Car tires are the only parts of a vehicle that actually touch the road, which means they greatly affect your car’s ride and handling. They’re one of the most fundamental parts of the car, so it’s vital to take care of them.
Here’s your primer on car tires so you can be in the know on everything from inflation level to fuel economy.
While the recommended tire pressure varies from car to car, it’s important to keep your tires properly inflated so performance doesn’t decline. The recommended tire pressure will be found on a sticker inside the driver’s door or doorjamb, or in the owner’s manual. Keep in mind, the pressure listed on the tire itself is usually the maximum and not necessarily the recommended.
Be sure to check the pressure whenever the temperature drops or warms up as these factors can cause the pressure to fluctuate. A visual check is recommended each time you get in your vehicle, but you should also use a tire-pressure gauge (available at most auto parts stores or gas stations) to check the pressures every so often. Once a week is the recommendation, and certainly not less often than once a month. Newer vehicles are often equipped with tire-pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) that alert the driver when pressures are too low or otherwise out of whack.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency has found that for every one pound per square inch (PSI) drop in tire pressure, fuel economy drops by 0.3 percent. That means underinflated tires can negatively affect a consumer’s fuel budget over the course of a month.
Car tires are important both from a fuel economy and safety standpoint as well as a performance one. As noted above, underinflated tires can hurt fuel economy, and they’re also a hazard. Routine checks of tire pressure can help you spot slow leaks or other problems that need to be addressed. Finally, a car will perform at its peak when the tires are properly inflated. So to ensure the best ride and handling, tires must be inflated correctly.
The cost of replacement tires can be as little as $50 per tire to as much as $200 per tire. The brand, size, and type of tire as well as what kind of vehicle you drive are factors that influence the price. Tires typically last about 40,000 to 50,000 miles, but some tires wear faster than others. Exposure to outside elements like the sun can also create a need to replace the tires. Some brands offer run-flat tires, which will allow it to “limp” to a shop for repair if a tire suffers a puncture.
Tires may seem boring, but consumers who don’t pay attention to routine maintenance and care are putting themselves at a disadvantage.