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Your Guide to Vehicle Tire Maintenance


In the United States, we collectively put more than three trillion miles on our tires per year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). That’s a lot of wear and tear on the four wheels we rely on to get us from point A to point B. Unfortunately, tire problems can cause serious accidents and even fatalities. Plus, skimping on tire maintenance can cost you money in the long run with decreased fuel efficiency and shorter tire life. The good news is tire care doesn’t have to be challenging. Here’s your simplified plan. 

General Tire Maintenance Schedule

Get your tires checked annually by a pro, and schedule a tire rotation and balance every 5,000 to 8,000 miles. Check your owner’s manual for your vehicle’s specific recommendation. You can often match your tire rotation schedule with your car’s routine maintenance schedule. However, if you notice any alignment issues, like the wheel pulling to one side, it’s a good idea to schedule an additional tire maintenance check.

Tire Pressure

Using a tire gauge, check your pressure at least once per month or before a road trip. Maintaining proper pressure will extend the life of the tire and could save you about a dime per gallon on fuel, says the NHTSA.

If you have a newer vehicle, you might be tempted to wait until the Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS) light comes on before inspecting your tires. However, the TPMS warning typically only activates when a tire has a significant pressure problem. You can usually find your vehicle’s proper tire pressure info on a label located inside the driver’s side door, or access it in your owner’s manual. To get an accurate reading, wait at least three hours after driving to check the tire pressure, and don’t forget to check your spare.

Changes in temperature will also affect your tires’ inflation, according to AccuWeather. That’s why the TPMS light often comes on when the weather starts to cool down. Cold snaps can cause the tire pressure to drop, which means you’ll need to adjust your tire maintenance schedule during the cooler season. Check the tire pressure immediately when temperatures drop and more frequently when the weather is cool.

Tire Tread

Your car’s tire tread can tell you a lot about the health of your tires and your vehicle. Get in the habit of checking your tire tread at the same time you check your tire pressure. One way to check your tire’s tread is to do the penny test. Stick the edge of a penny in a middle tire groove with Abraham Lincoln’s head going into the tire. If you can see the top of his head, your tires need replacing.

Replacing Tires

While it’s generally best to replace all four tires at the same time, you may find you have more wear on two tires. According to Consumer Reports, if you’re replacing only two tires, put them in the rear of your vehicle and rotate the rear tires to the front. This applies whether you have rear- or front-wheel drive. Make sure your new tires are the same brand and model as the others and that the tires you’re not replacing are still in good condition.

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