Good tires are essential for safe driving and a smooth ride. Regular tire maintenance is relatively simple and inexpensive, and can greatly extend the life of your tires. Here are the basic things you need to know to maintain your current tires or to purchase new ones.
Rotation, rotation, rotation:
Rotating tires is like rotating a mattress: it ensures that no tire gets too worn down in the same spot. Regularly rotating and balancing your tires (these are usually done at the same time) will help them to wear evenly and last longer. So how often should you have your tires rotated? Most experts recommend rotating your tires every 5,000 to 8,000 miles, but the best thing to do is follow the guidelines from your owner's manual. (The rotation schedule has more to do with whether your car is front, rear, or all-wheel drive than with the tire itself.) Rotate your tires consistently, but only as often as is necessary.
Did you know that tire pressure has a huge impact on the safety of your ride as well as its fuel efficiency? Checking your tire pressure is simple, and keeping it within the proper range can save you a lot of money long term, in both fuel and tire replacement costs. Having under- or over-inflated tires also makes driving more dangerous. Use an inexpensive tire gauge to check your air pressure at least once or twice a month. When the weather is cold, you may need to check your tire pressure more often. Use the guide on the inside of your car door to restore tires to the correct air pressure. If you're not comfortable checking air pressure yourself, most tire shops are happy to take a look and make the adjustments for free.
Many car owners don't think about wheel alignment unless there's a problem--like if the car starts veering to one side as they drive down the freeway. But it's a good idea to have your wheels aligned every 1-2 years. Your mechanic will re-adjust the angle of your wheels to meet manufacturer guidelines. This will extend the life of your tires and make your time behind the wheel safer and smoother.
Purchasing new tires:
Admittedly, shopping for new tires takes a little bit of effort, but it doesn't have to be overly difficult. There are several factors you should consider, including how often you drive, the climate you live in, how you drive, your budget and the kind of performance you're looking for. The best way to start is with some online research or an online tire comparison tool. Once you have a sense of what you need, ask around or make some phone calls to find a reputable dealer that will give you a decent price and will guarantee their work for the long run.
The winter tire "debate":
Do you really need winter tires? Most experts say that if you live in a climate where winter temperatures regularly go below 40 degrees, the answer is yes. The main reason is that winter tires are made with a type of rubber designed to withstand those kinds of temperatures, and even the best quality all-weather tire is not going to give you that advantage. Good quality winter tires keep you safer on the road. So really, it's no longer a debate. In most cases, it makes sense to purchase winter tires if you live in a colder climate.
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