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Extend Your Tire Life With These Simple Tips

Tires play an important role in road safety every time you get behind the wheel. A good set of tires can help improve grip and stopping distance, while worn or compromised tires can drastically reduce control and efficiency while increasing the risk of a costly accident. That’s why finding places that handle tire maintenance near you is critical if you aren’t keen on handling it yourself.

While most drivers know the basics when it comes to tire safety, like maintaining proper tire pressure and switching out tires in the winter, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. So what is bad for your tires, and how do you prevent tire damage? It’s a long list, with no shortage of forces conspiring to wear out your tires well before their time, but we’re here to lay it all out for you. We’ll go over some of the basics and delve into some lesser-known tips and tricks that can go a long way in improving your tires’ service life and overall safety.

Avoid Hitting the Curb

Parallel parking is the bane of many drivers. While those living outside of urban areas might be able to avoid the practice after passing their driver’s test, the rest of us aren’t so lucky. Most drivers’ primary concern is to avoid hitting the vehicle to their front and rear while trying to parallel park, but it’s the curb that actually represents the greatest danger to your tires. Rubbing against the curb while parallel parking can easily damage a tire’s sidewall, which given the design of most modern tires, isn’t nearly as resilient as the rest of the tire. It’s also far more difficult to patch sidewall puncture, with most reputable tire shops advising a full-on replacement instead. It might be tempting to use the curb as a guidepost when parallel parking, but it’s a bad habit that could easily cost you the price of two new tires. Even if you don’t suffer a full-on puncture, habitually rubbing against the curb can lead to “curb rash,” scuffing and weakening the sidewalls over time.

Dodge Potholes

This one might seem rather obvious, as few drivers actually aim for potholes in the first place, but including it on our list gives us a perfect chance to dispel a longstanding rumor when it comes to tire damage. Potholes, especially those on paved roads, represent a real obstacle for drivers as the depression can cause a tire to flex in ways it was never designed to. Some drivers are under the false impression that hitting potholes at higher speeds will lead to less damage as the vehicle will essentially fly over the pothole instead of sinking into it. This has long been disproven and can actually cause more damage than manuring over a pothole at average or low speed. It can be difficult to avoid potholes, but taking an aggressive approach might only make things worse.

A white vehicle is shown about to cross a black and yellow speed bump.

Slow Down Over Speed Bumps

While they might be the polar opposite of potholes, speed bumps are often no better when it comes to the potential to damage your tires, but it all depends on how fast you take them. Navigating over speed bumps at the recommended clip––between 3 to 5 mph––isn’t going to cause any damage, but treating them like an excuse to get some air is another story. When you launch your vehicle off a speed bump at higher speeds, the tires might momentarily lose contact with the road. When they come back down to earth, the weight of the vehicle can cause the tires to compress to the point where the sidewalls will actually make contact with the road. This is a surefire recipe for some premature wear and tear and should be avoided at all costs.

Kick Bad Driving Habits

While it can be fun to burn some rubber and play a little make-believe NASCAR behind the wheel, it is important to remember that you don’t have a professional pit crew and multimillion-dollar sponsorships backing up your daily commute. Accelerating, braking, or turning too quickly can wreak havoc on your tires, eroding the compounds that make up your tire’s tread and leading to a loss of grip and even a potential blowout. If feeling like you’re about to take the checkered flag at Daytona is worth having to replace your tires well ahead of schedule, be our guest, but a little self-control can pay dividends if you’re looking to extend the life of your tires.

Watch Out for Under/Overinflation

Tires are designed to work at a specific pressure that allows them to evenly distribute force over the entire surface of the tread. Ignoring these guidelines is one of the most common causes of premature tire failure, as the force is unevenly distributed, which causes them to wear unevenly. Overinflating tires past the recommended PSI will cause the center of the tire to wear out more quickly, while underinflation will cause the edge of the tire to speed up its wear. Overinflation can also cause them to become overly stiff, resulting in a less comfortable ride, compromised handling, and a generally “stiff” driving experience. Underinflation, on the other hand, can affect a vehicle’s braking ability as well as decrease fuel efficiency due to increased rolling resistance. Tires should be checked every couple of weeks to ensure they’re properly inflated to the PSI described in the vehicle’s owner’s manual, not the “Max PSI” often stamped on the side of the tire itself, which represents the upper threshold in terms of tire pressure.

Be Careful With Harsh Cleaning Products

A nice, shiny set of tires can really help a vehicle stand out, but the cleaning and condition products used to achieve this shine can also have an unintended effect on a tire’s longevity. When used on the recommended schedule, these tire shine products shouldn’t cause any premature rotting or cracking of the tire’s sidewalls, but, as is often the case, it’s easily possible to have too much of a good thing. In order to ensure that these cleaning products don’t start to work against you, apply them sparingly and follow all the manufacturer’s recommended suggestions. Some experts say that applying these products via a cloth rather than spraying them directly onto a tire can lessen the detrimental effects, while others swear by fully removing the previous application before applying a new coat. Water-based tire dressings are seen as the safer alternative to oil or solvent-based options, but it largely comes down to a matter of opinion.

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Don’t Skip Rotations

Sticking to a good schedule for tire rotation is one of the easiest ways to extend the life of your treads. Recommended at every 6,000 to 8,000 miles, tire rotation involves switching the position of each tire to a different corner of the vehicle. Tires wear differently based on their position, with front tires typically wearing out faster due to their role in steering and braking, so a typical tire rotation will involve switching out the back tires for the front set and vice versa. By performing regular rotations, your tires will wear out at a similar rate, which can help keep you on a schedule that’ll allow you to replace all four tires at once rather than addressing the front and back set at different times.

Manage Heavy Loads

The more weight a vehicle has to carry; the more stress is put on the tires. Tires are rated to carry a certain amount of weight, which is easily visible on the side of the tires, but even when staying within these thresholds, it’s easy to overload a vehicle. Aside from the obvious blowout, drivers risk exposing their tires to accelerated wear due to the high temperatures and pressure that a heavy load can cause. This is especially relevant for those driving cars which, unlike trucks and some SUVs, don’t generally have tires that are rated to handle the extra weight.

Be Mindful of UV Exposure

A daily dose of sunlight is important for human health, but the same can’t be said for your tires. Prolonged UV exposure can cause some of the rubber compounds in your tires to break down prematurely, weakening the tires and shaving time of their service life. Parking your vehicle in a garage or in shaded spaces can have a big impact on your overall tire health and is recommended whenever possible. If you don’t have any choice but to park in an area with a lot of sun exposure, make sure you don’t go too long between drives, as sitting stationary in direct sun can exacerbate the issue.

Proper Maintenance Can Help Your Tires Last

No matter how careful you are, you’re going to need to replace the tires on your vehicle at some point. Some tires last longer than others, but they can be expensive, so if you’re looking to keep your overall cost of ownership to a minimum, keep these tire car tips in mind. From avoiding direct sun exposure and minimizing heavy loads to bad inflation habits and hazards presented by curbs, speed bumps, and potholes, a little mindfulness can make all the difference when it comes to tire longevity. Make tire rotations and regular inspections a part of your normal maintenance routine, and you’ll soon see the benefits in the form of extended tread life and effectiveness. For drivers in areas with harsh winters, a good set of winter tires can also have a big impact, as they’re specially designed to deal with the abuse and performance-related issues that come with winter driving.