My dad always made a big fuss over people who neglected tire maintenance. Even before I knew anything about cars, I was always getting the earful of “check your tire pressures” and “keep the gas tank full” spoken in a firm tone and quoted from an old mechanic of the area.
So what is the trick to making those tires last for the long run? I split this article into a set of do’s and don’ts to help you better understand what makes your tires last longer.
Replacing tires isn’t cheap. That’s why I’ve written this The Ultimate Guide On How To Make Your Tires Last Longer article:
Do’s For Making Tires Last Longer
Focus on the do’s. Here’s what you need to do if you want your tires to last up to their max potential:
Keep Tires Filled To The Correct PSI
Check the inside of your driver’s side door panel for PSI recommendations specific to your car. Keep a tire pressure gauge in the car at all times, and check pressures monthly.
Visually inspect your tires for deflation
Sometimes you can just tell by looking at your tires that they need a bit more air. According to a Canadian study, driving on tires that are deflated by 10% increases the treadwear by 5% and increases gas consumption by 2%.
So if the tires on your car are supposed to be at 40 PSI, and you have them at 36, then that means they’re going to wear out faster and cost you more money on fuel.
Recognize Uneven Treadwear
Learning to spot the exact case of uneven treadwear can be tricky sometimes, but the more you familiarize yourself with why tires are wearing unevenly, the easier it is to pick out early on–before the tires get too deformed.
Here are a few different kinds of uneven treadwear:
Tire cupping happens when the wheel bounces up and down and is a sign of failing suspension components. As a technician I recognizing cupping because there are obvious bumps in the tire as I spin it around at eye level. In other words, you’ll likely find out from the technician that your tires are cupping when you take your car in for its next oil change.
One obvious side of cupping is when your failing strut or spring bounces repeatedly with a kind of machine gun noise when driving over bump areas.
Feathering is a toe-alignment issue when wheels are turned slightly in the wrong direction. Use a piece of chalk horizontally on the tire to easily identify feathering.
Severe cases of feathering are super obvious because you’ll see the way the treads seem smeared to one side, and the treads of the tire will feel jagged when you run your hands across them.
Maintain proper steering alignment to avoid feathering. Specifically toe and caster alignment problems (or a combination of both) cause feathering.
Center wear is a tire overinflation issue. You’ll notice a ring of bare tread wearing out the middle of the tire in extreme cases.
From parking the car too long (without Nitrogen), skid braking, ABS issues, flat spots are relatively common in older tires.
Sidewall wear is caused by scraping up against the curb/rocks. Replace tires that have chunks missing from their sidewalks just to be safe.
Outer tread wear is caused by tire underinflation.
Check out this guy’s chalk method for identifying premature treadwear. Pretty genius.
Fill Tires With Nitrogen
Nitrogen gas performs better inside tires because nitrogen molecules are bigger in diameter and lighter in weight than oxygen molecules.
Nitrogen-filled tires deflate much slower than oxygen-filled tires because the air can’t escape as easily from the tire bead (where the tire meets the wheel).
Rotate Tires Every 3-5 Thousand Miles
How much does tire rotation help for making tires last longer? From my experience, I would say that well-maintained tires last from 50-100% longer than un rotated/neglected tires.
Tire rotating has some conditional variables, including:
Staggered wheel sizes
Some sports cars have thicker wheels in the back and thinner wheels in the front. That means the car isn’t designed for tire rotations.
You can rotate tires on staggered wheel design cars from left to right, but there’s really no point considering tire rotation is performed because the front wheels wear differently due to turning.
Correcting poor tire wear due to alignment issues
Sometimes a car will come in to the shop with some funky tread wear variations on different tires, and I’ll rotate them in an ‘x’ pattern. That, or I’ll completely unmount the tire, and flip it around if they’re symmetrical treads(I don’t recommend unmounting tires for no reason but sometimes it works).
Anytime you see an arrow on the sidewalls, that means that the tires are designed to spin in only one direction, so directional tires can only be rotated from front to back. Two of the tires are built for the left, and the other two are built for the right.
Asymmetrical tread patterns
Tires with asymmetrical tread patterns have an ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ printed on the sidewalls, and if you don’t put the ‘outside’ facing the wheel spokes, then the tires aren’t going to drive correctly.
Unlike directional tires, you can still rotate tires with an asymmetrical tread pattern to any position on the vehicle. What you can’t do with asymmetrical tread patterns is unmount and flip them.
Symmetrical tread patterns
Symmetrical tread patterns are the most versatile for tire rotations. You can rotate symmetrical tires front to back, in an ‘x’ pattern, or even unmount and remount the tire the opposite way to correct uneven tread wear.
Stay On Top Of General Maintenance
Drivers who keep everything on their vehicle functioning correctly tend to have the longest-lasting tires. It’s a habit. Take responsibility for all repairs that need attention on your car. Here are some other items to keep straight for longer tire life:
Bad alignment causes uneven treadwear, like feathering, that drastically decreases the life of your tires. Get an alignment once or twice a year or in times where it noticeably goes out of wack.
Perfect Wheel Balance
Are you feeling peculiar vibrations at higher speeds? Could be a wheel balance issue. Tire shops always balance the wheels when mounting new tires up, and it’s never a bad idea to get a rebalance after a while if you start to feel vibration in the steering wheel.
Suspension Functioning Correctly
Is your suspension strut bouncing up and down rapidly when you hit a bump? Replace suspension parts before they cause irreversible treadwear cupping.
Tools Needed For Making Your Tires Last Longer
Here is a complete list of tools that will help you service your tires, ultimately making them last for thousands of miles more:
Buy a small air compressor (I recommend a 3-5 gallon size) for your garage/house that you can quickly reinflated your tires with when they go flat. Don’t forget the air compressor hose.
Tire chuck/Tire inflator with gauge
Tire chuck is the air compressor attachment that lets air into the tire unmetered. Tire chucks are nice to have because they fill tires up with air quickly, but it’s easy to overinflate a tire with a tire chuck. Always check the PSI after you fill your tire with unmetered air from a tire chuck.
The tire inflators with the gauge attached are the easiest way to safely inflate and let air out of your tires.
An air compressor is a must for car owners. Even if you don’t have a larger air compressor in your garage, there are plenty of cheaper air compressor kits that plug into your car’s cigarette lighter to re-inflate tires.
½” Impact Drill & Sockets (electric or pneumatic)
I recommend every car owner to buy an electric or pneumatic ½” impact drill to remove the lugs for tire rotation.
Your car’s spare tire set should have the tools to get the wheel off, but using a drill is much easier and faster. I also recommend keeping a ½” breaker bar in your car to help break tight lugs loose.
Tire pressure gauge
Tire pressure gauges come in all shapes and sizes. I use either the simple pen-shaped gauge that pushes a plastic tab out when pressed into the tire valve.
You could also buy a tire chuck that both inflates/deflates the tire and measures the tire pressure in either digital or analog form.
Torquing the wheels down after tire rotation is huge. Check the exact ft/lb torque spec for your specific car’s lug nuts.
Don’ts For Making Tires Last Longer
Program these don’ts into your head to save money on tires in the long run:
Don’t neglect tire pressures/Suspension maintenance
Again, keep a tire pressure gauge in the car with you at all times. Keep those numbers dialed to exact PSI according to vehicle spec.
PSI is sometimes different from front to back, so read carefully.
Don’t overinflate or underinflate our tires
Improper tire inflation is one of the most common things I see when working in the shop, and I think that people are just lazy about adjusting their tire treads. It’s easier than you think.
Whenever your tires look low, bump them up with a bit of air at the local gas station. Or even better, buy an air compressor and keep it in your car/garage.
If your tire pressure gauge says you pumped in 10 PSI too much air, use a pen to press the Schrader valve and let some air out.
Scotty Kilmer always has something useful to say about cars. Here’s his take on tread wear. Good stuff.
Don’t misuse tire types
Don’t use sports tires when offroading, and don’t use mudding tires at fast highway speeds. Every tire has its purpose. Here are a few different types of tires:
- Sport/High-performance tires
- Snow specific
- Sand paddle tires
Slow down when offroading with road tires
Very common to see all-weather highway tires cruising up dirt roads, and that’s perfectly fine. Just remember that sharp rocks puncture tires as fast as nails when driven over at faster speeds.
My Final Thoughts On The Ultimate Guide On How To Make Your Tires Longer
After reading this guide, stay on your toes about your tires. Don’t be afraid to tell someone if their tire pressure looks low, and be more careful about having both hands on the wheel at high speeds to avoid a messy tire blowout. Good luck!