Tire Maintenance 101: Taking Care of Your Tires

Tires; if you own a car, you ‘gotta have them. However, most folks give little thought to their car’s tires until a problem crops up — like a flat on a major street or a potentially dangerous blowout on the freeway. But the truth is that those tires you never think about do much more than provide the traction your car needs to make it from point A to point B.

Most importantly, tires help keep you and your car’s occupants safe from unnecessary accidents like the hundreds of tire-related crashes resulting in fatalities in 2020. Tires also have a great deal to do with how your vehicle handles and even your car’s fuel economy. Some simple tire maintenance tips can help ensure your tires are in the best shape possible to ensure optimal performance, no matter the season.

Caring for your tires is essential to being a thoughtful and responsible vehicle owner. Regular and effective tire maintenance protects your investment and ensures your tires have a long service life. So you get the biggest bang for your buck.

A rundown of top tire maintenance tips can help keep them doing what they were designed to — only longer.

Understanding Tire Basics

Knowing the basic tire components — such as its tread, sidewalls, and bead — is crucial to understanding the reason for tire maintenance. You should also know about the different tire types and their specific purposes: all-season, summer, winter, performance, etc.

Here are some key terms to understand:

  • Tread: The tread is part of the tire that maintains contact with the road and gives it the grip it needs.
  • Plies: Plies make up the actual tire, running perpendicular to the tread. They’re coated with rubber that bonds them to one another and the belts on the tire.
  • Belts: Belts help the treads maintain road contact and stay flat. They’re found between the tread and plies, holding them in place and providing structure for the tire.
  • Bead: The tire’s bead is the heavy-duty steel cable, coated in rubber, that seats the tire on its rim.
  • Sidewall: Sidewalls protect plies and belts. It also has markings that indicate vital information about the tire. Tire markings can help determine most of the data above, including the tire’s size, load index, speed rating, and other specifications.

Regular Tire Inspection: What You Can Do

Consistent visual inspection of your tires is a vital part of tire care and one of the most useful tire maintenance tips.

Inspections allow the Caliber Auto Care technician to get a good visual of the health of your tires and identify any potential issues before you experience tire failure, such as a flat or blowout. You can inspect your tires regularly yourself. It involves the following:

Ensuring Proper Tire Inflation

Tire pressure is essential because overinflated tires are more likely to blow out or experience premature wear. Tires with too little pressure can result in the following:

  • Fuel economy decline
  • Reduced vehicle control
  • Cause tire to wear out faster

Your tire may even come unseated from the wheel, causing a dangerous situation.

A simple tire gauge, available at any automotive store and some big box retailers, can help you quickly determine if your tires have the appropriate pressure. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the gauge you purchase to ensure an accurate reading.

A home air compressor (or stop by a service station to use a paid compressor) can help inflate the tire to the recommended level.

Assess Tire Tread Depth

The most critical tire maintenance tip may be assessing tire tread depth — an indicator of wear and when replacement is needed.

The “penny” test can help inspect the tread depth. Insert a standard penny with Lincoln’s head upside down into the tire. If you can see the top of his head, you need to replace your tire immediately.

Examine Tires for Visible Damage

Inspect tires for visible damage, such as cuts, bulges, or punctures. As you drive down the road each day, your tires experience normal wear and tear, but they also encounter various hazards that can lead to embedded debris, cuts, and gouges. This underscores the need for regular visual inspection, looking for any damage and appropriate action to correct it.

Regular Tire Inspection: What Caliber Auto Care Can Do

Caliber Auto Care is well-versed in checking for proper tire inflation, assessing tire tread depth, and inspecting your tires for visual damage — all of which you can regularly do yourself or come into the shop for help.

Other tire maintenance needs require the expertise and equipment our pros have to offer. This includes these vital tire maintenance tasks:

Tire Rotation and Balancing

Moving tires from one wheel to another is the premise of tire rotations, a process necessary to promote even tread wear, extend tire life, and minimize vibrations.

Rotation patterns include front-to-back or a cross pattern, and what is best for your tires depends on your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendation. Most tires should be rotated and balanced every 5,000 to 7,500 miles.

Wheel Alignment

Proper wheel alignment is necessary for the optimal performance of your tires and the handling of your vehicle. If you notice common signs of misalignment, such as your vehicle “pulling” to the left or right when you drive it or uneven tire wear, then a trip to Caliber Auto Care should be in the cards for your car.

Regular alignment offers some calculable benefits, including increased tire life, reduced wear of tires, and improved fuel efficiency.

Tire Storage

If you’re like many folks, you have summer tires and winter tires. Part of taking care of your tires is properly storing them in the off-season to ensure their continued performance when they’re mounted again and their appearance.

While it’s okay to store tires outside for a month or so, outdoor storage can cause the tires to dry out, leading to cracks in the surface. If you must store them for a short period outside, then raise the tires off the ground and cover them up with a tarp with holes to minimize any moisture buildup.

Tire storage should be indoors, like a garage, where it’s cool, clean, and dry. Keep tires from direct sun exposure and heat sources such as electric generators as much as possible. The area where you store the tires should be clean and not subject the tires to oils, grease, fuel, or solvents that might cause the rubber to deteriorate. Face whitewall tires against each other to prevent the black rubber from the other tire from staining the whitewall side of the tire.

Before storing your tires, inspect them for uneven wear or damage, and remove any debris that might be lodged in their grooves.

Tire Replacement

No matter how well you maintain your tires, you’ll eventually have to buy new ones. When it’s time for tire replacement, Caliber Auto Care will help you choose the right tires for your ride. Our technicians can help you choose the right tires for your car based on the type and size of your current tires and your specific driving needs.

Some key signs you need tire replacement include sidewall damage or worn-out tread. When tires’ tread becomes less than 2/32” in depth, according to the penny test, it’s crucial to replace them, as driving on tires with minimal tread increases your chance of an accident. And remember, when you replace your tires, Caliber Auto Care can balance them and check alignment so that they have the longest service life possible.

Tire care and maintenance are vital to owning a vehicle. Following these tire maintenance tips is a good start toward getting the most out of your tires. By regularly inspecting your tires for damage and wear and replacing your tires when necessary, you can stay safer on the road and enjoy maximum fuel efficiency.