Resolved: Better Tire Care in 2017

newyearnewtiresWhile making your New Year’s Resolutions to take better care of yourself, why not also resolve to take better care of your tires? Here are some easy ideas that will help your tires perform better and last longer. Extra benefits you will get include better gas mileage and greater safety on the road.

Regularly Check Your Tire Tread

Follow these easy steps to check your tire tread depth:

  1. Hold a penny so that “In God We Trust” appears across the top. Insert it into five different sections of the tire, taking note of the visibility of Lincoln’s head.
  2. If you can consistently see the top of Lincoln’s head, your treads are excessively worn, and it is time to go shopping for a new set of tires.
  3. If the top of Lincoln’s head (to about the forehead hairline) is covered throughout the tread grooves, the tread is in good shape and your tires probably do not need replacement.

 Check Tire Pressure

Take time to check your tire pressure at least once a month.  While it doesn’t take long to do, it could save you big by improving your tire life and gas mileage. Check your owner’s manual to confirm the proper pressure for your vehicle’s tires. Remember that the maximum pressure is not the same as the recommended pressure.

Tire Rotation

Rotating your tires on a regular basis is an essential part of tire maintenance that will significantly extend their service life. Be sure to refer to your owner’s manual for the tire rotation recommendations for your particular vehicle.

Tire Balancing

Make sure tire balancing is part of your regular maintenance routine.  Again, check your owner’s manual for the recommended schedule for your car, truck, or SUV. Tire balancing promotes a smooth ride and even tire wear by correctly adjusting the wheel weight distribution around the vehicle.

Tire Alignment

Improper tire alignment will not only decrease the life of your tires due to uneven tread wear, it will also compromise the safety of your vehicle. Have the alignment checked any time you notice problems with your vehicle’s handling.

Spare Tire Check

Remember to check the condition of your spare tire so you will know it is ready when you need it. Check the pressure of your spare when you check the pressure of your other tires, and remember that a spare is intended for temporary use only.

 

What is Tire Balancing and Why is it Necessary?

Tire Balancing serviceTire balancing is one of the recommended services listed in your vehicle’s owner’s manual. Often confused with wheel alignment, tire balancing is important for assuring the best performance from a vehicle, and for gaining the longest service life from tires.

Tire balancing provides a smooth ride and assures even tire wear by properly adjusting the tire weight distribution around the vehicle. Tire balancing is different from wheel alignment, which involves the angle of the wheels and their relation to the ground.

As you drive, your tires lose balance, so periodic tire balancing service is needed to return proper balance. Over time, tread wear causes the distribution of weight around the tire to change, which leads to  the imbalance. This may be felt in unusual shaking or vibration as you drive.

When you have tire balancing service done, the technician will use a calibrated spin balancer, testing non-moving/static balance and the moving/dynamic balance. Tires will be restored to the proper balance in accordance with the test results. Tire balancing is usually done in combination with tire rotation, and is typically performed every 5-6,000 miles or 6 months.

 Taking your car in for regular tire balancing service is especially critical in today’s vehicles, which are designed to be lighter weight. The heavier weight of older model cars actually helped smooth out the ride by suppressing vibrations before they were felt. Modern tire design is more responsive, with lower profiles for style and performance. Tire imbalance can cause problems for both the vehicle and tires.

Goodbye Winter, Hello Potholes!

pothole“Oh no, potholes!” is probably a more accurate description of how we feel when we see these road menaces. Potholes not only make driving less comfortable, they can inflict some serious damage on your vehicle. While we do our best to avoid them, sometimes it’s just not possible. It is important to be aware of any problems your vehicle might have after hitting one.

Why are potholes so bad this time of year? The pothole problem actually begins in the winter, when freezing and thawing cycles cause cracks in road surfaces to get larger and further degrade. The application of road salt can accelerate the damage because it creates more freezing and thawing stress, while melting ice on the roadway. In the spring, heavy rains infiltrate the cracks and cause more deterioration.

We have all felt the jolting impact of hitting a deep pothole. Our vehicles feel the impact, too, but to a much greater extent. Hitting potholes often leads to serious vehicle component damage, usually with the shocks and struts, which control ride and handling, and serve as a cushion to dampen the bouncing action of the vehicle’s springs. Shocks and struts also regulate spring and suspension movement, keeping the car’s tires in contact with the road to facilitate proper steering, stability, and braking. Compromised shocks and struts can create a dangerous situation, so it is important to be aware of the signs that your shocks or struts may need to be replaced:

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

Hitting potholes can also result in tire and wheel damage, engine and  exhaust system issues, as well as suspension problems. It’s important to have your vehicle inspected if you experience any of the these types of issues. Addressing pothole damage issues early can prevent more extensive problems down the road.

Old Tires Can Be Dangerous

old tiresMost everyone understands that driving on compromised tires is dangerous. It is important to inspect tires and measure tread depth on a regular basis to assure that tires are safe. There is another tire problem, though, that many drivers may not even realize is a safety issue. Old tires can be dangerous, even if the tread appears to be okay.

In many cases, old tires show no visible sign of deterioration and appear to be safe, usable tires. Because they are rubber products, tires have a limited service life, since tire rubber compounds deteriorate over time. Regardless of wear and mileage, cracks develop in the rubber as they age. These cracks can occur on both on the inside and outside of the tire. Eventually this cracking leads to the separation of the steel belts in the tread from the rest of the tire.

According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association, it is not easy to put a specific expiration date on a tire since factors such as heat, driving, and storage conditions can greatly impact a tire’s usable life. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends following the guidelines established by the specific tire manufacturer when it comes to tire aging. 

In situations where the origin and age of a tire are in question, you can learn something from the tire itself. Since 2000, tires are required by the U.S. Department of Transportation to have a DOT code. This code provides details about the tire, including its age. The code can be deciphered by downloading a free app offered by the Tire Safety Group. The app, available for Android and iPhone, enables you to get to get a free Tire Facts Report by entering the DOT code from your tire.  The report lets you know if a tire is old, defective, or has been recalled. The app shows you where the code is located on the tire and even includes a flashlight function so you can see what you are doing!

Remember – never take any chances with your tires. Too much is riding on them!

 

Do I Really Need to Replace All Four Tires?

tiresThe only thing worse than hearing that a damaged tire cannot be repaired is hearing that you should replace all four tires, instead of just the bad tire. This has to be a tire sales pitch, right? Why should you replace three tires that still seem to have good tread, just because the fourth hit a nail at a bad angle? There are actually several good reasons why you should replace all four tires, instead of just the one that has been compromised.

Most of today’s all-wheel drive vehicles recommend that you the replace all four tires at a time because all four wheels need to 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.

Additional benefits in going 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. Four equal tires will provide the best performance for your vehicle.

Understanding the importance of uniformity in your tires also serves as a good reminder of why tire maintenance is so important. Keeping your tires properly inflated and keeping up with recommended tire rotation will make sure they wear evenly, and give you the best performance and service life.

Tire Rotation: Why is it Important?

Tire rotation extends tire life

Tire rotation is important for even tread wear and longer tire life.

Regularly scheduled tire rotation is an important service that is among those recommended by your vehicle manufacturer. Rotating tires is a critical maintenance step because it extends the life of your tires and greatly increases your safety on the road. Additionally, many tire mileage warranties require rotation to keep the warranty valid.

Tire rotation service should be scheduled per the recommendations specified in your owner’s manual. Rotation involves the periodic repositioning of tires to promote more even tread wear. Performed at the scheduled  times, tire rotation will preserve balanced handling and traction, and promote even tread wear. Tire rotation can also result in performance advantages.

Tire Rotation Pattern is Also Important

Rotation pattern is important because in most cases, the tires on the front axle need to accomplish very different things than the tires on the rear axle. Conditions encountered on a front-wheel drive vehicle are considerably different than those of a rear-wheel drive vehicle. Tire wear effects on a performance vehicle are typically more severe than what you would see on a family sedan. Each individual wheel position can create different wear rates and different types of tire wear.

According to TireIndustry.org, the typical rule for tire rotation is to cross the free rolling axle. This means that on a front-wheel drive vehicle, the front tires should be rotated straight back to the rear and the rear tires should be crossed to the front. In the case of a rear-wheel drive vehicle the opposite applies. Front tires are crossed to the back while the rear tires are rotated straight to the front. A “double x” pattern is used with four-wheel drive and all-wheel drive vehicles, so the right front and left rear tires switch positions, as do the left front and right rear.

Tires are a substantial investment. It pays to take care of them. Properly inflated tires that are serviced on a regular basis with proper tire rotation can be expected to deliver optimal tread life, as well as excellent performance and value.

 

Do Fuel Additives Really Improve Gas Mileage?

Every driver, especially in today’s economy, wants to improve gas mileage and save money. Courting these desires are enthusiastic advertising claims that fuel additives are the way to substantially save on fuel costs. But do fuel additives actually provide gas-savings? According to  the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information website, the touted advantages of fuel additives generally have little to back them up.

The vehicle engines of today are the product of decades of extensive research and technology. Engineers understand the demands placed on engines and have been able to design engines for optimal performance under the most challenging conditions. There are some fuel additives that may offer some modest benefits, however your engine was developed to perform without the need for enhancements like these.

If you are considering investing in fuel additives, rather than going with the recommendation of a clerk at your local auto supply chain, talk your mechanic. Your car care professional will have the experience and knowledge to advise you on the needs of your particular vehicle.

Fuel additives aside, here are some proven ways to improve your gas mileage:

Do not neglect  oil changes

Stay on schedule and use the manufacturer’s recommended grade of motor oil for optimal performance.

Maintain the correct tire pressure

Regularly check your tire pressure and keep them inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended pressure.

Regularly check tire tread

Keep in mind that worn out tires are not only unsafe, they cause your vehicle to operate less efficiently. 

Use cruise control  on the highway

Avoid getting a ticket and improve your gas mileage by maintaining a safe and consistent speed on the highway.

Always combine trips  

You’ll be surprised to find out how much you can save on gas by simply planning and combining trips. 

Resolved: Make Auto and Tire Care a Priority

Are you the kind of driver that does not think twice about your car unless it doesn’t start? Do you only notice your tires if they are flat? Perhaps your 2016 New Year’s resolutions should include being more committed to preventative auto and tire care. Regular car and tire maintenance not only make sense for protecting and prolonging the life of your vehicle and tires, it also means that you’ll be safer on the road.

When it comes to taking care of your tires, the two main things you want to check regularly are tire pressure and tread depth. 

Make a note on your calendar to check your tire pressure at least once a month. Refer to your owner’s manual to find the recommended tire pressure for your vehicle. Don’t forget to check the pressure of your spare tire as well. 

Check the tread depth of your tires by using the penny test. Hold a penny so you can read “In God We Trust” across the top. Insert it into several different sections of the tire and look at Lincoln’s head.  If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, it is time for a new set of tires. If the tread is in good shape, Abe’s head will be covered to about the forehead hairline.

To keep your vehicle running properly and performing at its best, you must stay on schedule with recommended regular maintenance services. It is always far less costly in terms of time and money to catch problems before they escalate. The following is a list of the services that are typically recommended, but be sure to consult your owner’s manual for your vehicle’s suggested services and frequency. 

  • Coolant Flush and Replacement
  • Oil Change
  • Fluid Checks – Power Steering and Brake
  • Brake Inspection
  • Check Belts & Hoses
  • Filters – Air and Fuel
  • Battery & Cables
  • Lights
  • Exhaust System
  • Windshield Washer Fluid & Wiper Blades

Both your vehicle and tires will benefit from regulartire balancing and rotation service performed in accordance with your owner’s manual recommended schedule. Tire balancing promotes even tire wear and provides a smooth ride by properly adjusting the wheel weight distribution around the vehicle. Tire rotation is an essential maintenance step that will greatly extend the life of your tires. Manufacturers have specific recommendations, so be sure to refer to your owner’s manual tire rotation guidelines.

Establishing a regular care routine allows you to drive with confidence knowing that you are traveling safely where ever the road takes you. You will also get to enjoy your vehicle and tire investment much longer.

Here’s wishing you a safe and fun-filled new year!

Are You Ready for Winter Driving?

We are well into fall, and winter weather is just around the corner! Get ready for winter driving with these simple winter maintenance tips:

  • Inspect Your Tire Tread & Check Tire Pressure 
    Be sure to check your tire tread depth. Make sure you have at least 2/32″ of depth for best tire performance.  It is also important to check tire pressure. This should be done on a regular basis, but it is especially imperative to check tire pressure before winter arrives. Remember to also check your spare – you never know when you’ll need it.
  • Make Sure Your Antifreeze Tank Is Full
    It is important to maintain a full tank with a 50/50 mix of water and antifreeze. Clean, quality antifreeze will deliver the winter protection your vehicle needs.
  • Test and Inspect Your Battery
    Extreme cold temperatures can degrade car batteries internally and accelerate the rate of battery terminal corrosion. This will lead to a battery that is more likely to die. Don’t risk getting stranded! Check your battery cables to make sure they are clean and firmly attached to the terminals.
  • Check Your Washer Fluid & Wipers
    We use much more washer fluid in the winter, when dirty slush and snow continually hit the windshield. Keep the washer fluid tank full. Choose a winter cleaning formula that contains sufficient antifreeze ingredients to keep it from freezing. Also, be sure that your wipers are in decent shape to do their job. The blades should make full contact with the glass to thoroughly clean it. If you live in an area with heavy snow fall, consider installing winter wiper blades that wrap the blade frame in a rubber boot to reduce ice and snow buildup, and promote good contact between the blade and the glass.

Once you have take these maintenance steps, you will be ready to face the ice and snow. Most importantly, in seriously hazardous winter driving conditions, remember to take it slowly and drive safely!

Three Signs of Wheel Alignment Issues

Wheel alignment issues occur as a result of suspension and steering systems not operating at the correct angles. Misalignment is often caused by a collision or an impact, but also can be the result of suspension component wear, especially on older vehicles.

Three signs of wheel alignment issues include:

1. Uneven Tread Wear – When a vehicle is out of alignment, the tire tread will show obvious wear on one side rather than wear on both sides or in the middle.

2. Pulling to One Side – If a vehicle pulls or veers to the right or left, it is often due to misalignment. The pull does not happen when braking and tends to be consistent at certain vehicle speeds.

3. Steering Problems – When driving straight ahead, the steering wheel should be level or straight.  A change in the steering wheel position often means misalignment.

Wheel alignment issues can decrease the life of your tires by causing rapid and uneven tread wear. Properly aligned wheels optimize driving control and safety, while enhancing fuel efficiency and extending the life of your tires.

When you bring in your vehicle for wheel alignment services, your auto technician will adjust the angle of the wheels to be in accordance with the recommendations of the vehicle manufacturer. Precision equipment is used to set the proper alignment, and your technician will make sure that all the necessary adjustments are made.

If you notice any of the signs of poor wheel alignment, or you have recently had a collision or significant impact of some kind, be sure to have an alignment check as soon as possible. Not only will you be safer on the road, but your tires will thank you!