Economy Beyond Gas: Three Things You Can Do to Make Your Car's Tires Last Longer


Anything you can do to make your car tires last longer will cut down the cost of driving your car.  Sure, you've heard so much about driving habits that can increase your miles per gallon that you're tired of hearing it, but what about increasing your miles per tire change?  The way you drive, and the way you take care of your tires can go a long way toward saving you money.  And as a bonus, most of the ways to make your tires last longer will also make your car safer to drive, and improve your fuel economy!

Here are three tips to help you get the most life out of your car tires:

Keep your tires properly inflated

Keep your wheels properly aligned and balanced

Turn your wheels only while the car is moving

 

Each of these things will make your tires last longer, and I'll tell you why.

Proper Inflation

Maintaining correct air pressure in your tires has been discussed as a way to improve gas mileage, so much that it almost sounds ridiculous.  Overemphasized or not, it is still true, and it also improves the life of your tires.

Check your tire pressure at least once a week, and add air when the pressure is below the manufacturer's recommendations.  Check the owner's manual for your car for the correct pressure.

If you find that one or more tires need air often, have your local repair garage check it for slow leaks, and fix them.  A slow leak might be a warning sign that the tire will suddenly go flat, so spare yourself the trouble.  Fix it before it gets worse.

And don't overinflate the tires.  There is a school of thought that if a little pressure is good, more pressure must be better, but this is not the case.  An overinflated tire will bulge along the tread surface, so that only a small strip down the center of the tire is actually in contact with the road.  This will cause the tire to wear prematurely down the center, and it also reduces traction because you have less rubber on the road.

If a tire is overinflated, which can happen when the weather gets warm or if you move from a low altitude to higher altitude, let some air out.  Make sure your tires are inflated to the correct pressure, neither too low nor too high.

Alignment and Balance

You usually get your tires balanced and your wheels aligned whenever you buy new tires, and that's good.  However, if anything happens to unbalance your tires or to misalign the wheels in between tire changes, you should have it corrected right away.

Misaligned or unbalanced tires will wear unevenly, and that always means that they will wear out faster.  They will last much longer if they are always properly balanced and aligned.

If you have a flat tire repaired, or even just a slow leak, make sure the tire is rebalanced before the mechanic puts it back on your car.  They may charge extra for this service, but it will save you money in the long run.  The tire will last longer, and you will get better gas mileage than you would get with an unbalanced tire.

Your wheel alignment should stay correct between tire changes, but if you drive on rough roads, you should have it checked regularly.  You should also have the alignment checked if you had some unusual shock to your car's suspension, such as if you hit a curb or a large piece of debris in the road.

With proper wheel alignment, your tires will last much longer.  You will get bonus benefits of better, safer handling, improved fuel economy, and longer life of your car's suspension and steering components such as tie rod ends and ball joints.  The extra strain on the system from misaligned wheels also causes undue wear and tear on these parts as well as your tires.

Steer Only While Moving

Back in the days before power steering became commonplace, everyone knew this:  It's much easier to turn the steering wheel while the car is moving than while it's stopped.  In case you've never had the pleasure of driving without power steering, it's worth the trouble to demonstrate this for yourself.

With the car parked on a slope, such as a driveway, and the engine off, turn the key to the "on" position without starting the engine.  This will unlock the steering column.  Turn the steering wheel all the way to the left.  It's hard, but a person of average strength can do it with a little effort.  Now, release the brake a bit to let the car roll slowly, and turn the steering wheel all the way to the right.  It's still difficult without the engine running, but much, much easier than it was when the car was not moving.

The difference is friction.  When you turn the steering wheel and the car is not moving at all, you are rubbing the front tires sideways across the pavement.  This rubs the tread off the tires and onto the pavement.  No, you won't see a flat spot on the tire after one bout of parallel parking, but the cumulative effect of doing this day after day is taking thousands of miles off the life of your tires.

Whenever you have to maneuver at low speed, such as getting in or out of a small parking space, make sure the car is moving - at least a little bit - while you turn the steering wheel.  Even if the car moves as little as half a foot while you turn the steering wheel from one extreme to the other, you will save a great deal of wear on your tires.

And there's a bonus here, too.  If you turn the steering wheel while the car is stopped, where does the power to turn the wheels come from?  Right!  From the engine, and from the gasoline that you paid too much for.  Steering only while moving will save you gas, as well as saving wear on your tires.

Conclusion

Much of the cost of owning and driving a car is related to your choices in how you drive it.  Yes, you must replace your tires every so often.  But you can make it a little less often, and make your expensive tires serve you a good deal longer, if you take proper care of them.