How To Keep Your Tires Going Strong All Summer

Summer tires on a blue car on a lift.

The tires on your vehicle wheels are literally rubber that meets the road, and for better or worse, the summertime can be your tires’ worst enemy. High heat and humidity, extended travels on the road, and road construction projects require us to engage in the summer tire care if we want to keep our wheels spinning.  There are simple, proactive things you can do to maintain and to protect your tires during the summer months.  Check out the list below to maintain the condition of your tires in what many call the dog days of summer.

Before you buy new tires

Before you buy tires, you’ll need to know what to get.  You’ll need to find out the correct size of tire as well as its loading recommendations.  Your owner’s manual will provide that information, and once you are clear on that, you will have a few options on what tires to purchase.

A big question to consider is whether to purchase all-season tires or summer tires.  All-season tires provide a compromise or balance for the warm weather months as well as the cold weather months.  All-season tires have moderate tread and a longer tread life.  Ideally, they are modeled for wet and dry conditions, and are suitable for most drivers.  Summer tires are best for high-performance vehicles and are constructed for speed and agility.  Summer tires provide the best performance in wet driving conditions.  When deciding between the two, you’ll need to consider a few factors, such as the driving conditions where you live, your climate and your performance needs.  All of your tires should be the same type.  If you choose all-season tires, then all four of your tires should be that type, and vice versa with summer tires.  Ultimately, your owner’s manual will be a guide.

Monitor your tire pressure

A major component of summer tire care is monitoring your tire pressure.  Both underinflated and overinflated tires can cause problems, including blowouts, poor handling and breaking, uneven tire wear, reduced gas mileage and other problems.

Ideally, your tire pressure should be checked at a minimum of once per month, and always before a long trip.  Most experts recommended keeping a tire pressure gauge in your car just for this task.  And doing this first thing in the morning, or when your tires are cold, is best for an accurate reading.  Your owner’s manual, as well as the inside sticker of your driver side door, will give you the proper PSI to inflate your tire.

Many new model cars have a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) lamp that lights up when one or more of your tires has low pressure.  This also will aid you in knowing and checking your tire pressure on a routine basis.

Don’t forget your spare!

Spare tires, intended only as a temporary fix in the event of a blow out or flat tire, should also be checked routinely for the correct tire pressure.  In addition to your owner’s manual, the proper PSI is typically stamped on the side of the spare tire.

Rotate your tires

Routinely rotating your tires prevents any imbalance in the tire wear and allows your tires to last longer.  Though it depends on the auto manufacturer’s recommendations, tires should be rotated every 5,000 to 6,000 miles.  This service may be automatic when you replace your tires at an auto repair shop.

Keep an eye on your alignment

Like tire rotation, alignment also plays a part in good summer tire care.  A vehicle that is out of alignment will directly impact your tires, specifically causing uneven wear.  Checking your vehicle alignment should be done regularly, and particularly if you notice your vehicle pulling to one side of the road while you’re driving.

Measure tire tread

Checking the tire tread should also be done regularly.  The ability of a tire to stop within a safe distance can be compromised if the tread of your tire is worn.  If your tires don’t have the proper depth of tread, it can lead to dangerous situations on the road.  The best way to measure your tire tread is to take a penny and place it upside down in the groove of the tread.  If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, it’s time to replace the tire.  If his head is covered, you have enough tire tread.

What the wear on your tires is telling you

If you notice wearing in the center of your tire tread, this is a sign of over inflation.  If there is wear on the sides of your tires, this is an indication of underinflation.  Patchy tire tread or diagonal wear patterns indicate unbalanced tires.  But, as long as you keep your wheels balanced and aligned, properly rotated, and inflated, tire tread should wear evenly across your tire.

Check for damage

Overall, you also want to check your tire for any general visible damage.  This can include cuts, cracks, punctures, bubbles, or other signs of damage.  All of these would indicate damage done to your tire and the necessity for a replacement.  Bars or visible steel belts seen though the tread is another indication of damage to the tire.

Pack light

Overloading your vehicle has an impact on the pressure of your tires.  Before you pack up the SUV for a summer trip to the beach with the kids or a road trip across the country with college friends, find out what your vehicle’s gross vehicle weight training is, which details its maximum operating weight.  This can be found in the owner’s manual.

Drive for the weather

Be mindful of the extreme temperatures and rainstorms that come in the summer.  You want to be a safe and cautious driver at all times of the year but be particularly mindful of driving on the days of extreme high heat or times where flash flooding, or rain puddles could provide a danger to your tires if not driven wisely.

Avoid driving on areas with nails or other construction debris

This may come to mind as common sense to many people, but to protect your tires in the summer – or in any season, for that matter – make sure to avoid areas, roads, or construction sites with compromising materials, such as nails, screws and any other sharp or hazardous objects.  These items could puncture a hole in your tire, leading to a small leak or outright tire failure.

Know when it’s time to replace

Ultimately, whether it’s due to the end of the service life of your tires, wear and tear, or outright damage, your tires will need to be replaced.  It’s important for you to know when it is that time.  Barring any immediate reasons to replace your tire, most mechanics recommend replacing them every five to six years, though your owner’s manual will give you more specific information.

If you are dealing with a slow leak and the cost of replacing your tire is not feasible at that time, auto shops do offer two other, common solutions: the use of a tire plug or patch. Both of these provide a good, temporary solution until you purchase a tire.

Your vehicle’s tires take the brunt of the wear and tear we put on our cars and help keep us safe on the rough asphalt of the roads, especially during the high heat days of summer.  Make summer tire care a priority.  Be prepared for the unexpected on the road and get real-time roadside assistance today!

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