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Ask a Mechanic: What Is Proper Tire Care?

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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.

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What are the biggest tire care mistakes people make?

The biggest tire care mistakes are 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 (3,000 or 5,000 miles) and failing to set the tire pressure to the manufacturer’s recommendation, Klis said.

What is the purpose of rotating tires?

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.

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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, which is when we make the driver aware of changing tires. 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 (all-wheel drive 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.

Should 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.

What other tire maintenance task should drivers complete?

If the vehicle is equipped with a spare tire, don’t forget to have the air pressure checked. Learn more about spare tire care.

Flat tire? Request AAA Roadside Assistance service quickly and easily at AAA.com/GetMoving. Your membership covers you 24/7.

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One Thought on “Ask a Mechanic: What Is Proper Tire Care?

  1. Is it true that if you have one tire that is damaged beyond repair, that all four tires must be replaced at the same time even if the tread is still good on the three undamaged tires? And if yes, why?

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