How can you pick a long-lasting tire? What can you do to extend the life of your tires? How do you know it’s time to replace them? Here’s what you need to know to get the most from your tires.
Buying Tires that Last Longer
The Universal Tire Quality Guide (UTQG) sounds useful, but it has some issues. This set of measurement only applies to passenger car tires. Light truck, trailer, and other tires are not included.
The rating is based on a simulation in which the tire is “driven” on a 400-mile loop 18 times for a total of 7,200 miles. Treadwear is measured, and a number is assigned based on how many miles the tire should last under test condition: a “100” tire should last 7,200 miles, a 200 for 14,400 miles and so on. This simulation isn’t standardized, so while it’s a good way to compare tires from one brand, it isn’t good for comparing tires made by different manufacturers. For example: there are tires that come with an 80,000 mile warranty that have UTQG scores ranging from 600 (43,200 miles) to 740 (57,600 miles.) When shopping across brands, the warranty will be the most accurate measure.
Long tread life may sound good, but there are some compromises: to be hard enough to last 80,000 miles, the tread compound may have a significantly reduced ride, noise and handling performance compared to a 40,000 or 60,000 mile warranty tire.
Coins, Tread Depth and Performance
Legally, most states including Wisconsin define a worn-out tire as having less than 2/32 of an inch of tread left. This depth can be measured by putting a penny into the tread with Lincoln’s head facing the tire. If the top of this head doesn’t reach the tread, the tire is worn out.
A minimum tread depth of 4/32-5/42” is recommended for good traction on wet and snowy roads. If you do the same test with a quarter, the tread depth is over 4/32 of an inch if any part of Washington’s head is covered. If you use the back of a penny with the Lincoln Memorial facing down and any part of it is covered, the tread is at least 6/32” deep.
Improperly inflating tires wears them out faster. If the tire pressure is too high, only the center of the tread will have good contact, making it wear faster. If the tire pressure is too low, the tire will flex more, wearing out the sides of the tread faster. Either way, the tire will also hold in more heat, and structural components including the sidewall and inner layers of rubber will break down sooner. It’s better to check the tire pressure frequently instead of relying on the tire pressure monitoring system. TPMS will only turn on a warning light when tire pressure drops 25% below the recommended pressure, which is more than enough to cause accelerated wear.
Keep the Suspension Aligned
If the wheel is in the wrong position as your car travels down the road, the tire will scrub against the surface. If the camber, the lean of the wheel from top to bottom, is off, it can concentrate tire wear on one spot. Your car should be aligned at least every time when you buy tires, any time the handling or steering feels off, and after a hard impact against a pothole or a curb.
Know When to Rotate
Steering, accelerating and braking all add wear to a tire, and those forces are applied differently depending on where the tire is installed. By rotating the tires, these loads are spread out evenly to get more wear out of the treads. Most manufacturers recommend rotating the tires every 5,000-8,000 miles.
Use Winter Tires in Winter
Winter tires use tread compounds designed to stay pliable at temperatures below 40ºF. Once temperatures rise above that point, the tread becomes so soft that it will wear off quickly.
Obviously, burnouts and donuts are bad for your tires, but the same abrasion happens when you take curves at high speed, leaving a wear pattern similar to what you’ll see with under-inflated tires. If this happens, slow down. If you like to race, even if it’s just autocross, using a set of wheels with racing tires for events can save major wear on your regular tires.
Merton Auto Body is More than Just Body Repair
We may be known for our collision repair in Waukesha County and our custom paint jobs, but that’s only a couple of the services we offer. Our technicians can also align your car’s suspension, so you can get more out of your tires, detail your vehicle, repair glass and restore headlights. We’re an I-CAR Gold Class shop and our technicians are ASE certified, so you can trust the repair will be done right the first time. Our Sussex, WI location proudly services the surrounding Lake Country area including Oconomowoc, Delafield, Hartland, and Pewaukee.