Why Good Tire Tread Matters on Wet Roads

When talkin’ tires, we talk a lot about tire tread and why it is so important to tire performance and safety. In previous posts, we’ve talked about how there are specialized types of tire tread for different types of driving. This post will look at the important role tire tread plays in managing tire performance on wet roads.

Tire Tread Track Driving Wet Road

The Role of Tire Tread in Driving

Tire tread is a crucial factor in a tire’s ability to provide traction. Traction is the resistance between the tire and the ground in reaction to the torque being exerted by the wheel axle under the power of the engine. Good traction enhances your ability to maneuver and brake as you drive.

You might be surprised to learn that race car tires have no tread. Racing tires are designed to put as much of the tire rubber on the road as possible in order to maximize traction for increased speed and better control of the vehicle. This works for racing because racing is done in a very controlled environment, with optimal road conditions. Obviously this is not the case with everyday driving, where we regularly encounter challenges like wet roads.  

Tire Tread vs Hydroplaning

Tire tread is critically important to prevent hydroplaning, which occurs when water comes between the road surface and your tires. Because the tires are riding on top of water and getting no traction with the surface of the road, your vehicle becomes unresponsive to steering or braking. This frightening phenomenon can occur even when road surfaces are slightly damp. 

Unlike racing tires, tires meant for regular passenger vehicles must have an ample amount of tread to assure safe handling. Thanks to innovation in tire technology, the tread on tires has been designed to prevent hydroplaning by channeling and dispersing water away from the face of the tire. 

Properly Maintaining Tires Optimizes Tread & Safety

Tires with excessively worn tread cannot disperse water safely because the channels lack the necessary depth. Condition of tire tread should be monitored regularly. A consistent and documented schedule of tire rotation will extend tread service life by promoting even tread wear.

Under-inflated tires are also unable to disperse water properly. Keeping your tires properly inflated is an extremely important part of extending tire life, as well. If tire inflation decreases to a level that is below the recommended pressure, an additional load is placed on the shoulder of the tire. This will cause that area to wear prematurely. Under-inflation also causes heat to build up within the tire, which increases rolling resistance and reduces fuel economy.

Pay Attention to These Signs of Pothole Damage

Whether as a driver or a passenger, we’ve all felt that horrible thud of hitting a pothole. But potholes are more than simply a springtime nuisance. They are actually one of the most abusive hazards your vehicle faces on a regular basis. Hitting potholes can lead to a host of problems for you and your vehicle. It is best to avoid them, but in some cases they are just unavoidable.

road pothole collecting rain

Potholes Prey on Shocks and Struts

While you might just think of getting a flat tire or bent rim when you hit a pothole, did you know that shocks and struts are a component of your car that can also be seriously damaged if you hit a bad pothole? Shocks and struts control your car’s ride and handling, and act as a cushion to dampen the bouncing action of the car’s springs. They also control spring and suspension movement to keep your car’s tires in contact with the road so that it will steer properly, maintain stability, and brake safely. 

Watch for the Warning Signs

Compromised shocks and struts can impact steering and handling, so it is essential to be aware of the warning signs that your vehicle’s shocks or struts may need to be replaced:

  • Rolling or swaying on turns
  • Front-end dives when braking or rear end dips when accelerating
  • Bouncing or sliding sideways on rough or winding roads
  • Bottoming out or thumping on bumps
  • Unusual puddles under the car or leaking fluids
  • Loss of directional control during sudden stops

It is a good idea to have your car inspected if you experience any of the above signs. Catching pothole damage issues early can prevent more extensive problems down the road.

 

Replace the Flat Tire or Get a Whole New Set?

So, you need to replace a flat tire that cannot be repaired. That’s bad enough. But then the repair guy says that you really should replace all four of your tires. Do you really need to replace three tires that seem perfectly good, just because one bit the dust? In many cases there are several good reasons why you should replace all four tires, instead of just the one that went flat.

Flat Tire Image

The reason most all-wheel drive vehicles manufacturers recommend that you replace all four tires at a time is because all four wheels should have the same rolling circumference. If the wheels are not uniform, abnormal drivetrain wear  can occur, resulting in costly problems down the road. 

All-wheel-drive systems are designed so that the differential and the computer work together to send the right amount of torque to each wheel to minimize slippage and maximize control. When one of the tires is a different size than the others because three tires are worn and one is brand new,  the computer will take an inaccurate reading and the differential will have to work excessively hard. This can eventually result in damage to the drivetrain.

Unless your tires are brand new, the wear on all of your tires means you should probably bite the bullet and buy a new set. Additional benefits you’ll gain with a full set of tires for replacement include a more comfortable ride and better safety. Uneven tires can result in road noise and a vehicle that handles improperly, affecting maneuverability, traction, and smoothness of the ride.

Pain at the Pump – 5 Ways to Save on Gas

The problem affects us all. Gas prices are climbing steadily higher and putting the crunch on wallets from coast to coast. Nonprofit organization, InCharge Debt Solutions, reports that a confluence of factors are contributing to the soaring pump prices we have seen since November, and those costs will continue to rise. Recent foreign conflicts are creating global chaos and further impacting prices for everything, including gas.

Fuel Gauge Gas Pumps

Here are five ways to save money on gas:

  1. Use a Gas App – Drivers have been relying on the GasBuddy app to find the best gas prices for over 15 years. The app not only shows you the local gas prices wherever you are, it also has many helpful tools including a fuel logbook, pay with GasBuddy, and more. There are other gas app options available, so you can find the one that best meets your needs.  
  2. Earn Gas Rewards – There are several gas retailer loyalty rewards programs that you can enroll in to save money when you fill up. You can check out the details of the various fuel reward programs and see which one is right for you. There are also several gas credit cards you can apply for that can help your fuel budget go further. 
  3. Carpool / Share Rides – For years, co-workers have been saving money by carpooling to the office. Even if you don’t have neighbors that you work with, consider other ways you can share rides. One great way for families to save is to make a ride sharing plan with other parents for shuttling kids to and from school, sports, or other activities.
  4. Plan Your Everyday Trips – This may seem obvious, but in reality, it might be surprising how often we end up making multiple trips out during the course of the day. By planning ahead you may be able to combine some of those trips. For example, you may be in the habit of getting groceries on Sunday, but since you have a lunch date on Saturday, you can plan to get your shopping done after that, while you are out. 
  5. Keep Your Tires Properly Inflated – Last, but certainly not least, take care of your tires. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, it is possible to improve your gas mileage by 0.6% on average by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure. Conversely, under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by about 0.2% for every 1 psi drop in the average pressure of all tires. Combine the modest inflation savings with what you can save by getting an engine tune up (4%) and using the right grade of oil, you are up to a combined savings of $0.24 to $0.29 per gallon. That adds up!

Seeing Your TPMS Warning Light? It Might Not Mean What You Think.

Drivers of newer vehicles have a host of warning lights to alert them to potential vehicle problems. While extremely helpful, this technology can lead to confusion. When those anxiety-inducing lights come on, it may not mean what you think it means. For example, seeing the TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) warning light does not necessarily mean there is a problem with your tires.

Cold Weather TPMS Warning Light

If your car’s TPMS warning light comes on when the temperatures are extremely cold, it may be a simple problem that is easier to fix than you think.

How the TPMS Light Works

tpms_display1The TPMS light is part of the pressure monitoring system that involves sensors that are connected to your actual tires.  The TPMS symbol looks like an exclamation point in parentheses. It lights up when the pressure in one or more of your tires is reduced by around 25%. It may also indicate an issue with the tire pressure monitoring system, such as a dead battery.

There is also a reason the light can come on that is not a sign of trouble, but instead just and indication of the season.

How Cold Temperatures Affect Tire Pressure

Tire pressure can decrease about 1 PSI (pounds per square inch) for every 10 degrees the temperature drops. It isn’t because the air is escaping, but because the air inside the tire is condensing and taking up less space. The effect is temporary because as you drive the tire will heat up, which increases the tire’s pressure.

Additionally, tires tend to lose about 1 PSI per month from seepage of air around the edge of the rim, and even through the tread. Together these factors can cause tire pressure to drop as much as 25 percent below the recommended level. The sensing transmitters inside your tires notice this and trigger your TPMS dash light. If your TPMS light comes on you may not have a problem. You may just need to check your air and bring your tires up to the right pressure.

Don’t Ignore The TPMS Warning Light

It is good to know you may not need to start shopping for tires when you see that light, however that does not mean you should ignore it.  Seeing that light means your tires are below the proper air pressure, which increases the chance of tire failure, compromised handling, improper tire and tread wear, and poor gas mileage. 

Check your tire pressure at least once a month during the winter, and have your technician check your tires to make sure there is not a bigger problem triggering that TPMS warning light.

Are You Sure You Can Rely On Your Car Heater?

This is the time of year when we all appreciate a little extra warmth and comfort. This is especially true when we climb into our icy vehicles and head out into the wind and snow. Although it is easy to just assume that heat will always be there when you press a button or turn the dial, you want to be certain you can rely on your car heater to perform properly.

Vehicle stranded in snow, cold, no heat

How Does Your Car Heater Work?

Your car heater is actually a system of components. The heater core acts as a heat exchanger, distributing heat into the cabin of the car. Heat is transferred from the engine to the heater core through a liquid called coolant. Coolant pumps through the engine to cool it to protect it from overheating. The heat is recycled and sent to the radiator, then circulated to the heater core. Since the engine is the original heat source for the car’s heater, the heat increases as the engine runs.

What Can Go Wrong With The Heater? 

When your car’s heating doesn’t work, there two problems that are the most common causes:

Coolant flow issues can often be attributed to a plug in the heater core. Your auto technician will be able to find and remove the plug to correct the issue.

Air flow problems are commonly caused by a malfunctioning, or stuck blend door. These doors are the flaps inside the ducts that open and close to allow or prevent heat from coming through the vents into the passenger compartment.

Get your car checked out by your auto technician as soon as you notice heating problems to decrease the chances of you getting stuck in the cold.

How Can I Optimize My Car Heater Performance?

Consumer Reports has some interesting tips to help you get the most out of your car’s heating system. Here are a few:

Resist the urge to crank the heat when you first get in the car. Your car needs time to get the heat circulating, since that heat comes from a running engine. Turning the heat flow all the way up as soon as you start the car just blasts everyone with cold air – it is more effective (and comfortable) to let your car run for a while first.

Keep the A/C on to help prevent the windows from fogging up. Your air conditioning compressor removes humidity/moisture from the air before it is heated by the heating core. Without conditioning, the moisture in the air collects on the cold windows and impacts your invisibility. Taking the system off of “recirculation mode” also helps prevent fogging.

Stay safe and stay warm!

What Does An Alternator Do For My Car?

Many of the convenient and important features and functions of your vehicle require electrical power. Your car’s alternator serves as a kind of generator or charging system that provides that power. While the vehicle’s battery supplies some power, the majority of its devices draw electricity from a continuous supply from the alternator. 

BMW Dashboard and Steering Wheel

How The Alternator Works

Your car’s alternator is a mechanical device that is energized by the crankshaft of the engine. When the engine is running, the alternator transforms the motion of the crankshaft into electric energy. This is the electricity that powers devices such as the cooling fan, the stereo, the headlights, the windshield wipers, the air conditioning system, and the defogger.

What Are Signs That Your Alternator Is Having Issues?

If your alternator is creating a considerable amount of noise, this could be a sign that something is wrong with it. As the bearings inside the alternator become worn, you will often hear strange and excessive sounds when the hood is open. Other signs of trouble include:

  • Dead battery
  • Dim headlights
  • Starter problems
  • Burning smell
  • The “GEN” or battery service light may appear

What Service Does An Alternator Need?

During maintenance service your tire and auto service technician test how your battery, starter, and alternator perform at idle, during high RPMs, and under high voltage loads. Check your vehicle owner’s manual to find out how often your alternator should be inspected to avoid problems.

What Can I Do to Protect My Tires?

Tires are one of the most important safety features of your car. Taking care of your tires and tread will assure they remain safe and keep performing at their best.

Close Up Image of Tire Tread

Keep An Eye On Your Tire Tread

Tire tread is a key performance feature of your tires. Regularly checking the condition of the tread on your tires is important to the preservation of your tires. Drivers don’t usually think about looking at their tread unless they suspect a leak or have had an encounter with glass or other road debris. Regularly looking at your tire tread means you’ll be more likely to notice wear trends before excessive damage can occur. Issues can be identified by visual inspection or by running your hand over the tread and feeling for problematic areas. These might include distortion in the tread, feathering or cupping. If caught early enough, improper wear patterns can be corrected to extend tire service life.

Make Sure Your Tires Are Properly Inflated

Keeping your tires inflated to the correct level is another extremely important part of tire maintenance that will prolong tire life. If tire inflation drops to a level that is below the recommended pressure, an additional load is placed on the shoulder of the tire. This will cause that area to wear prematurely. Under-inflation also causes heat to build up within the tire, which in turn increases rolling resistance and reduces fuel economy.

What Services Do I Need to Preserve My Tires and Tread?

Wheel alignment is an essential regular maintenance service you need. This service has a direct effect on your tires because improper vehicle alignment is a very common cause of unusual tread wear. When tires are unable to run straight ahead, accelerated tread wear occurs on some areas of the tire. Consistent alignment service will prevent your vehicle from experiencing a variety of alignment related problems, including uneven and premature tread wear.

Tire rotation should also be performed on a regular basis. A consistent and documented schedule of tire rotation will promote even tread wear and extend tire service life.Close Up Image of Tire Tread

Compromised wheel and suspension components can also negatively impact tire service life. For instance, a wheel bearing that has been incorrectly torqued can cause irregular tire wear, or worn shock absorbers can create depression wear on treads. Replace shock absorbers and other suspension components as part of overall maintenance.

Need Gift Ideas? Here are Some Suggestions for the Drivers on Your List

We all have those people who are hard to buy for on our list. While the people in your life probably have a wide range of interests and pursuits, one thing most people have in common is that they drive. An auto-related gift could be just the thing to please those who are difficult to shop for. In many cases, items for the car are things people just don’t think to buy for themselves, but will much appreciate.

Car Decorated With Christmas Gifts

The following gift suggestions that may be just right for the drivers on your list.

Auto Cell Phone Holder

Now that everyone is using their cell phones for GPS, a cell phone holder could be a great gift for those you’ve noticed trying to juggle their phone while driving. They come in adjustable models to fit virtually any cup holder and phone. See ideas

Auto Mats

Rubber floor mats are a great gift idea, particularly for those who do a lot of messy outdoor activities, have pets or small children, as well as people that tend to eat and drink on the go. You can get them fitted for the vehicle, or with their favorite team logo. See ideas

Car Windshield Snow Cover & Sun Shade Protector

Drivers who have their car parked outside all day will appreciate this all-season windshield protection. This easy-to-install protector keeps the car cool in the summer and free of ice and snow in the winter.  See ideas

Folding Shovel

A folding shovel is a great item to keep in the trunk along with a roadside emergency kit. Many drivers are not prepared for roadside problems, so this gift could be a lifesaver! See ideas

Portable Air Compressor

Another great emergency item to keep in your car, a portable air compressor will be useful for filling a leaking tire until it can be fixed. It also can be handy for inflating a camping mattress or pool floats. See ideas

Car Wash Coupons

Those who like to look good in their ride will love this gift. Even those who just like to take care of their vehicle will be pleased. Keeping a clean car is particularly important in the cold weather months when the roads are covered in salty slush. See ideas

Digital Tire Pressure Gauge

Keeping tires correctly inflated is important for assuring safe driving and preserving tire tread. A digital tire pressure monitor makes checks easy. This is especially great for drivers of older cars, which may not have TPMS. See ideas

How Much Do You Know About Tire Tread?

It is easy to take your tires for granted, but what you should know about tire tread is that it plays a critical role in ensuring your safety while driving. While tires are primarily thought of for the utility purpose they serve, many drivers may not realize the extent to which they are engineered for safety. Today’s tires are made from specially formulated rubber compounds and the tread is engineered to provide specific safety features. 

Tire Tread Image

The Evolution of Tire Design

The earliest wheels were simply a solid curved piece of wood. Eventually, leather was added to improve the smoothness of the ride. Over time, designs transitioned into a piece of solid rubber, then a pneumatic (air inflated) radial tire. From that point, tire design gradually became more sophisticated with the development of bias ply tires and radial tires.

About Tire Tread Designs – Performance and Safety

Tire tread is another important development in tire evolution. What you should know about tire tread begins with knowing the parts of the tread. The components of tire tread include tread blocks or tread lugs, tread grooves, tread voids, wear bar, and sometimes features such as rain grooves and siping. Tire tread goes across the entire surface of the tire from shoulder to shoulder, where the tread meets the sidewall.

The areas between the tread blocks are referred to as the tread voids or tread grooves. Tread voids promote traction by allowing the tread blocks to move and flex as the tires grip the road. They also create channels that let the water escape when roadways are wet. Tires with a high tread to void ratio provide superior wet traction and braking ability.

Specialized Types of Tire Tread

What many drivers don’t realize about tire tread is that tread types are designed to match the intended performance of the vehicles. Tire tread can help cars to corner tighter, accelerate more smoothly, and brake reliably. Tire tread can also promote fuel economy.

Knowing more about the role of tire tread reveals why maintaining  proper tire tread is so important. Look for our next post to find out how much you know about how to maintain your tires and tire tread.