You’ve heard the expression “where the rubber meets the road”? The phrase basically states that it’s the most important point for whatever it is you’re discussing. In our case, we’re discussing actual rubber, tires. Our tires are the shoes of our vehicles. You wouldn’t go walk around in the snow in flip-flops or on the beach in snow boots. Having the right tire for you is vital. It will prolong the life of your vehicle and help protect you from the rough elements of the road.
Here is a guide that will help you through this process:
Check the tread: Tires become unsafe when the tread is worn. Check your tires’ tread every few months to make sure they’re in good shape. The tires are worn when they reach the 1/16-inch mark. If you don’t have a gauge, you can use the penny test: Put a penny into the tread. If Lincoln’s head is visible, you need to shop for new tires.
Get in the rotation: Extend the life of your tires by rotating them. Your front tires will typically wear faster than rear ones. Parallel parking and maneuvering puts pressure on those tires. In front-wheel-drive cars, this is accentuated because these wheels move the vehicle. Rotating the front and back tires will equalize tread wear.
Buy fresh: Look at the sidewall of a tire for a series of letters and numbers beginning with DOT (for Department of Transportation). The last four digits of the designation indicate the week and year of manufacture. For example, 1510 means the tire was made during the 15th week of 2010. Don’t purchase tires that are more than a few years old.
Choose the right tires for you: There are three basic types of tires—car, truck and winter—and each category has a few choices. Ask your mechanic or dealer if the tires that came standard with your vehicle are the best ones for you. Some common categories:
- All-season tires
They come in sizes for almost every vehicle. They are for drivers who want year-round traction, long tread wear and a comfortable ride. They typically lack the precise handling and grip of performance tires.
- Performance all-season tires
They generally provide better handling and braking, and usually have a lower profile (shorter sidewall height) and a wider footprint. They have a higher speed rating.
- Ultra performance tires
These tires are designed to provide good handling and responsive steering in wet and dry conditions, but the tread tends to wear out quickly, and ride comfort can be a compromise.
- Winter tires
If you drive often in wintry or icy conditions, then winter tires might be the right choice for you. The tread is designed to bite into snow and ice, and the rubber is formulated to stay pliable at freezing temperatures, so they typically wear faster than all season tires. A mountain or snowflake symbol on the sidewall indicates the tires passed an industry test for severe snow use.
Whichever tire type is right for you, the most important thing—where the rubber meets the road—is safety. Make sure your tires are in good shape and that you choose the best one for your driving style and conditions.
Sources: Nationwide, Google Images, Fox, Toyo Tires