It’s impossible to understate the importance of your tires. Without them, you don’t go anywhere. Here’s what you should know:
A tire that has too much or too little air is a problem. An improperly inflated tire could cause poor gas mileage, loss of traction, tire wear, or could even damage the tire leading to failure (which is bad when you’re driving). Make sure you check the proper inflation level for your vehicle, usually found in the owners manual or on a sticker in the door jam on the driver’s side. Tire pressure is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI). Pressure gauges are inexpensive and easy to use. Remember to always check your tire pressure when the tires are “cold” (haven’t been driven for about 30 minutes).
Why do tires need those tread patterns? The tread patterns on tires move moisture out of the way so the rubber can make contact with the road. Otherwise, the tire would drive on top of the moisture, which leads to hydroplaning, which is not as fun as it sounds.
But being able to maintain control of your vehicle when there’s moisture on the road isn’t the only concern regarding your tire tread. If you go too long without replacing your tires, you’re risking them failing while you’re driving. Wear bars will be visible when only 1/16 of your tire tread remains, which is an indicator that you need tires sooner rather than later.
Ever wonder what all the numbers and letters on the side of your tire mean? Each one is there for a specific reason. Your tire might have something that looks like this:
The “P” is for “passenger car.” You might also see “ST” (special trailer), “LT” (light truck), or “T” (temporary).
“215” is the width of the tire in millimeters. Wider tires mean more traction.
“65” is the aspect ratio. The is the height to width ratio as a percentage. Low aspect ratio (“low profile”) tires can generally handle well at high speeds, but the trade-off is a bumpier ride. If you want a smooth ride and good traction in slick conditions, stick with a taller tire.
“R” is for “radial,” versus “B” for “bias belt” or “D” for “diagonal.” This refers to how the tire is constructed. Radials allow the tread and sidewall to function independently, which equates to flexibility, better handling, and better capability to withstand heat.
“15” is the diameter of wheel rim that the tire was designed to fit (in inches).
This concludes your Tires 101 class. Knowledge is your best tool as a consumer, so use your new power wisely.
Have you ever hydroplaned, had a blowout, or been stranded by a tire problem? Leave a comment and let us know your interesting stories.