Tire Maintenance 101: The Basics

When I got my first car, a maroon Ford Explorer hand-me-down from my dad, putting gas in it and occasionally cleaning out the old Taco Bell bags and excessive amounts of water bottles and soda cans, was my idea of “vehicle maintenance”. 

Occasionally, every 15th weekend or so, my dad would get sick of my poor car ownership and we could clean the old girl out, complete with an oil change, polishing the wheels with my dad’s metal polish kit, vacuuming, washing, and even checking my tires! I know, I was a bad first-time car owner. Turns out, my idea of car maintenance didn’t even begin to scratch the surface.close up of tire tread

As I got older, I realized that I couldn’t run to my dad for minor vehicle inconveniences like checking the oil or the conditions of my tires. Tread? Air Pressure? What does any of this matter if I can drive to where I need to go? Turns out it matters greatly, especially when one of those tires goes flat. Womp. Womp.

Apparently, to keep your car or truck running and looking great, daily check-ups are required. And, the more you make this a habit, the less time and money you’ll spend on your car because you’ll see the problems before they happen. Smart. One thing I found that I, with my limited knowledge of how vehicles work can check every day to make sure I’m not stranded in the middle of nowhere, are my tires. 

Tires play a significant role in vehicle safety and operations. Tires are directly responsible for getting you and the vehicle on the road, and their condition also impacts the safety of all the occupants of the car. 

Checking Your Tire’s Tread

Ideally, tires need to be well-balanced and aligned, inflated with the right amount of air pressure, and have the correct thickness of treat. It doesn’t hurt to have them looking brand spanking new either, by making sure the wheels are polished to the perfect shine. Let’s take a look at treading first. Tire tread refers to the tracks and grooves you find on the surface of your tire. While some tires have some pretty cool looking tread patterns, looks are secondary here. Tread provides better traction on the road. Tires with no tread (bald tires) or tires not designed for slippery road conditions (rain, ice, snow) will cause your car to slip, slide, and swerve every which way instead of the direction you want it to go. 

Even the stoutest treaded tires will eventually wear down leaving your tires bald and you in a very dangerous position. Features such as anti-lock braking also become impaired when your tire control is compromised. That’s because these features are only as good as the tires themselves. 

A quick and easy way to check the tread on your tires is to take a penny and insert it in between the grooves upside down. The tire tread should at least come as far up as Abe Lincoln’s hairline. If the tread doesn’t reach Abe’s head, your tires need to be replaced. 

Checking Your Tire’s Air Pressureclose up of tire

Even brand-spankin’ new tires need to be inspected at least once a week to make sure that they are holding the right amount of air pressure. Over time, car and truck tires will naturally lose some air pressure and should be re-inflated to the right pressure. When tires are under-inflated, they have more rolling resistance or drag. This consumes more fuel and leaves them more susceptible to damage. The right air pressure for your tires will be on the underside of the tire. Use a digital air pressure sensor to check the pressure level and adjust the air accordingly. 

Wheel Balance & Alignment

To ensure equal wear and tear on all four tires, your car or truck’s tires need to be properly balanced and aligned. Getting your tires balanced and aligned is inexpensive, and some dealerships will even do it for you under your warranty at no cost to you. Mechanic shops will also do it for relatively cheap. This is something that MUST be done by professions. If you notice a bit of a wobble, shake, or shimmy to your car that wasn’t there before, it’s probably a good idea to go get your alignment checked. 

After you’ve made sure your tires aren’t bald, that the air pressure is just right and that they are aligned, don’t forget to make your vehicle and wheels shine like new using Quick Sheen’s Ultimate Metal Polish Kit!