Written by Randy Gerdin on May 1, 2016
I have been in the tire business for many years, and black and round is a term we used to use all the time. It is true that tires are indeed black and round, but unlike their predecessors, the modern tire is much more than that. As our vehicles have progressed and morphed into SUV’s, CUV’s, crossover’s, hybrid’s, performance vehicle’s, etc., our tires have also had to keep up. These days there are tires designed and produced for each segment of the vehicle market. If you really stop and think of what a tire actually does and how long they do last, they are amazing.
Our tires must carry and support 60-100 times their own weight. They must provide the traction to accelerate, take a sharp curve, hit a pothole in the road, and come to a sudden stop. All the while producing a smooth, comfortable, and quiet ride. They must do this while having a relatively small footprint on the road. The average tire only has a three-inch by five-inch patch on the road as it travels at speed. This is only about the size of a postcard. Your tire is the only contact point you have to the road, which is why tires have become so specialized as they relate to each vehicle type.
Tire design, material composition, tread pattern, and tread design are all factors engineers consider when they design the correct tire for a particular vehicle. Tires come in a variety of sizes, wheel diameters, and load and performance ratings. Each of these features is designed to have a specific benefit. For example, the design of a high performance tire that would go on a Corvette is completely different from a tire for an Accord. A Corvette demands a tire that has completely different features than the average passenger car tire. These performance tires have a much thinner and stiffer sidewall to handle the aggressive driving a performance car demands. They are great for these cars, but you probable would not want them on your daily driver. They ride much rougher and typically only last about 20,000 miles. They also are not very good in the snow. Conversely, a regular touring radial would not stand up to the rigors of a sports car.
We take many calls each day from folks asking about tires. Some people are only interested in price, and that is understandable. However, making a buying choice on price alone, in many cases, may be a mistake. This is where a true tire professional comes in, so that you can be assured of getting the right tires for you, your driving habits, usage, and your budget. Of course, there are always tradeoffs in making a purchase. You may not get a high mileage tire with the characteristics you need for the price you want to pay. In many cases, getting what you truly need is only a few dollars more than the economy tires. Again, you get what you pay for.
After you decide on the tires you need, they will need to be cared for. The first and most important things to pay attention to is the tire inflation pressure. Every vehicle is designed for a particular type of tire with a specific inflation pressure. You can find the correct pressure by looking at the tire placard on driver’s door. This placard will list the factory tire size and appropriate inflation pressure. In vehicles with Tire Pressure Monitoring sensors (TPMS) in the wheels, the pressure on the placard is what is programmed into the computer to activate the TPMS light. If the pressure is too high or too low, the light will come on. The pressure of your tires is also based on an ambient temperature of about 70 degrees. The inflation number on the tire itself is the maximum pressure that particular tire is design to hold, so always inflate your tires based on the vehicle’s tire placard.
Another important thing to do is to rotate the tires every 6,000 miles. This will keep the tires wearing evenly. This is a great time to inspect the vehicle’s suspension system, as it also needs to be inspected periodically and repaired as needed. As time and miles click by, many things on your vehicle will begin to wear out. Also, don’t forget to align the vehicle every so often. Some vehicles have adjustments on all four wheels, while others only have adjustments on the front wheels. Some vehicle may require special parts to be added to the vehicle to make these adjustments. Each of these items can effect how your tires wear and should be checked periodically. Good tires can be your best safety lifeline to the road, so please don’t think that all tires are just black and round. I Hate When That Happens!