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All You Need to Know About Your Car Tires

I am a fully licensed automotive technician who has worked on all makes.

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About Your Tires

Here are four things you need to know about tires: how to inspect your tires for wear, whether and when to use winter tires, how to read the codes on tires, and how to store tires.

1. How to Inspect Your Tires for Wear

If you want long-lasting tires, you should check your tire pressure and inspect your car's tires for wear at least once a month, or every time you fill up a full tank of gas, and before and after long trips. This will allow you to determine whether you need to purchase new tires, to rebalance the wheels, rotate the tires, do wheel alignment, or change your driving habits.

The condition of your tires affects your safety, the life of the tire tread, and fuel consumption. By simply reading your tire treads for clues, you can save yourself a lot of money. Most tires have tread-wear indicators on them (bars of hard rubber in between the treads). When the indicators appear on an all-season tire, they indicate the tire is worn to 1/16th of an inch of the surface; it's highly recommended to replace them when they reach that mark. At 4/32 inch or 5/32 inch, all-season tires are considered "caution/marginal condition" and winter tires are considered worn. This means you may consider replacing the tires soon depending on upcoming seasonal or weather conditions.

Therefore, inspect and measure your tires' tread. Advanced and unusual wear can reduce the ability of the tread to grip the road in adverse conditions. Visually check your tires for uneven wear, looking for high and low areas or unusually smooth areas. Also check for signs of damage.

Wear on the Tire Treads: What It Means

ConditionCauseCorrection

worn on both edges

underinflation

inflate tire, check for leaks

worn on center treads

overinflation

reduce air in tire

worn on one side

improper alignment

perform alignment

worn unevenly: bald spots, cups or scallops

improper wheel balance/alignment

balance wheel/perform alignment

erratically spaced bald spots

improper wheel balance/worn shocks

balance wheel/replace shocks

only front tires edges worn

taking curves too fast

reduce speed

saw-toothed wear pattern

improper alignment

perform alignment

whining, thumping, and abnormal noises

improper alignment, worn tires, or shocks

perform alignment/install new tires/replace shocks

squealing on curves

improper alignment/underinflation

perform alignment/inflate tires

Wear on the Sidewalls: What It Means

ConditionCauseCorrection

deeply scuffed or worn areas

rubbing against the curb

do not drive/park too close to curb (be more careful)

bulges or bubbles

curbed, hit pothole, manufacturer defect, weak/old tire

replace tire

slits/holes

somehow damaged/vandalized

replace tire

cracking

weak/old/expired tire

replace tire

can see metal ply

somehow damaged/worn

replace tire

Here are some photos of some of these tire wear patterns.

Here are some photos of some of these tire wear patterns.

2. When Do You Choose All-Season Tires and When Do You Choose Winter Tires?

Everybody has different criteria for selecting their tires. With the wide variety of possibilities available, it can be confusing.

Why All-Season Tires?

All-season tires give all-around good performance in a wide variety of conditions and seasons. They are softer and have longer tread life and a quieter ride than performance tires. However extreme conditions reduce the performance of all-season tires, and if your area has extreme weather you may want winter tires.

Why Winter Tires?

Non-winter tires start to harden and lose traction below 7˚C. Porsche tests and approves tires for "N" ratings for winter use. These winter tires use softer rubber compounds and unique winter treads for greater flexibility and grip on cold and slippery surfaces.

Much too often, winter tires are portrayed as "snow tires." The truth is, winter tires are not only designed to perform in snowy conditions, but they are intended to provide optimal performance in cold weather temperatures as well. Therefore, even in the absence of snow on the road surface, your winter tires will continue to provide you with the performance and safety you expect, thanks to the soft compound mix capable of withstanding extreme temperatures.

They provide excellent ride comfort and safety, exceptional grip in cold conditions, superior braking on ice and snow, outstanding resistance against aquaplaning, superb wet and dry handling, enhanced vehicle stability, and smoother take-off when equipped with traction control.

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Replace Two Tires or Four Tires?

Any set of tires installed on a vehicle should all be of the same make, model, and tread pattern, and preferably have the same tread wear. This is to allow the vehicle to have even traction through all four tires for better control and handling. Especially during the fall and winter seasons with winter tires, tire grip and vehicle handling will be much better in slippery conditions with four winter tires than just two. That is why dealers recommend replacement of all four tires when needed and rotating tires every 10,000mi/16,000km (which is on average once a year).

3. How to Read Tire Specification Codes

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4. Tips for Safely Storing Tires

Exposure to the elements and heat are the main factors that affect the speed at which a tire ages. Tires will age naturally, but by taking a few steps to properly care for your tires, you may be able to prolong their life.

Ultraviolet rays and heat are not good for the rubber in your tires. You should keep your off-season tires out of direct sunlight. When storing your tires, place them flat so that extended storage won't create flat spots. Keep them in a dry, cool location that is not close to electrical motors or machines. Electrical equipment can give off ozone, which can damage your tires.

Tire Brands

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.