Tire Maintenance 101
Proper Inflation of Your Tires
Tire inflation is the most important factor in the performance of your tires. Improperly inflated tires will wear more quickly, affecting ride, handling, and fuel economy.
The first rule of thumb is never to go below the pressure listed on the placard (usually found inside the driver's door jam) and never go above the pressure listed on the sidewall of the tire. Tire pressure should be checked monthly and always before a long road trip.
The tire pressure should always be checked when the tires are cold—driving just a short distance will heat up the tires and falsely raise the PSI (pounds per square inch). Over-inflated tires will show rapid tread wear on the center of the tire; under-inflated tires will wear on the outer shoulders of the tire.
Automaker engineers determine the optimal pressure for each vehicle, taking into consideration vehicle weight distribution, suspension, center of gravity, wheelbase, and much more. They have done their homework, so stay as close as possible to the PSI listed on the placard.
To get the best tread life out of your tires, regular rotation is a must—consult your owner’s manual. The typical rotation schedule is every 5,000 to 7,000 miles.
Most vehicle owner's manuals will have their own rotational pattern. Here are a few suggested rotation patterns:
- Rear and 4WD: Cross fronts to back, rears straight forward
- Front wheel drive: Cross rear to front, fronts straight back
- All vehicles (including ones with directional tires): Fronts straight back, rears straight forward
To keep in mind when rotating tires:
- If you have staggered fitment (different sizes on the front and rear), don't rotate front to rear; rotate side to side
- If your placard requires different PSI in the front and rear, don't forget to adjust them
This service is performed on the vehicle itself and should be done every twelve to eighteen months and when purchasing new tires. Basically, a wheel adjustment adjusts the wheels (while on the vehicle) to get the tires flat on the ground and pointed straight ahead. Three angles are usually looked at during an alignment process:
- Caster: Front to back (like bicycle forks)
- Camber: Leaning toward the vehicle (negative) or away from the vehicle (positive)
- Toe: Pointing in or out (pigeon-toed or duck-footed)
You can get up 50 percent more life out of your tires just by following these tips. There are only two types of tires—safe and unsafe. Maintained tires are safer tires and are going to handle and perform better in all aspects. Take care of your tires, and they will take care of you.