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October 1, 2014

Wheels and Tires: Your Car’s Own Personal Oracles  

Did you know that your tires are like big crystal balls into the health of some of your vehicle’s most important systems?  It’s true.  Just taking a quick look at your tires, checking some stats, and keeping up with general maintenance can not only extend the life of your tires, it can help stop potential problems from developing.  Here’s how:

  1. Keeping an eye on the way your tires are wearing is the simplest and maybe the most helpful thing you can do for yourself, car-wise.  You can tell so much just from tread wear!  By taking a look at where the tires might be wearing unevenly, you can diagnose problems before they get out of hand.  For instance, extra wear on the shoulders of your tread can indicate low tire pressure, while more wear down the middle can mean over-inflated tires.  Neither is good for the life of your tire (or the condition of your wallet), so if you see some uneven wearing in your treads, take a quick read of your air pressure and adjust accordingly.
  1. Since so many roads lead back to tread wear, we’ll mention this pattern as well: scalloping or cupping.  Cupping happens when a vehicle is bouncing and the tires get scuffed every time they come down.  If you see this pattern, take a pressure read (sometimes underinflation can cause scalloping, but these scallops are usually shallow and very close together), but if the scallops are deeper, sharper and less tapered, you could be looking at a problem with your suspension.  It could be as simple and easy to fix as a good balance, but it could be more involved.  Have a reliable mechanic check into it.
  1. Say, you’re driving and your car keeps pulling or drifting to one side, or the steering wheel is a bit shakey-shakey, or it’s sitting a little wonky and off-center–you might want to get your alignment checked.  You can usually see signs of alignment problems in your tread wear, as well.  Your alignment problem may have come on so gradually that you didn’t notice the deterioration in the smoothness and handling of your car until it got more extreme.  Once fixed, you’ll notice a considerable improvement in handling, not to mention a longer tire life and maybe even better gas mileage.  All from paying attention to the signs your wheels and tires are sending.
  1. Another reason your wheels and tires may be screaming at you is your suspension.  With a suspension problem, you may literally hear some clunking noises, but you’ll feel the pull of your wheels, maybe more bouncing around than is usual, and you can see it in abnormal wearing on your tires.  As your vehicle ages and gains miles, things need to be replaced, especially if you’re one of those people who holds onto a car.  Ball joints can lose lubrication, and depending on usage and road conditions, need to be replaced anywhere between 70,00 and 150,000 miles.  That’s a big spread, so when you have check-ups and other maintenance done on your car or truck, just have your mechanic take a look-see and tell you what he or she thinks.  Better safe than sorry.
  1. Got a flat spot in your tread?  This could mean that you’ve been in an emergency situation where it was necessary to slam on your brakes, or it could be indicative of a brake malfunction, such as your brakes locking up.  Get that checked out before an otherwise good tire has to retire early.

It’s amazing how much your wheels and tires can tell you about the overall health of your suspension, alignment, brakes, etc.  If left to progress, these problems can get expensive (and dangerous), so keep an eye to your tires, their tread wear and just how your wheels and tires feel on the road.  It’s simple, quick and easy to check the pressure and make a quick visual inspection every now and then, so get on it!  Got questions?  Not sure what you’re looking at or for?  Come see us at RNR and we can help you out.  Our guys are trained to recognize the messages your tires and wheels are sending, so come in and ask!  If you find you need a new set of tires, we can set you up on a plan you can afford and get you back on the road in no time!

Stay safe!


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