What’s the Proper Air Pressure For My Car

Experts and analysts seem to be in agreement on this: the days of cheap oil are finished. As countries compete with each other for oil on a global market, the price of refined fuel and gasoline in the United States may fluctuate somewhat, but it’s likely to stay above $3/gallon for the foreseeable future. That means that every driver needs to be aware of what they need to do to optimize their gas mileage…and that includes tires.

Proper Inflation

You probably already know that proper inflation is vital to fuel economy, and that underinflated tires will not only drop your gas mileage, but will negatively affect handling and drivability. Underinflated tires are also unsafe, building heat that can compromise a tire’s service life and possibly cause tire failur ...[more]

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The Importance of Rotating Your Tires

Rotating tires is one of the most important (and easiest) things you can do to prolong their service life. But why? Why is it so important?

It’s simple. Front and rear tires wear differently. Parallel parking, cornering, acceleration, three-point turns all put different stresses on the front and rear tires. Not rotating them means that they are going to show different wear patterns, which will affect their tread life and your car’s ride and handling.

Regular rotations mean that your tires will wear more evenly, and will improve your car’s drivability. Chances are you’ll notice a difference in ride and handling with every rotation. So how often should you rotate?

Every other oil change seems like a pretty good rule of thumb (in other words, every 7-10,000 miles). Doing rotations yourself in your ...[more]

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What if I Have Mismatched Tires?

As a general rule, your tires should all have the same tread pattern, construction and size, meaning they should all be the same make, model and age. If they aren’t, you’ll compromise on your car’s control, traction, stability and ride. Mismatched tires could mean tires from different manufacturers, winter tires with all-season tires, run-flat tires with conventional tires or tires with different tread patterns.

Until you can invest in an entire set of tires of the same make and model, and if you’ve only got one mismatched tire in the set, you should put it on the rear. If the tire that had a problem was on the front, take one of your rears and put it on the front to replace it, then put the mismatch tire back on the rear axle. This will probably mean the least impact on handling ...[more]

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Caring for New Tires

Tires are something that most people just do not give a lot of thought to until something goes wrong and it’s time to replace them. The good news is, they don’t really need a lot of maintenance (certainly not as much as your car’s mechanical systems do), and it’s pretty easy to take care of them and get a long service life from them. Ther e are a few things, though, that you do need to keep in mind with your new tires.

  • Watch your driving habits. Obviously, if you regularly mash the gas pedal hard enough to break traction and burn rubber, that will take a lot of life off your tires. Besides that, though, be careful about your braking and cornering habits, and go easy over potholes and railroad tracks; they will all take a toll on your tires.
  • Check your ...[more]

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How Does Your Driving Style Affect Tires?

Does your driving style affect how your tires wear and hold up? You better believe it does.

If you put a lot of interstate miles on your car, that’s about the easiest thing you can do for the tires and your car’s drivetrain both. Tires and engines both love maintaining steady speeds for hours on end (provided the tires are at the correct inflation).

Here are some things that are likely to compromise your tires’ life, though: 

  • Frequently hauling heavy loads (especially for pickup truck tires)
  • Frequently pulling a trailer
  • Hard cornering
  • Hard acceleration
  • Taking potholes, railroad tracks and bumps at high speeds

It’s not surprising that heavy loads or trailer use would wear out tires prema ...[more]

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Throwback Thursday: 1957 Mercedes Benz 300SL Gull Wing

The 300SL name has been in the Mercedes stable for a long time, but the 50s-era Gull Wing models may be the best known, and for good reason. Along with the distinctive gull-wing doors, the 300SL had the world’s fastest top speed for its day and was the first car to offer fuel injection for consumer models.

The 300SL was an offshoot of the 1952 W194 race car, with “300” referring to its 3.0-liter engine and SL standing for “Sport Light.” The 300SL featured a tubular steel chassis for balance of strength and light weight. It was this frame that made the gull-wing doors necessary, with part of the chassis passing through the area where the lower half of a standard door would be. Without the gull-wing design, the 300SL would have been awkward to get in and out of; a tilt-away steering column wa ...[more]

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How To Measure Tire Pressure

Rubber is a porous substance, and tires will inevitably lose some air over time due to seepage. Tire pressure is something that’s neglected by many drivers, as an “out of sight – out of mind” sort of condition. Low tire pressure, however, costs money in terms of increased rolling resistance and poorer gas mileage. Tires that are habitually run low on air also wear out prematurely, due to heat buildup and an uneven wear pattern.

The good news is that it’s an easy problem to fix.

For 100 years, tires have used the same valve design (known as a Schrade valve), identical to the valves on bicycle tires. They’re still the same design because the Schrade valve does its job well and there has never been a need to improve on it. 

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Tire Pressure and Temperature

You’ll notice that the stamp on your tire’s sidewall specifies inflation for HOT tires. Why is that?

Pretty simple physics, really. Gases expand with heat, meaning both the temperature of a friction-heated tire and ambient temperature of outside air. A rule of thumb is that for about for about every ten degrees Fahrenheit change in air temperature, your tire’s inflation will fluctuate by about one PSI. In most parts of the United States, the difference between winter and summer temperatures can be as much as a 50-degree spread, meaning a potential fluctuation of five PSI. That’s not even thinking about the 20-degree spread between hot afternoon temperatures and cooler nighttime or early morning temperatures in summer.

Tires that are low by 5 psi will  hurt traction, steering re ...[more]

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When Should I Replace My Winter Tires?

If you live in an area that gets cold enough and sees enough winter precipitation to warrant buying winter tires, there’s no substitute for the traction they can provide. Winter tires have come a long way since the heavy-tread, noisy “snow tires” or “mud grips” that were on your dad’s station wagon a generation ago. Modern winter tires offer better ride, road manners and handling than they did in previous years. That doesn’t, however, mean that they are good year-round.

Winter tires are designed with a tread formulation that stays flexible at lower temperatures, which is their chief advantage over all-season tires. All-season tires tend to harden and stiffen at sub-freezing temps, compromising traction and control. The flip side ...[more]

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How to Prevent Hydroplaning

If you’ve ever felt your car “get away from you” on wet pavement, even for an instant, chances are you experienced hydroplaning. It’s scary at best, and can be downright lethal at worst.

Hydroplaning is what happens when your tires are overwhelmed by more water than they can scatter or channel away. The water pressure at the leading edge of the tire’s contact patch pushes water under the tire, and eventually enough water builds up that the tire loses contact with the road surface. The thin film of water between the rubber and road means a loss of braking, traction and steering control.

The first ten minutes of a light rain are actually the worst in terms of hydroplaning. In that ten minutes, the oil and rubber residue on the surface doesn’t have time to wash away, and inst ...[more]

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