Just because there’s a little tread left on your car tires doesn’t mean it’s safe to keep driving on them. Tires get old and worn down. And because a tire failure while you’re driving can be catastrophic, causing your car to go out of control or leaving you stranded in the middle of nowhere without any easy way to get home, you want to know when your tires are in bad shape so you can get new ones before something goes wrong.
Tires are not cheap, and you need to ensure that you get the most miles possible out of them before you have to shell out cash for replacements. That means knowing what maintenance needs to be done, and when it should be done. Here’s what you need to know.
Air Pressure – The air pressure in your tires is incredibly important. If it’s too low, you’ll wear out the sides and need replacement sooner than you should (you’re also more susceptible to blowouts). If it’s too high, you’ll wear out the center tread on the tire. Check your tire pressure regularly and ensure that you set the pressure by the rating on your driver’s side door placard, not the PSI rating on the tire’s sidewall.
Rotation – Rotating your tires might not seem like something important, but it really is, particularly if you want to avoid having to replace them before it’s time. How do you tell when your tires need to be rotated? Ideally, the tread depth will be the same on the front and rear tires. To keep it this way, rotate them regularly – every other oil change is the norm. To determine if you’re in need of a rotation, simply look to see if the best tread is on your drive tires (front for a front-wheel drive and rear for a rear-wheel drive).
Alignment – Your vehicle’s alignment determines how straight it tracks while driving down the road. If your alignment is out, your tires will wear in strange patterns. Check for cupping or scalloping on the inner or outer edge to see if you need an alignment. Alignment wear generally only shows up on one or the other. If there’s edge wear on both sides, it’s usually a tire pressure issue.
Even Tread – If you check your tires and the tread is even on all four, then they should be left where they are (you don’t need a rotation). Rotating only needs to be done when the tread is uneven, with the drive tires having the lowest.