Tires are probably the most expensive car maintenance component you’ll have to constantly be worried about. There is the timing belt of course, but that can’t really be maintained. Taking care of your tires fall into three main categories, tire rotations, tire pressure upkeep, and wheel alignments. We’ll touch on tire pressure and rotation here briefly.
First things first, find out what tire pressure your tires should be at. If you open your driver’s side door, you’ll easily be able to locate a sticker that offers information about what tire size your car is designed with and what PSI your tires should be at. The label should be on the edge of the door or on the B pillar where the door and the car meet.
Proper tire pressure is essential to both maintaining proper tire wear and a quality ride. AAA writes on their website, “Keeping your car’s tires properly inflated to the automaker’s recommended pressures is a critical element of tire maintenance. Tires that contain the specified amount of air pressure last longer and contribute to vehicle safety.”
Low tire pressures can affect tires in a multitude of ways, including impact to the braking distances and lower and less responsive handling. If you need to come to an emergency stop or rapidly need to make a turn, low tire pressure will make this more dangerous.
Overinflating your tires can also cause rapid tire wear, except in the center of the tire instead of the outer edges. In addition to that, overinflated tires will likely give you a bumpier ride. So, to start with, get yourself a tire pressure gauge. This will allow you to monitor your tire pressure easily. Recommendations range from weekly to monthly. I usually recommend checking every two weeks.
While you don’t need to own a tire inflator, it might make sense to. You can go to a gas station and pay for air, but that is out of the way. Having an inflator makes it easier and allows you to make sure that your tire pressure is always in peak condition. This one is affordable and highly rated at 4.5/5 stars with over 4,000 reviews.
While you’re at it, be sure to check you’re tire tread depth. This will allow you to catch any uneven tire wear BEFORE you completely wear out your tire. It will also help you prepare for when you will inevitably need new tires.
If you read my last column, I get into the nitty-gritty tire rotation details. Here are the basics though. Tire rotations simply change the position of your tires which help prevent uneven tire wear. Rotating your tires also allows for your mechanic to easily inspect your break, check your tire pressure and tire wear for a generally biannual check-up. Depending on the type of vehicle you have, you’ll either be rotating your tires from front to back, from side to side, or cross rotating. There are other tire rotation patterns, but these are the most common.
While I don’t recommend that you rotate your own tires, if you are going to, and have the standard automotive tools like a jack, wrench, jack stands, and torque wrench, you should be good to go. Read more about tire rotations here.
Finally, you’ll need to make sure your car is aligned regularly. Depending on your mechanic, they may recommend an alignment every 12,000 - 24,000 miles. An alignment ensures your wheels are completely parallel to each other and perpendicular to the ground. As you drive, hitting potholes and curbs, your wheel shift slightly out of alignment. This can cause rapid tire wear.
Many corporate repair shops like Pep Boys and Firestone offer completely free alignment checks. This will ensure you don’t worry about spending money when you don’t need to.