Warm Weather Tire Care Basics, Helping Your Tires Last

Americans spend millions of dollars each year preparing their cars for winter, namely purchasing heavy-duty snow tires. Unfortunately, many of these same well-meaning vehicle owners don’t realize the havoc wreaked on their all-weather or passenger tires during the hotter periods of the year. It’s just as important to keep a watchful eye on your tire’s appearance and performance during the summer months, especially as the temperatures rise and you plan that yearly road trip. Here are a few tips, tricks and suggestions to help ensure your tires remain functional until the leaves change and the snow begins to fall:

Remove those Snow Tires Immediately

In theory, you could leave your snow tires on all-year round, but don’t be surprised when all they’re good for after your summer road trip is a backyard tire swing. Snow tires are constructed from softer materials than your regular or all-season models, meaning they’ll wear out more quickly. This fact will become more evident as you notice the visible signs of wear after traveling along sun-scorched, asphalt highways for three months. Do your pocket book a favor and save your snow tires for the winter.

Take a Cue from the 16th President

A tire’s tread degrades more quickly when exposed to the heat, making for an unsafe situation. Instead of wasting your time and money by having the tread examined by a professional, use a tool found at the bottom of your purse or between the couch cushions: a Lincoln penny. Place a penny, Lincoln’s head down, into several of the tire’s tread grooves. If any part of Lincoln’s head is covered, you’re tires are street legal. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to have the tire replaced.

Check Your Tire Pressure

Before you begin to perform this ritual, stop and realize that chances are you’re performing this deceptively simple task incorrectly. First off, your tire’s recommended inflation pressure is found inside the owner’s manual, not printed on the tire’s side. Also, it’s best to check the pressure with a gauge first thing in the morning when the tires are cold, which allows you achieve a more accurate reading. Keeping your tires properly inflated not only increases fuel efficiency, it can actually prevent catastrophic tire failure. If you don’t own a proper tire gauge, check out the specials available for these, and all of your others car needs, at www.partsgeek.com.

Don’t Forget the Spare

A properly maintained spare tire can mean the difference between getting you to a nearby town or service center, and remaining stranded on the side of a hot, busy highway for several hours. Before heading out on the yearly summer road trip, pull out the spare and perform a visual inspection. If the tread is acceptable, and there are no visible signs of wear or damage, finish your quick once-over by checking the spare’s tire pressure.

Tire Rotation

Last, and by my no means least, it’s crucial to have your tires rotated at a service center at least every 5,000 to 7,000 miles, or according to the manufacturer’s recommendation. If you’re handy, and have the proper tools, don’t hesitate to rotate the tires yourself, but realize that there’s more to this procedures than simply switching your back tires with the front. Tires are manufactured with either directional or non-directional tread. If your tire’s tread follows a one-directional pattern, you have directional tires. Rotate your directional tires by switching the front driver’s side tire with the back, and the passenger front with the back. If you have non-directional tires, rotate the left rear and right front and the right rear with the left front. This may seem confusing, but you’ll thank yourself when you save a few bucks, and your tires last for several miles longer.

Loading Up for a Summer Road Trip

One universal mistake made by summer road travelers is over packing, which is not only a gigantic waste of time, but all of this unnecessary weight is also detrimental to your tires. To ensure your tires remain viable from point A to point B, pack sparingly and leave room for all the souvenirs you’ll accumulate along your travels.

If you notice certain spots on your tires are wearing faster than others, it’s crucial to take your vehicle to a mechanic immediately, or at least before you hit the road. These uneven wear patterns are a signal of larger problems, including improper alignment or even worn shock absorbers.

About the Author:
Charles Corbin is an automotive mechanics instructor and retired mechanic. In his free time he works on his classic cars and is currently writing a book on the Chevelle.

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