Yes, the headline reads correctly. If you take proper care of your car’s tires then there’s no reason not to expect 60,000 or 70,000 or 80,000 miles out of them. It’s a fact that most tire manufacturers probably don’t want consumers to hear – as it is the way they make their money – but it is still a fact.
Luckily, some engineers at Goodyear Tire and Rubber decided that maximizing tire life is a good thing – a safe thing – and the right thing to do. So, they did a study and came up with a few recommendations that, if you follow them, can mean some serious mileage on your tires and money in your pocketbook.
Let’s start with this premise: you are probably driving a front-wheel-drive vehicle. There’s not much you can do about it. The U.S. auto fleet has been driving toward all front-drive for nearly 30 years, so it’s almost an inevitability. If you are driving a rear-drive car right now, chances are good your next one will be front-drive.
There’s a funny thing about front-drive. The front wheels not only bear most of the weight of the vehicle, as well as taking care of not only lateral torque (steering) and forward torque (driving), they also take care of losing most of the inertia built up (braking). So, what do the rear wheels do – they do handle some of the braking with brake equalization systems – but that’s about it. They are just along for the ride.
Take a look underneath any front-drive vehicle and you’ll notice that the wheels will either be linked together with a some type of trailing arm linkage and strut system, and coil springs and that’s about it. There’s nothing else back there of any real importance, other than the emergency brake actuator. As was noted, those rear wheels are there for the ride.
So, unless you rotate your tires regularly, you will be chewing up your front tires and the rears will roll on and on, just following front tires wherever they pointed (that’s the funny thing about front drive; with 70 percent of the car’s weight over the front wheels and in the front end, the front-drive car tends to go straight in any situation — it’s a function of physics). To prove this concept, take a length of line and weight the front of it with a piece of metal and then try to throw it in any direction but straight, it won’t happen because the weight acts like a plumb and pulls the device straight ahead).
This can lead to a tendency to what designers call trailing throttle oversteer where, when you get off the gas and hit the brakes, the car still wants to go ahead, while the rear end tries to break free. The result is that the car tucks in neatly and can end up in a serious spin (just countersteer, a natural reaction) and you’ll be okay.
In all of this, you can see that the front wheels are taking the pounding and the rears might as well be taking a picnic by the lake. Yes, they do contribute to keeping the car on the road, but there’s little else they are asked to do.
So, that’s why it’s a good idea to rotate your tires every 6,000 to 8,000 miles. This evens out the wear. Remember, too, that since you are dealing with radials that the wheels have to stay on the same side of the vehicle. That means the front right wheel has to go to the rear right axle and the rear right wheel has to go to the front right axle (rotation used to involve a crossover, but with radials that would really mess up the wear patterns).
The front tires, then, as has been established are the keys to performance, handling and safety of what is now the standard sedan. Let’s look at this another way, if you ignore proper tire care, you are not only endangering your investment in your vehicle, but also possibly yourself and it’s not getting any cheaper to fix a vehicle involved in an accident.
Case in point – a few years ago there was an accident that involved a three-car sandwich. The first car hit the brakes suddenly, forcing the second to slam on the brakes and the third had nowhere to go but into the second. That they were all front-drive vehicles didn’t help matters much as the rear two vehicles would only go straight ahead. Looking at the traffic reports afterward, investigators homed in on a couple of problems with the third car in the accident; one was the short following distance and the other was the condition of the front tires. Had the driver been just a little further back and had the tires been maintained just a bit better, then the third car might have been able to avoid the accident.
As it was, the insurance company paid out $4,500 to fix the front end of the vehicle and the consumer had to shell out another $1,000. It wasn’t a pretty site, but it does point out the need for proper tire care. Even a fraction of a second is enough to keep you from an accident as it may give your tires enough bite to move just enough to be out of the way.
With that in mind, here are some tips from the folks at Goodyear and from other experts on how you can keep your tires in top shape.
First, be sure to check the pressure of your tires weekly with an air gauge. You can pick up a decent one at a Pep Boys, AutoZone or even in the automotive section of a Wal-Mart. Next, make sure you use it when the tires are cold. The first thing in the morning is probably best because this will tell you how much pressure is really in the tire.
Why is this so? The answer is simple, if you start driving a tire that is underinflated, the air inside starts to heat up so that the it actually expands. The heat, by the way, has to go somewhere and it usually goes right into the tire and can actually damage the tire tread or carcass.
Never drive your car more than a mile before you check the air pressure. And, if you must then wait at least an hour for the tire to cool down before you attempt your next reading. At this point, right down the pressure in each tire (there’s a reason for it) and drive until you can find an air pump.
Now let’s say you’ve found that three out of your car’s four tires are right on the money, but the fourth is 5 pounds underinflated. You can actually get it to the right pressure by taking a reading of the warmed tire and adding five pounds of inflation to it so that if your tire reads 34 pounds warm and you know it is at 27 cold or cool (most cars still use 32 pounds as their guide on the sidewall), then make sure you add 39 pounds of air to the low tire. When it cools, it will be at the right inflation.
Underinflation is a real problem for cars. Not only do underinflated tires tend to run hot as the air inside expands but that heat has to go somewhere and it goes right into the tire. Tire safety experts warn that this weakens the tire overall and can lead to early failure.
Further, underinflation can cost you as much as 1 mile per gallon on the road as the car has to overcome the extra rolling resistance caused by the underinflated tire. And, underflated tires will tend to wear at the edges, rather than at the center so not only can you tell the tire is underinflated, you can also tell that you are causing premature wear to your tires.
Here are some other tire tips that will keep you rolling and get you the maximum miles form the tires. The need for proper rotation has been mentioned already, but here’s one that you probably haven’t thought about, valve stem covers. You can get them at any automotive counter and they are important because they not only help keep dirt out of the valve stem which could cause problems, but they also act as secondary air seals, say the folks at Goodyear Tire and Rubber.
Avoid jackrabbit starts – slamming the gas and chirping the tires – or heavy stops where the tires leave lots of dust on the road because all you are doing is harming the tread and try to always drive as smoothly as possibly, avoiding debris in the roadway that could harm your tire or wheel.
All it takes is a little common sense and you can find your tires giving you great returns for a long time. It takes a little time to do it right, but the savings are worth it.