making contact with your vehicle. Ensure it’s going to contact a point that allows it to support the frame. If everything looks okay, continue jacking the vehicle up until the frame is about to lift. Hold that position.

Step Two

Before you raise the car any further, break the lug nuts from the tire you’re replacing. You want to do this before the vehicle leaves the ground, but you also don’t want it supporting the car’s full weight. This is why you do it right before the jack begins lifting the frame all the way. All you’re going to do is loosen the lug nuts slightly. Continue to raise the jack until the tire is off the ground and is able to be removed. Finish removing the lug nuts the rest of the way. 

Step Three

Remove the old tire and place your spare on the vehicle. Tighten the lug nuts slightly, just until they are snug. You’re going to lower the jack to the position from before – you want the tire barely touching the ground without supporting the car’s entire weight. Finish tightening the lug nuts the rest of the way. Make sure you get them tight enough so your wheel doesn’t fly off. Lower the jack the rest of the way and place everything back in the trunk. 

Hopefully, by giving your tires the proper care they need, you can avoid a situation that requires changing a tire. Regardless of the level of care you give them, emergencies always happen.

By following the advice listed in this article, you can add a significant amount of life to your tires. In the end, this ends up saving you a lot of money, which can be a lifesaver considering the price of tires. Additionally, you’ll add more life to your vehicle by eliminating further complications that may arise by having subpar tires on your vehicle. 

Resources

https://www.goldeagle.com/tips-tools/how-to-make-tires-last-longer/

https://www.cbac.com/media-center/blog/2014/april/3-easy-ways-to-make-your-tires-last-longer/

Written by Strut Daddy's

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