Know Your Car and Save Money

Welcome to the first installment of the Living The Dream Auto Care educational series – Know Your Car and Save Money.

Throughout the next few months, we will provide some relatively simple information to our guests (and anyone who wants to learn car care from the best J) regarding the basics of automotive terminology and care. Our intent is to de-mystify the lingo, help you know when your car needs attention, and – more importantly to you, we’re sure – keep your automotive costs low.

If you’re car savvy, congratulations. Feel free to add to the discussion – to help your fellow guests. And if you know someone who is not, please share this information. We’re going to cover this topic top to bottom – and hopefully, you’ll find it interesting…

Therefore, let’s start right at the bottom – where the rubber meets the road.

Proper At-Tire
Maybe someone can help us with this – who was the first person to suggest kicking the tires? Our initial car care tip: don’t do that – it just looks silly.

Now, everyone knows good tires are: 1) essential to a good ride; 2) important for passing state inspections; and 3) expensive. So, let’s talk about keeping tires good for longer periods.

To start, proper inflation of the tires is really helpful. (Actually, to start, buy good tires from the beginning – just sayin’…) Properly inflation gives your tires the best chance to wear evenly as they travel on the road.

Underinflation will cause a tire to become flatter while in contact with the road, causing:

  • A significant loss of steering precision and cornering stability
  • A loss of up to 5% of fuel economy
  • As much as a 25% reduction in the life of the tread on the tire

Overinflation will mean that less tire touches the road, leading to:

  • A greater possibility of damage when hitting potholes or road debris
  • A harsher ride
  • As much as a 25% reduction in the life of the tread on the tire

If either condition exists for a while, the tread will wear unevenly. Then, you may hear terms like cupping, feathering, scalloping. Sorry. Hopefully, we won’t use those types of words with you – but they do mean something that you oughta know.

Each of those terms are related to the pattern in which the tread in wearing. More importantly, however, there could be a greater issue that is coming to light.

Tires are supposed to run flat on the road. If one edge hits the road more than the other, then it will wear faster. In essence, the tire is tilted – and that’s not good. A tilted tire can be the cause of a future problem with the suspension parts of your vehicle.

Think of a tire like a shoe. If the sole or heel wears more to the inside or the outside, the foot will tilt – and so will the leg attached to it. And the leg bone connected to the hip bone, etc…you get the point.

Conversely, the suspension problem may be the reason for the tilted tire and uneven wear. A bow-legged person is going to wear out shoes differently. This is a bit beyond this presentation, but obviously, something that should be addressed.

The best preventative measures to ensure that tires last longer are:

  1. Make sure that the inflation pressure is proper
  2. Check your suspension every six months
  3. Rotate and balance tires every 7,500 miles
  4. Get a 4-wheel alignment once a year (discussed another time).

Of course, tires rotate – they’re round, aren’t they? Well, yeah, but…a rotation means moving the tires from one position on the car to another. Why? When birds fly in a V-pattern, the lead bird fights most of the wind, so when they get tired, they rotate to the back to get some rest. It’s the same thing with tires.

Because of turning, or front-wheel drive, or heavy engines, the front tires do the majority of the work – and wear faster. So, it’s essential to rotate them to the rear to give them a rest.

Tires should be balanced, as well. The weight of a tire is almost NEVER exactly the same all the way around. Matter of fact, the valve stem contributes to the imbalance. And when the tire goes spinning down the road, the imbalance in weight, however slight, will cause a wobble. The faster the car goes, the more the wobble. And when one tire wobbles differently than another, the driver feels it – usually in the steering wheel.

An unbalanced tire will also cause a vibration in the suspension. This imbalance will cause suspension and steering components to wear prematurely. Lastly, it will cause the tire to wear in an uneven pattern. Therefore, keeping your tires balanced is very important.

Weights are added around the rim to provide an even balance. Equal weights mean less vibration – and less potential damage to the suspension. If this, like rotation, is done regularly, you probably won’t need to replace them as frequently.

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