tires on road

10 Things To Know About Tire Care

Back to school time. If you drive carpool, get your car in tip top shape. That means, in part, checking the wear on your tires. Are they up to speed? And have you chosen the correct tires for your particular vehicle? Read on to learn more about proper tire care.

By Tara Weingarten

Ten Things to Know About Tires From the Experts at Michelin

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Most of us never think of it but the only contact your big hulking car has with the road is that slim sliver of rubber – your tires. If the contact patch of your tire isn’t in good shape, what’s to keep your car from sliding in wet weather, skidding from mishandling or reeling out of control from a blowout? The first line of safety on your vehicle is your tires…so let’s make sure you’re doing your best at tire care.

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We asked the experts at Michelin to give us some tire care tips. We were happy to learn that their tire guru is a woman, former test driver Sarah Robinson. Sarah’s first advice is this: the dog days of summer can be the most dangerous time for blowouts. Hot weather (translating to hot pavement) is a tire’s enemy. Inflation is key to tire safety, especially in the heat of late summer and early fall. According to Sarah, you are more likely to experience a blowout when it’s hot outside and your tires are under inflated.

Fortunately, it’s an easy fix. You can find the correct tire inflation PSI (pounds per square inch) numbers inside the driver’s side door jam, or in your car’s owner’s manual. If you can’t find the numbers, pull into a local tire store and ask to have your tires checked for proper inflation and wear condition.

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tire pressureMake a commitment to check your tire pressure once each month. Choose a date that’s easy to remember, like the first of each month. Buy a pressure gauge at an auto supply store. It’s simple to check. Perform the test in the morning, when it’s cooler outside, and before you drive the car. Driving the car causes tires to heat up and expand, giving an inaccurate reading.

Just listen for a quick Psshhht, and then silence. The gauge should give you a reading once the Psshhht stops. If the pressure is low, simply drive to your gas station and fill up your tire. Quick and easy tire care!

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Sarah says to look for wear on your tires. Any chunks missing from the sidewalls from overly aggressive parking (yes, the curb is also your enemy) compromises the integrity of the tire. This can possibly lead to a slow leak from the thin rubber that’s left on the sidewall, or, at worst, a blowout at high speed. Also check for bubbles or bulges on the sidewall. These can be caused by driving over potholes. They, too, can cause blowouts.

And it’s important to look at wear on the tire tread; you need adequate tread depth to safely channel water away from your tires and keep traction.

To check the condition and wear of your tire’s tread, Sarah says to get a penny. Turn the penny so that Abe Lincoln’s head is upside down. Insert the penny into the tread, and if you can see the top of Abe’s head, your tires are too bare to be safe. You need tread to channel water out of the way. Those grooves help to prevent hydroplaning.

Also look at the condition of the tire’s shoulders. If they’re smooth, you might have an alignment issue. Properly aligned tires not only wear longer, they help save on fuel consumption and provide better handling. If you’re uncertain whether your tires are out of alignment, drive along an uncrowded straight road at a safe speed and take your hands off the wheel. If the car pulls or drifts to the left or the right, your tires need alignment.

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penny_testTire rotation is equally important to good tire care. If you rotate your tires every 5,000 to 7,000 miles, you’ll maximize the life of your tire and keep the car in a better balanced (better handling) situation by keeping your tires’ tread wear even from front to back. Not all cars have the same size tires in the front and back (sports cars often have larger tires for the rear axle; you won’t be able to rotate these.) But if your car’s four tires are the same size, it’s important to rotate them.

And if you need to purchase only two new tires, remember to always put the new tires in the back, no matter if you have a front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive car. The new tires will provide maximum stability for better handling if they’re placed in the rear.

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Now that you know how to maintain your tires, let’s go over what kinds of tires you need. You should buy tires that are recommended by your car’s manufacture for the particular model you drive. You also need to consider the weather in your area. Cars in Arizona and other extreme hot climates may require different tires than vehicles in snowy regions like Maine and Michigan.

Also take into consideration what kind of driver you are. Ask yourself:
How do I drive? Am I a daredevil who takes corners hard and accelerates and stops quickly? Do I like the feeling of being connected to the road, and don’t mind a bit of a bumpy ride in order to get optimum handling?
Or am I a calm and measured driver who rarely exceeds the speed limit and likes a smooth, comfy ride.
Where do I drive? Is it mostly highway driving, or do I spend much of my time on twisty mountain roads. Are there a lot of potholes in my area, or are the roads mostly well maintained?

All of these questions will lead you to the right tires for you and your car. Most of us will be happy with all-season tires, which go from dry to wet weather, can handle hot and cold roadways, and provide a smooth and comfortable ride quality.

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Michelin PremierMichelin makes the Premier All-Season tire that provides excellent traction in wet weather and is made with a special compound and tread pattern that allows for its grooves to remain open longer. It’s a premium safety tire made for a comfortable ride quality and is great for family sedans and minivans. It has a phenomenal 60,000-mile warranty.

The new Michelin Defender tire is the company’s latest product and is packed full of the latest tire technology and research. It has an incredible 90,000-mile warranty. It offers great all-season traction, super long wear and great performance. It has a harder compound than, say, a sport tire, so it will give better fuel-saving performance and longevity. It’s a great choice if you’re a speed-limit driver who travels mostly on highways and city streets rather than curvy and twisty highways.

If you’re the sport gal, you’ll love the grippy handling quality of the Michelin Pilot Super Sport tires. They come in an all-season version with a 45,000-mile warranty, or a Pilot Super Sport version that’s grippier on curves but has a 30,000-mile warranty, thanks to its softer compound that wears quicker but provides a bit better performance when going fast in corners.

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Should you drive in regions where snow is present for lengthy periods, you’ll need to swap out your all-season or summer tires for winter tires. These tires are more pliable and can withstand sub-freezing temperatures well and give traction on icy roads. Winter tires also have a tread design with more cuts and biting edges that can better dig into snow and ice.

Keeping all-season or summer tires on a car when roads are freezing is seriously unsafe; tires can crack from the cold, and the tread can contract to the point where traction is no longer possible. Most tire stores in cold regions will store your summer tires during winter months and vice versa.

Those in warmer climes may like all-season tires for year-round reliability. These handle hot conditions and wet weather well.

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tires and sunlightSunlight is also bad for tires. If you’re storing winter tires in direct sunlight, it’s a bad idea. Store tires (both winter and summer or all-season) away from direct sunlight. Store them at their normal tire pressure in a chimney stack (one on top of the other) in a cool and dry place.

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We here at VroomGirls hope you understand the absolute importance of good tire care and how it affects the safety, handling and fuel efficiency of your vehicle.

The right (or wrong) tires will absolutely affect your car’s performance. Says Michelin’s Sarah Robinson, “We can make a Toyota Sienna minivan faster than a BMW 3 Series just by selecting the right tires for the Toyota and the wrong tires for the BMW.”

Yes, tires are an integral part of your car’s performance. They affect your car’s ability to accelerate, its stopping distance and its maneuverability. To find out which Michelin tires are right for your car, visit Michelinman.com

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