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If you want to learn a little more about tires, check out “Know Your Tires“. That article breaks down the parts of tires, how to read the sizes, and tons more great information.

Why are tires important?

Consider that your tires provide 100% contact with the road. That means every bit of acceleration, and braking rely on just a few square inches of contact pattern.  All 4000lbs of your car are riding down the road on that little spot. We need to make sure we get the most out of that contact area.

What are the types of tire services?

There is a lot that goes into making a tire. The good thing is the average driver does not need to worry about that.  All we need to worry about is keeping our tires in tip top shape. Here are the basic services your mechanic can perform on tires.

  • Rotation – This is where you would move the front tires to the back, and the back tires to the front.
  • Rotate and Balance – Here your wheel and tire assembly is put on a machine and balanced. Weights are added to off set heavy spots in the tire. Generally the tires are rotated here too.
  • New tires – When your old tires are worn out, it’s time for new ones. After a new tire is mounted on a wheel, it is balanced too
  • Flat repair – If you get a nail or something in a tire, it may be repairable. I recommend having a tire repaired.

Pretty simple right? There is not too much to maintaining tires.

When to rotate, and when to not rotate.

This is the most affordable way to prolong the life of your tires.  Well, this and keeping the pressures set properly. You really can’t over rotate your tires.  Plus when your mechanic takes the tires off, he will generally look at your brakes too. There is no harm in rotating your tires every time you have the oil changed.

There are times when you do not want to rotate your tires. If rotating your tires will put bad tires on the rear, DO NOT ROTATE.  You want to keep your best tires on the back.

Why is balancing so important?

You’re riding down the highway. Your steering wheel is shaking back and forth making you crazy. You might just have a tire out of balance. If you have a tire that is vibrating bad enough to feel, you need to get your tires balanced.

There is also a good case for having your tire balance checked. Vibrations can develop slowly. You might have a slight vibration that is now just a normal for your car. There is also the extra wear on the tires. The more a tire is out of balance, the more it can hop, and shimmy causing abnormal tire wear. The only repair for abnormally worn tires is replacement.

When do tires need to be replaced?

So you have properly rotated your tires, and kept them balanced too. At some point all tires wear out. How do you know if they need to be replaced? There are a few hard rules:

  • Any tire at or below 2/32 of tread
  • A tire that is older than 6 years old(this one shocked me too)
  • Any tire with side wall damage.
  • Any tire with cords, or belts showing, or worn into the secondary rubber
  • Severely dry rotted tires
  • If the shoulder of the tire gets punctured. You can’t safely repair that.

Now those are the rules when a tire MUST be replaced. When a tire gets down to about 4/32 of tread, it’s time to get them replaced. This is most accurately measured with a tread depth gauge.  Sure you can get a few thousand more miles out of them. But they are not as safe as they were. Is rolling the dice on your safety and the safety of other on the road really worth it?

So do you really need this?

This is one service, or 3 to be exact, that really depend on the condition of your tires. If they don’t fall into the list directly above, you may be able to wait a little while. Just remember that your tires are one of the most important safety features!

  • Rotate – Go ahead and do it. The service is very cheap ($20 or so) service to prolong your very expensive tires
  • Rotate and Balance – I like to balance my tires every other oil change. Again it’s a very cheap($40 or so) service. Plus driving a car with a vibration can be maddening.
  • Replacing tires – Follow the rules I posted above. If you are not sure, have your mechanic show you why you need new tires. 4/32 is the measurement that you need to really consider new tires. 2/32 is MUST REPLACE. Just for prospective, most new tires are 11/32

Now you can feel good about getting that tire rotation, balance or replacement. If you have a service you would like added to this series, please let us know.