Your tires are the most crucial piece of safety equipment on your vehicle. That may sound like a bold statement, but when you’ve been in the automotive business as long as we have, you can feel confident making such pronouncements.
As the only part of the car that touches the surface of the road, having your tires in a state of good repair means that you will be able to direct and control all that power coming from the engine. It also allows you to bring your vehicle to a quick stop in the event of an emergency. And it always amazes us how many drivers wait until their tires are completely worn out before getting them replaced.
However, long before it’s time to replace your worn-out tires, you can take several steps to ensure you get the most out of them. Regular monitoring and maintenance can extend your tires’ lives and make sure you’re aware of potential hazards before they become a problem.
Regularly Check the Air Pressure
Checking your tire pressure is one of the easiest ways to ensure your tires stay in a state of good repair, yet very few people do it frequently enough. When your tire is over or under-inflated, it not only causes undue wear but can actually hamper your ability to control your vehicle.
With an over-inflated tire, you reduce the surface area that is making contact with the road. Which, in turn, causes rapid, uneven tread wear along the centre of the tire. The additional air pressure also makes the rubber tighter and more brittle, meaning it’s less responsive and more likely to burst in the event of running over a pothole.
When it comes to an underinflated tire, the lack of pressure prevents the rubber from maintaining it’s optimal shape and causes additional rolling resistance. All of which reduces your fuel economy, causing your gasoline expenses to escalate. The more underinflated the tires become, the more you will start to notice a mushy feeling to the ride. However, even a little drop in pressure can result in a reduced ability to steer the vehicle and an uneven wear pattern on the outside treads.
The good news is that with a little effort and a ten-dollar pressure gauge, you can keep your tires inflated to the precise factory settings and prevent problems. The whole process adds fewer than ten-minutes to your car maintenance schedule, and we recommend making it a weekly routine. As it’s best to check the pressure cold, you’ll want to do it before driving. And then, if you’re a little short, you can pop over to the gas station to top it up.
Rotating Your Tires
Admittedly, tire rotation takes a little more effort than monitoring your tire’s air pressure. However, by keeping on top of this vital service, you can ensure you get the most out of your tires.
The general rule of thumb is that you should have your tire’s rotated every 6,000 kilometres. Which conveniently lines up with most manufacturer’s recommendation for an oil change. So scheduling the two services at the same time is a great way to remember to get it done and save some time.
Of course, most people have heard about tire rotation, but they often don’t understand why it’s crucial to prolong their tires’ lives. And, as such, it tends to get forgotten about. The simplest way to think about it is that the four tire positions on your car all wear at slightly different rates (sometimes not so slightly). For example, by steering with your front wheels, you actually wear the tread faster on those tires. They also have to support the additional weight of the heaviest engine components. However, what’s even more interesting is that because most on-ramps and parking garages are right-hand turns, the left front tire actually travels a further distance. Meaning the front tires are wearing at different rates from each other. That one blows a lot of people’s minds!
By rotating your tires every 6,000 kilometres, you ensure that each of them can balance out the tread wear and last, as a set, as long as possible before needing to be replaced.
Although, depending on the type of tire you purchase and the vehicle you drive, the rotation pattern can be limited. Below are the most common methods for rotating tires.
The Rearward Cross
We tend to use this pattern on four-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, and rear-wheel drive vehicles. The front two tires are moved back to the opposite sides of the back axle, and the rear tires are moved forward but kept on the same side.
The X Pattern
This pattern is usually for front-wheel-drive trucks and occasionally for some larger front-wheel-drive sedans. In this case, all four tires are moved diagonally. The two front wheels go back to opposite sides, and the two back wheels come forward, again to opposite sides.
The Forward Cross
We use this pattern for most front-wheel-drive vehicles. For this arrangement, the back wheels are moved up diagonally to the opposite side of the front axle. Both front tires are then moved directly back to the same position on the back axle.
At Sipan Tire and Rims, no matter the rotation pattern, we follow a five-point tire rotation and inspection process.
- Tires are rotated in the appropriate pattern
- Each tire is examined for overall quality and safety
- The tire tread is inspected for the remaining lifespan
- Each tire is gauged for adequate inflation
- And, each of the lug nuts is snugged to the right tightness
As a result of each tire wearing differently, tires will gradually go out of balance. When your tires are out of balance, it adds an extra layer irregular wear. However, monitoring tire balance can usually be done as you drive. Often when a tire is out of balance, it will cause vibration in the vehicle. When the steering wheel starts vibrating, it’s your front tires that are out of balance. If it’s more in the seats, the imbalance is going to be in the back wheels. As a driver, if you notice any increased tremors while driving, its time to make an appointment to have the wheels rebalanced.
To correct off-balanced wheels, we add small tire weights in strategic places to restore the tires rotating balance. For accurate tire balancing, we mount each of your wheels (one at a time) onto a tire balancing machine. The machine spins the entire wheel assembly to measure the imbalance so that a technician can precisely install the correct tire weights to achieve a properly balanced wheel.
It seems so simple, but regularly cleaning your tires is a great way to clear away potentially harmful debris. Moreover, it also brings you up close and personal with the rubber, allowing you to notice anything that seems out of sorts. If you come across any cuts or punctures, make sure to schedule an inspection with an expert. We can help you determine if the tire is still safe to drive on. Ideally, you want to give your tires a cleaning at least every two weeks, but if you just love that sparkling black finish, there is no reason you can’t do it more frequently. However, you want to ensure you’re using a proper tire cleaner that will help refresh the rubber and afterwards seal in the tire’s antiozonant properties with a tire balm to prevent the rubber from becoming dry and brittle before its time.
General Tread Monitoring
As soon as you start driving on a new set of tires, their tread is starting wear. Eventually, the rubber will become worn out, and they will be unable to provide proper traction. At this point, you need to purchase new tires. Of course, if you find yourself slipping all over the road, you’ve waited too long to inspect your tires for tread wear.
While it’s nice to think you could use a tire until it’s completely finished, the truth is that once the tread has reached 50 percent of its original height, your tire is used up. It’s time for some new rubber.
At Sipan Tire and Rim, we regularly monitor the available tread on our client’s tires using precision gauges. However, if you are looking for an easy way to check your tire’s remaining lifespan, here a quick, at-home method, utilizing a toonie that can give you a reasonable assessment.
Place your Toonie in the tire tread. If it touches the bear’s paws, your tires are probably new. If the tread only covers the silver outer ring, your tires are approximately 50 percent worn, time to get new ones. And if the tread reaches only halfway into the letters (‘CANADA’ or ‘DOLLARS’), your tires are not safe and should be replaced immediately.
By monitoring and maintaining your tires regularly, you can ensure that not only can you prolong your tires’ lives, but you can help make your vehicle as safe as possible on the road.
If you have questions about your tires, schedule an appointment with our tire experts or give us a call. We love to talk shop.