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Ask a Mechanic: What Is Proper Tire Care?

We went to an expert to learn more about proper tire care and maintenance.

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Often, the most overlooked component of vehicle maintenance is tire care. Maybe it’s because the wheel, and what covers it, is a fairly simple mechanism compared to the engines, computer and advanced technological and safety features of modern cars.

But tires deserve – and need! – more respect and attention. They are, after all, the only part of the vehicle that makes contact with the road.

To get more insight into the best tire care practices, we spoke with Joseph Klis, co-founder of AAA Approved Auto Repair shop Klis Brothers at North Shore Firestone in East Northport, N.Y.

What are the biggest mistakes people make in regard to tire care?

The biggest tire care mistakes made are the reluctance to listen to the professionals on tire rotation intervals, not setting the alignment yearly or when servicing the vehicle on every oil change interval (3,ooo or 5,000 miles), and failing to set the tire pressure to the manufacturer’s recommendation, Klis said.

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What is the purpose of rotating tires and how often should it be done?

The main purpose of this service is that the driver has the very best tire treads on the front of the car. It ensures proper handling, performance and ultimate tire wear. It is critical for the vehicle owner’s safety.

The tire rotation should be done at the same time as your oil change, preferably on the 5,000-mile interval. At that time, the front end should be checked by a professional mechanic. The tires, depending on the vehicle, are rotated as per the vehicle manufacturer. The pressures are set and the tire pressuring monitor system sensors are also reset through a handheld scanner.

Do you recommend drivers in the Northeast use winter tires?

Here at our shop, we have seen really bad winter conditions causing handling issues on performance vehicles. We do recommend winter tires for the concerned motorist. Most vehicles do, however, use the all-season tire and with most cars being AWD or 4×4 vehicles, there are no issues until the tire tread life measures 4/32 inches, which is when we make the driver aware of changing tires.

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What signs of tire damage should drivers be aware of?

Slipping or stopping on acceleration are obvious signs of when the tread life has met its useful life. Check the side walls for any bulges or cuts. If the tire pressure monitor system light is on, a tire professional can check for punctures.

Other damage to look for is uneven wear, especially poor steering wear or cupping. A professional mechanic can and should check the steering and suspension components. If there is uneven wear (if not pressure related) then those parts need to be addressed and an alignment must be set.

Speaking of alignment, whether four-wheel or thrust angle, alignments can only be set on a good-wearing tire. A tire with uneven wear will wear to that poor pattern and an alignment without addressing the front-end parts and/or tires would not be well-spent money!

How often should drivers change their tires?

Replacement of the tires should be considered when the tire mechanic sees poor wear, dry rot, splitting, bulges or breaks of the tire casing, tire age and of course the 4/32 inches of tread life. Tire age, even if the tread depth is good, should be considered for replacement every five years here in the Northeast.

With lease vehicles and most new cars (AWD vehicles especially), mileage interval rotations are critical every 5,000 miles. The tires on these vehicles have a softer compound than their brother tire sold in the aftermarket. They last only 20,000-30,000 miles because of the compounds. Rotations and having the tire professional look at and put their hands on the tires is critical.

Heading into winter, what other car maintenance task should drivers complete?

All fluid services should be checked for life and strength and addressed based on history of service and mileage intervals. And lastly, if the vehicle is equipped with a spare tire, then that should have the air pressure checked.

Find your local AAR shop. Need help getting there? Your membership covers you with 24/7 roadside assistance. If you need us, request service quickly and easily at AAA.com/GetMoving.

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