- by Kristin Shaw
- June 14th, 2017
Where the Rubber Really Meets the Road
Many of us will be hitting the road this summer. Some of our adventures will include family fun in the SUV, sporty drives down country roads or perhaps a wind-in-the-hair jaunt to the coast. Wherever the road takes you, you’ll want to be sure you’re riding on the right tires.
Here’s a few tips to make sure that you not only have the right tires for your car, but that the tires you’ve chosen are in tip-top shape. Tires significantly affect your car’s handling and braking capabilities, as well as keeping you safe on wet or icy roads. Keeping them well maintained is critical.
Heading off road?
First, ask yourself a few questions before heading for the hills. What type of off-roading am I planning to do: mud, rocks, rough terrain, all of the above? How much off road vs. on road will I be doing? How much do I want to spend on tires? Is comfort or performance most important to me? Answering these questions will give you a good head start on figuring out what kind of tires you need.
All-Season Truck Tires
For light off-roading, all-season truck tires could be your most efficient choice, as their tread is long-lasting and does well on wet or dry roads. It wouldn’t be advisable to do any serious mudding in all-season tires, but these tires will last longer than the specialty tires and will serve you well in many situations.
All-Terrain Truck Tires
Are you taking a spin on rocky and unpredictable, but dry terrain? The all-terrain truck tires may be your best bet. They offer longevity and durability, and flexibility for on- and off-road driving. However, if you are going to be driving in wet or icy conditions, the all-terrain won’t grip the road as well as the all-season tires.
Extreme Truck Tires
If extreme off-roading is your thing, extreme truck tires offer aggressive tread designs not only on the road surface but on the sidewalls. They’re designed with deep ruts and giant lugs, and they don’t pride themselves on elegance and quiet. However, they’re very durable, especially if you pay attention to tire pressure recommendations. Be sure to read the directions from the manufacturer on proper tire pressure settings for off-road use.
Need to hug the curves in your sporty coupe?
If your car came with all-season tires, you might be tempted to move up to performance tires for better cornering grip and improved handling. And if you live in San Diego, Phoenix, or other temperate climate zones, that could work for you very well. Performance tires are rated for higher speeds and generally handle curves, acceleration, and braking much better.
High-performance tires are rated for higher speeds, are probably low profile, and offer optimized cornering and performance. Ultra-high performance (UHP) tires are designed for best cornering, braking, and handling. However, the ride may not be as smooth, and they may have a shorter tread life.
No matter what tires you choose, here are some tips to ensure they’re serving you well:
1. UNDER PRESSURE
The single most important step you can take to make your tires last longer and run safely is to keep them inflated to the recommended pressure. It's important to check tire pressure before heading out on a long trip, and especially when carrying extra weight, like a trunk full of suitcases.
Have you ever experienced a blowout on the highway? Trust us, you don’t want to. Proper inflation pressure is critical to avoid tire damage and improve a better ride, handling, and fuel economy. Your vehicle owner's manual will have the manufacturer recommended tire pressure for your vehicle, including your spare.
Underinflated tires both wear faster and build up heat quicker than properly-inflated tires. Excessive heat buildup can contribute to a tire failure. Recommended inflation pressure is found on a placard in the vehicle, usually located on the driver’s door jamb, or in the owner’s manual. Don’t inflate to the pressure on the tire’s sidewall; that is the maximum inflation pressure.
2. GET GROOVY
The tires on your vehicle should have deep, beautiful grooves, meaning more than 2/32-inch tread depth. Use the old penny trick to see if your tread is sufficient: insert a penny into each groove with Abraham Lincoln’s head pointing toward the inside. If you can see the top of Abe’s head, your tire must be replaced. When your tread is compromised, your ability to stop and corner is affected, especially in wet conditions.
Tread should also be even, so if there is wear on one side of the tread and not the other, those flat spots might be an indication of a problem. If you spot uneven wear, bring your vehicle to a tire service professional as soon as possible.
3. BE AN INSPECTOR
Make a point to inspect your tires any cuts, splits, or cracks in the tread or sidewall. Take note of bumps or bulges, which could mean separation within the tire itself. If you see any of these red flags, bring your tires in for service or replacement immediately, or you could be risking a blowout.
4. TWIST AND SHOUT
Don’t forget to rotate! Pay attention to your vehicle’s recommended guidelines (generally, every 5,000 miles) for rotation to ensure even tread wear and top performance.
5. LIGHTEN UP
Check on two things before loading up your vehicle: your manufacturer’s maximum weight restrictions and your tires’ maximum load rating, which is stamped right on the tires. Trying to load up your car or truck with more than the recommended limit can affect the vehicle ride and handling, and wear out your tires faster. Follow these guidelines for safe and happy summer!