The Rubber that Meets the Road
Tires are an extremely important part of the car and yet they are always neglected or forgotten. Without decent tires a car turns into an instrument of death and chaos. That may sound silly but it’s pretty much true. The tires keep the car in control and sticking to the road at all times. When it’s going straight, and when it’s turning, when it’s on smooth clear pavement, and when it’s on rough, bumpy or slippery surfaces. The tires also contribute substantially to the ride quality. When considering that the tires are bouncy air cushions that the entire weight of the vehicle is resting on, it’s easy to see that a tire problem is going to affect the way the ride feels and the way the vehicle handles.
|A very interesting tread pattern. Each row of tread is different|
and grips differently from the rest.
|Wear indicator between the tread blocks touching the |
pavement. This means that the tires are worn out.
In order to find out what your tire pressure should be you can look in the owner’s manual, but if this is lost, or just too confusing, the other place that you can look is on the tire information label. This label is usually posted somewhere on the inside edge of the driver’s door or driver’s door frame. If the label is not there it could also be on the inside of the glove box on under the lid of the center console. Do not look on the side of the tire. This will only tell you the maximum pressure that the tire can stand before it becomes dangerous once it gets hot.
|This tire has good tread over most of the surface, but the|
right side is so work out the steel cords are poking through.
This is a major alignment problem.
If you see the opposite condition, wear on the outside edges but not down the center, then the tire has been underinflated. This is common because it means that the tire pressure is never checked and the car is driven without enough air in the tires. If either one of these inflation conditions is caught before the difference in wear is extreme then the pressure can be corrected and monitored and the tires will usually even themselves out.
|The tire on the left is underinflated. The tire in the middle is overinflated.|
The tire on the right is normal.
|Major tread seperation. Notice the big deep crack on the right side.|
This is a very damgerous tire, not to mention that the ride quailty of this
vehicle was terrible.
|A true tire blowout of the worst kind.|
A Doughnut You Can’t Eat
If the tires are very neglected, the spare tire is even more so. The main thing to remember with the spare tire is to check the pressure once in awhile. Many times people find a flat tire on their vehicle and go to put the spare on only to find that it too is flat or at least very low. The other thing is that spare tires are usually meant for temporary use and should not be used for extended periods.
If you are lucky, the spare tire on your vehicle is a regular full size tire and not one of the temporary doughnut spares. These compact spares are now the standard on most cars because they are cheap, they are light, and they are easy to stow. Anything that manufacturers can do to make a car cheaper, lighter, or easier to package, will be done, even if it comes as a compromise. The problem with these little spares is that they are not meant for speeds much above 55 mph. They are only meant to get you to a tire shop in the next town. The problem is that this is not very convenient because stopping at a tire shop in the next town isn’t always convenient.
Some four-wheel-drive vehicles and SUV’s will have a doughnut that is full-size. These don’t have quite the same restrictions as the small ones but they are not the same thing as having a regular full-size tire for your spare. If you do have a regular tire and if the rim matches the rest of the rims on the vehicle, you can rotate your spare through the regular rotation. This will allow you to actually use that tire and it will make all of the tires last a bit longer.
You Get What You Pay For
When buying new tires it goes without saying that you should buy tires that are the same size as the ones that the vehicle came with. Changing the size of the tire will change the way the vehicle rides, handles, and it will also cause your speedometer and odometer to read inaccurately. Sometimes some custom rims can add a nice look to your ride and this is okay to do as long as the overall diameter of the tire remains the same. So if you vehicle came with 16 inch rims and you want to put 18 inch rims on it, change the tire to something with a smaller aspect ratio. The new aspect ratio must be 1 inch shorter which will add two inches to the inside opening of the tire.
The other thing to remember when buying tires is that you get what you pay for. Don’t buy cheap tires, it’s not worth it. This doesn’t mean that the most expensive tires are the best tires; it just means that you should always try to spend a little extra. The problem with the cheap tires is not just that they tread wears out quickly, but they usually suffer from other problems before the tread wears out. Things like vibration problems, tread separation, conicity issues (a condition that can cause the vehicle to exhibit problem with wheel alignment when really there are none), and other things render the tires useless while there is still tread left.