So, you go bring your car in for an oil change and when you pick it up, the mechanic tells you that you need new tires. You don’t know what size tires you need, what kind to buy, or even why you need new ones. Do you just trust the mechanic, or do you venture out on your own? Okay, so you are going to go for new tires, where do you begin?
First of all, it’s not a bad thing to have trust in your mechanics. They are going to have to fix a whole lot more than bad tires in the future. But, tires are one thing you have a little control over with just a little bit of knowledge. This way you can make sure you are getting exactly what you need for the price you deserve to pay.
The first step is to know why you need new tires. The reality is that all tires wear out eventually. Obviously if there is a huge hole in your tire, you need a new one. The rule is that if there is a puncture that is more than a quarter inch deep, you need to replace that tire. Some punctures are fixable, so make sure they are not trying to pull one over on you for more money. They will gladly show you where the problem is so that you can make a decision together. Be involved so that you can be sure of your decision.
Another common problem is bald tires. This means that there is not enough tread on your tires for good traction. People try to get away with this as much as possible until the tire is almost gone. This is not a good idea. It is unsafe to drive with bald tires during any season. There are a couple of tricks to knowing when your tires are bald. Every tire has what are called wear bars. These are narrow bands in the grooves across the tire’s tread. When the wear bars are even with the tread, the tire is bald and you need a new one. Another handy trick that you can definitely do on your own is called the penny trick. You place a penny in the shallowest groove of the tread with Lincoln’s head upside down. If you can still see the top of Lincoln’s head, then the tire is bald. Do not ignore bald tires. You are now aware of how to determine if the tires are bald or not, so use that information to make better decisions.
Now you know that you absolutely need new tires, so what kind of tires do you buy? There are all kinds of tires that are made for all kinds of specific reasons. There are tires for durability, aggressive handling, and snow tires, to name a few. The everyday person not looking for fancy customization is recommended to buy an all-season tire. This is the kind of tire that comes on vehicles when they are purchased, unless otherwise asked. It is also commonly recommended that you buy the same kind, brand, and size of tire that you purchased with the vehicle. It is important to take note of that information. Even if you are unsure about what you are doing, take down the size and the type of tire so you know at least a little bit about it. Then you and your mechanic will be on the same page. Also, once the tires are purchased, it is imperative that you have a mechanic install the new tires. You want the job done right.
Tire sizes can be a little daunting to try to understand. While it’s definitely important to know what size tires go on your car, it doesn’t hurt to know exactly what all those numbers and letters mean. I will use this example to run through each part of the tire size: P185/60R 14 82 H.
The “P” in this example stands for passenger. This tire would go on a passenger car. You may also see “LT” for a light truck, “T” for temporary tire, or “E” for a heavy duty truck. Simple enough when you know what kind of vehicle you drive.
The “185” is simply telling you the width of the tire in millimeters. On the door jamb of your car, there is a sticker that should tell you the size of the tires that the factory put on your car. Using this, you should never have to guess in millimeters how wide your tires should be.
The “60” in this size represents what is called the aspect ratio. In this case, the tire’s height is sixty percent of the tire’s width. Performance tires will have a lower aspect ratio. The “R” stands for radial, the type of tire it is. Every tire on vehicles will have this “R”. If you are buying tires for something smaller like a lawn mower or a four wheeler, that type of tire is called bias ply, not used on motor vehicles.
The size of the wheel’s rim is represented by the “14” in inches. You can’t put a 16 inch tire on a 14 inch rim or visa versa. That obviously makes sense.
“82” is the load index. There is a maximum load carrying capacity chart to determine what tires you will need based on the vehicle you drive. In this case, it shows that the maximum load carrying capacity is 4,188 pounds. You definitely don’t want to put too much pressure on tires that can’t handle it all.
Finally, the “H” represents the amount of speed the tires can travel at. An “S” would be able to handle speeds up to 112 mph, an “H” speeds up to 130 mph, and a “V” speeds 150+ mph. These are strict guidelines and should not be tested.
Again, this is all good information to know, but it is more important to just know the correct tire size for your car. There’s no need to get confused by all the information when all you really need to know is the tires that make your driving safe. If you have any questions about any of these, ask your mechanic.
It is possible that the wrong tire will fit onto your car. In most cases, the difference is so minute that it won’t cause any harm. However, what you should know is that all mechanics and car dealerships will absolutely refuse to put on tires that are different than what you are supposed to have. You are given a tire size specific to your car and there are no reasons why this should not be obliged. They want to fit the manufacturer’s guidelines exactly and that is for your safety. Make sure you don’t try to be adventurous in this area. When a wrong tire size is put onto your car, you may actually feel that the driving is different and you should go get it checked out. If you happen to buy the wrong tires and bring them to be installed, don’t worry, they will give you the correct tire size and send you back to return them.
It is extremely crucial to maintain your tires. It is important to note that tire rotation is crucial for the life of your tires. It is likely that your car will wear each tire a little differently. Perhaps on one corner, the inside tread wears a little more quickly than the outside, or vice versa. By rotating the tires on a regular basis, the tires wear more easily and will have a longer life. This is a good thing to do not only to get the best use out of your tires, but also for safety. You really don’t want one tire wearing down completely, while the other ones are okay. So, while inspecting your tires, don’t just check the tread one tire, check for wear on all four tires.
People living in places where it is very hot should be especially aware of the pressure in their tires. Heat can do a number on tires, and so you should do all you can to keep your tires in good shape. On average, it is normal to have your tire pressure be 30-35 pounds per square inch. This varies according to the type of vehicle and tire you have. You should obtain this knowledge when buying new tires, especially where and when it is hot outside. Every tire does have a recommended tire pressure.
It is said that tire pressure should be checked in the morning so that it may be adjusted accordingly as the day gets hotter or colder. The rule of thumb is that for every ten degrees Fahrenheit the temperature changes, the tire pressure will change by one psi. What this means is that if it is sixty degrees out in the morning and your tire pressure is at thirty-three psi, when the temperature rises to eighty degrees, your tire pressure will be at thirty-five psi. You should be aware of the temperature in your area and know whether to increase or to decrease your tire pressure when necessary. You definitely do not want your pressure to be too high or too low, both being unsafe conditions for driving. Many convenience stores do offer “free air” where you can check your tire pressure and adjust it as needed. It’s very quick and easy and worth it in the end.
If a tire gets too hot and there is too much pressure, the tread can actually separate from the belts on the tire. This is more likely to happen with the addition of high speeds. Driving on a highway and losing your tire’s tread can easily cause an accident. Do your part to keep yourself and others safe.
Another potential risk is that of hydroplaning. This happens mostly when your tires do not have enough tread. What happens in hydroplaning is that too much water builds between the tires on your car and the road. Water pressure in front of the wheel forces a wedge of water causing it to actually lift from the road. This leads to the loss of traction and you are then at the mercy of the water. You basically skid on the water and have a loss of control in your steering, braking, and acceleration.
The grooves on your tires are specifically designed to disperse the water so that you have traction even when the road is wet. If your tires are worn out or bald, or if there is low tire pressure, you are more likely to hydroplane. Your best bet is to make sure your tires are safe. This means do not use your tires until they are completely bald and keep your tire pressure at the recommended psi. It rains everywhere and you should be able to count on your tires when you need them the most.
In many cases, the wearing down of your tires should be obvious to you. You should make it your responsibility to check your tires frequently and to notice when something just isn’t right. You will more than likely know if you have run over something that could harm your tire. You will definitely know if your tire is flat. Even by taking a quick glance at your tires, you will probably be able to tell if they are getting bald. This will allow you to take action and have the proper maintenance done on your tires. It will only help them to last longer.
Since you will always now have your tire size handy, don’t be afraid to shop around when looking for tires. You already know what kind to buy, it will only take a little work to go out and find the best price for you. It’s absolutely okay to ask questions to make sure you are getting what you think you are paying for. Any store or car dealership that sells tires will always have someone around to help you find what you are looking for. Don’t be afraid to ask.
Of course you can always do exactly what the mechanic says and try not to be involved as much as possible. But, why would you? You know what you are doing and new tires are not a scary thought anymore. Your safety is in your hands and more than likely, your wallet won’t thin out as much as it could. Be adventurous and feel good about having some control over the maintenance of your car.