For most of us, our largest annual vehicle expenditure (after fuel and insurance, and maybe servicing) will be our tire bill. The more miles you drive, the more often you’ll need to replace your tires, with some drivers completely exhausting a set of rubber after just a year on the road. The type of driving that you do as well as your tire choice can also significantly influence tire life.
As with most things related to driving, there are several ways you can reduce your expenses. Follow a set of best practices to assist you in increasing the lifespan of your tires, in turn helping you to get as many miles out of them as possible.
Monitor air pressure
One fundamental aspect related to tire performance is the pressure it’s inflated to. Not only will a correctly inflated tire offer you the greatest amount of safety and handling capability, it will also ensure your tires avoid premature wear and degradation.
Under-inflated tires will cause premature shoulder wear, and over-inflated tires will cause the center section of tread to wear faster than the edges. In addition, under-inflated tires contribute to excessive heat build-up which can cause tire damage as well as decrease fuel mileage.
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Every vehicle manufacturer documents the recommended tire pressure for their vehicles, so consult your owner’s handbook or the driver’s door frame for the correct figures and ensure you check your tire pressure weekly.
Many tire manufacturers will provide a mileage warranty with their tires which covers premature wear and is valid as long as the tires are subjected to the correct maintenance procedures. One of the most important of these criteria is rotating your tires every 6,000-10,000 miles.
The reason is four tires will wear at different rates across the front and rear axle, often resulting in one axle (usually the rear if it’s rear wheel drive or front if it’s a FWD as the front tires are responsible for steering as well as accelerating) wearing faster than the other.
Regular tire rotation will ensure an even wear pattern across all four tires and ensure they reach their expected mileage at the same time.
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The condition of your vehicle’s suspension is a significant factor in how your tires interact with the surface of the road. You’ll find that suspension misalignment will result in unusual wear as your tires are subjected to additional stresses while rotating and steering. In addition, performing an alignment will identify the presence of worn suspension components such as ball joints, tie rods and wheel bearings.
The 3 principles of suspension alignment include:
- Camber: The inward (negative) or outward (positive) tilt of the top of your vehicle’s wheels.
- Toe: The angle of your wheels in relation to each other as observed from above (toe-in results in wheels pointing towards each other whereas toe-out indicates the opposite).
- Caster: The angle of your suspension struts in relation to your wheels (positive caster results in struts that angle towards the driver whereas negative caster results in struts that angle towards the front of the vehicle).
The camber, toe and caster of your suspension should be checked regularly to ensure they’re within the tolerances set for your vehicle. If any of these measurements are out, you may notice uneven tread wear, your vehicle pulling to one side, or a steering wheel that’s off-center when driving in a straight line. If you have a 4WD truck or SUV with a solid front axle, you may only be able to adjust the tow or camber.
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Reduce high speeds
Your speed also contributes to premature tire wear. Driving at higher speeds will place your tires under a greater amount of load, resulting in a significant amount of heat build-up.
This can be demonstrated by the frequency at which tires are replaced during motorsport events – and if you’ve ever driven your car on a track – you’ll know firsthand just how quickly you can wear through a set of tires.
As mentioned earlier, excessive heat is one of the main factors in tire wear and premature degradation, so ensure you moderate your speed (anywhere within the speed limit is fine) to avoid having to replace your tires sooner than expected.
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Avoid rolling burnouts
Any scenario where your tires are spinning or sliding is going to result in the transfer of rubber onto the surface of the road. The quantity of rubber transferred, and the resulting tire wear is based on the temperature of the tires as well as the amount of energy the tires are displacing and the duration of the spin or slide.
This is why intentionally spinning your vehicle’s wheels or performing a burnout is the quickest way to wear out your tires. If long tire life is a concern, avoid accelerating heavily and overloading your tires until they spin.
Look after your tires
Performing recommended tire care and maintenance while avoiding aggressive driving is the key to tire longevity and maximized tread life. Tire technology has progressed considerably over the years but even the best tires available won’t provide you with the lifespan you expect if they’re mistreated.
A regular, visual inspection of each tire will show you any defects or foreign objects, giving you a chance to make repairs before your tire becomes unusable.