Maybe you’ve just spent a pretty penny on a new set of tires and hope to avoid that same expense for as long as possible. Or perhaps you’ve spotted the first clear signs of wear on your current set and thought to yourself: How can we slow down this train?
Unlike many other automotive components, tire wear is very much in your control. To maximize the life of your tires, you, the driver, really are the determining factor.
Extending the life of tires isn’t rocket science; it’s a study in cautious driving habits blended with some ongoing tire awareness and diligence. You don’t have to live and breathe tires (leave that to us), but keeping “in tune” with this particular automotive component will pay dividends. Not only when it comes to extending tire life and the avoidance of new tire expense, but also in terms of maximizing tire performance (and therefore vehicle safety), and even fuel economy.
Whatever your main motivation, if you’re looking to extend the life of your tires, let’s get into some tips from the Tire Pros.
By the way, if you have reason to believe your tire wear is abnormal, uneven, or accelerated, stop into any Tire Pros location for a free consultation with a tire technician.
Here’s how you can get the absolute maximum life and performance out of your tires.
1. Slow Down
Pop quiz: How long do tires last in a NASCAR race?
Answer: Sometimes just 35 laps. That equates to a distance of less than 90 miles per set.
The lesson here is, avoid treating your daily commute like the tri-oval at Daytona International Speedway, and you’ll spare your tires.
In fact, maybe no other factor has more influence on your tire lifespan than driving habits. Even if all other tire life variables are optimized (details below), harsh performance demands placed on your vehicle are managed – first and foremost – by your tires. Aggressive driving tactics will inevitably derail your tire conservation efforts.
Whether it’s on a race track or during the daily commute, smooth drivers get the most life from their tires. Accelerate smoothly, coast and reduce speed before hitting the brakes whenever possible, and be smooth and steady with steering inputs when taking corners.
2. Correct Tire Pressure
Your tires are an integral part of the overall engineered system that is your vehicle. The tire type, specifications, size, and tire pressures are established by the vehicle manufacturer after significant testing and calibration.
Recommended tire pressures are set by the manufacturer taking into account vehicle size, weight, purpose, drivetrain, and other variables. Tire pressures are key in balancing all of these variables.
Underinflated or overinflated tires are a common source of irregular tire wear. If the pressures are off substantially enough, or the vehicle is driven over prolonged periods with improper tire pressures, then this alone can prematurely expire a set of tires.
Improper tire pressures can also compromise vehicle/tire performance, traction, and fuel economy. To get the maximum from your tires, in every respect, keep them inflated to vehicle specification.
3. Tire Rotation
Tire rotations are a required condition of new tire mileage warranties for good reason. Following an appropriate tire rotation schedule can substantially extend the life of your tires.
Despite your smooth driving efforts, tires will often wear slightly unevenly. Front-wheel or rear-wheel drive, a vehicle that is slightly out of alignment, more left turns than right, regularly brushing the curb at your favorite drive-thru, any number of these daily driving factors can contribute to left vs. right, front vs. back tires wearing at different rates. This tire wear difference isn’t something that would be perceived after a few days or even weeks, but over the course of thousands of driving miles, the small wear rate differences add up.
To counteract the different wear rates, tires are rotated into different positions on your vehicle. Left to right, back to front, and (sometimes) diagonal tire rotations even out the wear. (Faster-wearing tires are rotated into slow-wearing positions, and vice versa.) The end goal is that all four of your tires “arrive” to expiration evenly and at the same time.
Tire rotations occur approximately every 5,000 miles, but that can vary according to the vehicle, tire type, and driving demands (e.g., frequent heavy towing or hauling). Stop into any Tire Pros shop for an evaluation of your tire rotation needs, and to get on an appropriate tire rotation schedule.
Alignment can be roughly defined as the arrangement of the various suspension and steering components that connect the wheels and tires to your vehicle. The calibration of these components dictates how your tires contact with the road surface under all driving conditions.
If you’re unfamiliar with alignment concepts, you might be thinking: don’t wheels and tires just point straight ahead when the steering wheel is pointed straight?
That would be nice and easy enough, but there’s a lot more to it than that. Alignment variables like caster, camber, and toe angle must be adjusted to suit the vehicle and driving style. When just one of these alignment elements is out of spec, uneven tire wear is likely.
Similar to tire pressures, alignment specifications are set by the vehicle manufacturer. To maximize the performance of your vehicle and tires, and maximize tire life, make sure your vehicle is checked for proper alignment approximately every 1-2 years. If you drive over particularly rough roads or have had a jarring date with a mega pothole, an alignment check to make sure that all components are still properly arranged is a good idea.
While slightly out of spec tire pressures, or an occasional overdue tire rotation will probably have minimal effect on your overall tire life, an out-of-alignment vehicle can really wreak havoc and do a lot of tire damage in short order.
5. Proper Tire Use
Not all tires are created equal. The purpose and intended use of tires vary widely. Some are designed and optimized for I-75, others for the Daytona Speedway, and still others for the Rubicon Trail.
Understanding your tire type, and using them only in the environments for which they were intended will help to both extend tire life and protect from damage.
Common misuses of tires include venturing into challenging off-road environments with a 4x4 wearing street-oriented tires, and performance driving with tires lacking the durability to survive in those high stress driving environments.
If you’re thinking about any “unconventional” use of your tires, let the Tire Pros weigh in on whether you’ve got the right tire tools for the job.
There are many automotive components that are outside of your control, but tires aren’t one of them. Take your tires to their maximum potential lifespan.