• 5 Questions Any Good Tire Dealer Should Ask

    Tires are a big investment most people make only every few years. If you want to make the right decision, you've got two choices:

    1. Become a tire selection expert.
    2. Become a tire dealer selection expert.

    Option 2 is a lot easier. Make sure the salesperson asks you these five questions:

    1. "What do you use your vehicle for?"

    The best tire for a commuter in an economy car may not be the same as what's needed for the family car. The tire that's best for comfort and least noise for your long-distance commute may be overkill for a third car that's used less often. If you're hauling loads or a trailer with your truck, that suggests a different choice than what's right on a truck used for lighter duty.

    Road conditions are a part of this equation. If you regularly go off-road, you're driving streets with lots of potholes, or you live in a place with winding roads and tight curves, the salesperson's recommendations will differ.

    2. "What are your driving habits?"

    If your dealer asks this question, they're a keeper.

    Literally and figuratively, tires aren't one-size-fits-all. For example, a new driver in the family can change the ideal tire. So can your tendency towards conservative versus faster driving.

    3. "Will you be doing any driving in winter conditions?"

    You need tires that suit the weather conditions where you drive and your dealer knows that. A good one will ask.

    All season tires are the choice for drivers in sunnier places. If you're driving on snow or ice every year, you'll likely have winter tires for cold months and a different set for warmer weather. Your dealer's recommendation on what's going to last longest and perform best will also be different if you live in a place with extremes of heat and cold than someplace with more consistent weather.

    Winter driving means winter tires. The alternative is no fun

    4. "What's your budget?"

    All these factors?driving habits, safety, longevity, comfort, handling, noise?have to be balanced with your budget. A good dealer is happy to explain the differences between a quality, basic tire, a premium tire, and everything in between, because it narrows the choices to what's best for you. You should never get the feeling the store rep is pushing a tire just because it's on sale or it's the most expensive.

    5. "Here's how our warranty works…"

    OK, it's not really a question. But the best dealers will bring this up. If you want to get the best value for the money, it's really important to think this through. Service warranties can include free services worth hundreds of dollars over the life a tire. They vary substantially by dealer. Some features and limitations to find out about:

    Does your service warranty cover flat tires?

    • Road hazards – If you run over a pothole, nail, or debris that damages the tire beyond repair, is the value of the tire covered?
    • Expiration – How long is the tire covered? Three years? Five years? The life of the tire?
    • Workmanship – Are both the tire and the quality of installation/repairs covered?
    • Free services – Are regular inspections for wear, tire rotations and rebalancing included? What's the cost to fix flats?
    • Locations – How many stores will honor the warranty? The service warranty that comes with tires you buy at a dealer is an agreement with the dealer, not the manufacturer. A service warranty goes beyond the standard workmanship and material warranty you get from the company that made your tires. It can cover labor and free maintenance services. But your service warranty is good only at the retailer that sold you the tires. (If you're weighing buying online, consider that if you get a flat, or a tire is defective, you have to get it off your vehicle and return it yourself.)

    Find the right dealer and you don't have to become a tire expert

    Real professionals will be happy to talk your ear off about technical features?tread bars, siping, harmonic noise?or just give you the basic benefits of a tire in layperson's language, your preference. Make sure they're asking the questions above as a starting point. The answers will make the best choice obvious.

  • Does Hitting a Pothole Damage My Tires?

    Hitting a pothole can puncture your tire or bend or crack your wheel. It can damage your tire's sidewall or belts. Even a smallish impact may knock your vehicle out of alignment.

    The potential problems can go beyond your wheel-tire assembly. A pothole strike can result in broken shocks or struts, dents or cracks in the body, or harm to other suspension or engine parts.

    It's important to get your vehicle checked after a harsh encounter with a pothole ? or any debris ? on the road. Some damage will be obvious, like a flat tire, while some may not be visible. Get your car in for a look-see right away, especially if you notice these indicators:

    1. A tire looks low. This could be a slow leak from a bent rim.
    2. You see a bulge on the tire sidewall, a sign the tightly packed cords of steel belts and nylon in the tread have separated.
    3. Your car pulls to the left or right when you're driving straight. Your wheels are probably out of alignment.
    4. You feel a vibration in the steering, seat or floor, a symptom of imbalanced tires.
    5. You hear a new noise when underway. Something may be rubbing on your suspension.
    6. A dashboard warning light comes on.

    Here's some background on Road Enemy No. 1: the common types of damage, what repairs may cost and whether your auto insurance will pay for them, and how to avoid these expensive hazards.

    Yes, There Are LOTS of Potholes

    It's not your imagination. American drivers are putting up with a lot of potholes, and the price tag is steep.

    A 2016 AAA study found potholes cost U.S. drivers an estimated $3 billion in repairs annually. Over the last five years, an estimated 16 million drivers have sustained such damage to their tires, wheels or suspension.

    Why such high numbers? The nation's blacktop is aging. There's been a lot of deferred maintenance so much-needed repairs are backlogged. Extreme cold, heat, rain and excess water under roadways also mean more cracks in the road, which is how potholes are born.

    How Badly Can Potholes Damage My Vehicle?

    Unless the hole is relatively large or you're going really fast, the pothole strike probably won't puncture your tire, or damage part of your suspension or engine. But bent wheel rims, internal tire damage, alignment problems, body damage, and shocks and struts issues are common.

    Wheel damage from potholes
    Wheel damage from potholes
    Tire damage from potholes
    Tire damage from potholes

    When you take your vehicle to a tire technician or mechanic following a pothole impact, ask him/her to check for:

    • Wheels/steering knocked out of alignment.
    • Damage to the tire's steel belts.
    • Intact tire balancing weights.
    • Bent or cracked wheel rim.
    • Damage to the engine or exhaust system.
    • Damage to shocks and struts.
    • Other broken suspension components.

    What Will the Repairs Cost Me?

    Auto repair costs due to potholes can range anywhere from $50 to $500. American drivers report paying $300, on average, to fix pothole-related vehicle damage, according to AAA.

    If a tire is damaged, check your tire warranty. If it's a good one, repairs or replacement from road impacts may be free.

    If your tire isn't covered by a good warranty and it's damaged beyond repair, a new tire will cost you on average $128 ($155 for light truck tires) in 2017 prices. Bent wheels can often be fixed but replacing a single rim may cost you between $75 and $500, depending on how fancy it is and whether welding, repainting or refinishing is needed.

    Does Auto Insurance Cover Damage from Potholes?

    If you don't have a strong tire warranty or if the impact caused damage to other parts of the vehicle, check your insurance policy. If you have collision coverage, auto insurance may cover the cost of repairs, but there's usually a high deductible to meet. Because such an incident is considered a collision by your insurer, reporting it may jack up your insurance rate. It may turn out that just paying for repairs will be cheaper than filing a claim.

    First, get a repair estimate. Then, talk to your insurance agent about whether it's smarter to self-pay or file a claim. It depends on your driving record and your insurer.

    Check Your Car Dealer Service Warranty

    Before shelling out the dough for repairs, also read your vehicle's service warranty. Some car dealers offer tire/wheel protection plans as options on long-term warranties, in some states and on some vehicles. Such plans may cover damage to tires and wheels caused by potholes, nails, glass and other road hazards, dent repair, windshield fixes, labor and even towing charges.

    Tips for Avoiding Hazards

    There's an app for this. Really.

    Waze provides driving directions along with real-time alerts on road hazards (including potholes), slowdowns, construction zones and accidents.

    In the future, connected car and self-driving car technology will probably assign the work of avoiding potholes to your onboard computer. Technology to detect potholes in real time and share out the info to help motorists avoid them and help authorities prioritize repairs is well along.

    In the meantime, here are the best ways to prevent pothole damage and stay safe.

    Always drive on tires that are properly inflated and in good condition. This will give you the best chance of absorbing the impact safely.

    Drive defensively. Slow down when you're on an unfamiliar or rough road, and avoid distracted driving. Be alert to what's ahead, and make sure you keep enough distance between you and the vehicle in front so you can see what's coming.

    Be cautious about leaving your lane. Swerving to avoid a pothole is one thing on a country lane, but it's another at highway speed. Use good judgment and always be conscious of traffic around you. Recognize that though you miss the first pothole, there may be another awaiting. It may be safer to just brace yourself and drive straight through the hole.

    When you can't avoid a pothole, take your foot off the gas and straighten your steering wheel. Don't brake. This will allow you to maintain the most control during the impact.

  • How to Change a Tire

    Changing a flat tire isn't rocket science, but there are some important things to know to make sure you get that spare on properly in order to make it safely to the tire shop. Follow along as we show you, step by step, how to do it in this Les Schwab Quick Tips video. We cover:

    1. What to do before you get tools out.
    2. How to find the proper jacking point on your vehicle.
    3. How much to loosen lug nuts before lifting the car.
    4. How to make sure the spare goes on correctly.
    5. The proper order for tightening lug nuts.

    How to Change a Tire

    1. Safety first. Keep clear of passing traffic, make sure your car is in park, set your parking brake and turn on your hazard lights. If there's any doubt about whether you can stay out of harm's way, it's better to call roadside assistance.
    2. Check your owner's manual. It should have tire-changing instructions, including the location of the jacking point.
    3. Get your spare and tools out. They are usually stored in a compartment inside the trunk. There should also be instructions on how to use the jack.
    4. Be sure the jack is positioned properly. Make sure it's pointed the right way and placed in the proper jacking point on the vehicle.
    5. Loosen lug nuts about a one-quarter turn before jacking.
    6. Jack the vehicle up enough so the tire is not touching the ground.
    7. Remove the lug nuts, setting them somewhere where they won't roll away.
    8. Pull the flat tire off, placing it underneath your vehicle behind the jack or, if it's too wide to fit there, in another spot under the auto if possible. This is important in case the vehicle falls off the jack.
    9. Put the spare on, making sure the valve stem is facing you.
    10. Screw the lugs nuts back on by hand, finger tight.
    11. Lower the jack down until the tire contacts the road and is bearing some weight, but not all the way.
    12. Tighten the lug nuts in a star pattern, not a circle pattern, so the wheel gets seated snugly. This assures the wheel isn't askew, and doesn't then pop into the proper place while you're going down the road, loosening some of the bolts and causing wobbling or worse ? like the nuts breaking and the wheel coming off.

    Proper order for four lug nuts.Proper order for five lug nuts.

    Proper order for six lug nuts.Proper order for eight lug nuts.

    1. Lower the vehicle the rest of the way. You're ready to drive slowly to the closest tire shop to get your regular tire repaired or replaced.

    Spares are meant to be driven on short distances and not at high speed. The speed rating of your spare tire may be lower than your normal tires'. Have a tire technician check the condition of your spare at the shop so it's ready next time you need it.

  • Are Nitrogen-filled Tires Worth the Cost?

    The main benefit of nitrogen-filled tires is that the loss of tire pressure is slower, because the gas in the tire escapes more slowly than air does. With more stable tire pressure, the thinking goes, you'll get better gas mileage and get full tire life since you're always rolling on fully inflated tires.

    Claims are also made that nitrogen in tires prevents tire "rot" by limiting the moisture that naturally occurs inside tires and heads off corrosion of the wheel that can be caused by contact with moisture.

    These claims are overstated. The advantages of tires filled with nitrogen, instead of plain ol' air, aren't big enough to justify the price tag or the inconvenience. On new car tires, the cost can range from $70 to as much as $179. On existing tires, you'll pay up to $30 per tire for service to drain air and refill with N2. Refills will run you $5 to $7 per tire, which you can expect to do less often than with air-filled tires. But you'll still need topping off every two or three months.

    The Science of Putting Nitrogen in Tires

    Small amounts of air naturally leak out of tires over time, especially when tires are subject to large temperature swings. This is because the walls of tires are slightly porous. When a tire gets hot the air inside it expands. The added pressure pushes minute quantities of air out through the pores, so you occasionally have to get your air topped off even if your tire doesn't have a hole.

    Promoters of nitrogen tires point out they don't lose tire pressure as fast as air-filled tires. Since nitrogen molecules are bigger than normal air molecules, it is harder for them to leak out. This means a tire filled with nitrogen will maintain air pressure longer. Therefore, they say, you'll roll on tires that are always properly inflated, resulting in better fuel economy and longer tire life.

    A normal tire filled with regular air loses an average 1 to 2 PSI (pounds per square inch) per month. It's true that there is a slower loss from nitrogen-filled tires. But this improvement is slight ? only about 1.3 PSI less over the course of an entire year, according to Consumer Reports. It's not enough to make a true difference in gas mileage or tire wear for people driving passenger vehicles.

    This is partly because air is already made up of 78 percent nitrogen and just under 21 percent oxygen, with the rest a mix of water vapor, carbon dioxide and other gases. When tires are filled from a nitrogen air pump this ups the percentage of N2 to between 93 and 95 percent. It's never 100 percent.

    Bottom line: Nitrogen will slow the amount of tire inflation loss to about one-third of what you'll experience with air. This means instead of losing one to two PSI per month, you'll lose 1/3 to 2/3 PSI per month. You'll still need to check and top off your air roughly every other month to stay within the ideal inflation range. And you'll spend far more than you'll save on gas and tire tread life. You're better off making simple tire maintenance part of your routine.

    Go Ahead and Do It If:

    1. Your ride is a racecar. Nitrogen is used to fill tires for track cars, since it does offer the advantage of more consistent pressure.
    2. You're buying a new car with new tires that are being filled for the first time, you live close to a nitrogen filling tank, you have disposable income to spare and you never check your air pressure.

    Nitrogen-filled Tires FAQ

    There are more cons than pros for changing to N2 tires. For example, nitrogen filling tanks aren't easily accessible like air compressor tanks. You'll have to plan for refills in places that may be few and far between. This can cost you time and money. Here's all the info.

    Q. How much will it cost to get nitrogen in my tires?

    A. For fills of new tires, between $70 to about $175 at some outlets. Drains of air and refills with nitrogen on current tires, up to $30 per tire. Topping off can be between $5 and $7 per tire. If you want to keep your tires within 1 PSI of the ideal, you'll likely be topping off at least four times a year, probably more. This could be between $80 and $112 a year, and possibly a whole lot more. Compare this to paying nothing at all for regular air at a tire store, or around a buck per fill at a service station.

    Q. Are they safe?

    A. They're as safe as regular tires. Nitrogen isn't flammable and won't cause your tires to explode.

    Q. Will I get better gas mileage?

    A. You'll always get better fuel economy on properly inflated tires, whether they're filled with nitrogen or air. Under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by about 0.2% for every 1 PSI drop in the average pressure of all tires. They'll also wear faster and be more prone to failure. The most economical way to make sure you're driving on well-inflated tires is to just check your tire pressure once a month or get it done by a technician (free at good tire stores).

    Q. Will nitrogen prevent tire rot? Wheel rust?

    A. Nitrogen is a "dry" gas compared to oxygen (which makes up about one-fifth of regular air). Nitrogen-filled tires don't generate as much moisture inside when tires expand from heat friction then contract when they cool.

    However, rubber rot from moisture inside the tires of passenger vehicles is very unusual. Unless your tires are on a vehicle that's rarely driven, it's far more likely your tire tread will wear out before the small amount of moisture inside an air-filled tire degrades the rubber.

    And today's alloy wheels are coated to prevent corrosion on steel parts?the belts, beads and sidewall buttressing?that may come into contact with water, so that's not a typical problem.

    Q. Can nitrogen tires be filled with air?

    A. Yes. It's unsafe to drive around on under-inflated tires, so don't hold off thinking you need to wait to top off until you can get to a filling tank. It's perfectly fine to add air and just get your next fill with nitrogen.

    Q. Do they run cooler?

    A. There's no significant difference between air-filled and nitrogen-filled tires in terms of running temperature.

    Q. Where can I fill my tires?

    A. Use this nitrogen dealer locator, but be aware that some filling stations require you to have purchased tires with them, or have a membership.

    Q. Will I have a better ride?

    A. There's no difference in handling or ride quality between tires filled with air or nitrogen, so long as they're kept properly inflated.

    Q. How can I tell if I have nitrogen in my tires?

    A. The tire valve stem will have a green plastic cap or a cap topped with a green indicator.

    Nitrogen cap being put on valve stem

    Q. How do tires get filled with nitrogen for the first time?

    A. The tire is purged of air and filled with nitrogen several times using a machine, which takes out most of the oxygen along with any water.

  • Tire FAQ

    How do I know if I need new tires?

    Signs that your tires are wearing out or may need replacing include uneven wear, a decline in vehicle handling performance or ride, poor gas mileage, vibration, reduced brake responsiveness, tread that looks slick, and a tire that's losing air faster than it should. Just stop by any Les Schwab for an honest opinion on the condition of your tires.


    How often should I replace my tires?

    It depends on many factors, including your driving style, the mileage rating for the tires, conditions on the roads you typically travel, weather, and more. Bring your vehicle in anytime for a free visual inspection on how your tires are doing.


    What are the parts of a tire?

    https://www.lesschwab.com/on/demandware.static/-/Library-Sites-LesSchwabLibrary/default/v1542462341467/tire-guide.png

    Key components of a tire

    Having a basic understanding of tire parts and how your tires are constructed can be useful when it comes time to buy tires. Here are the key components.

    Enlarge Image


    What do the numbers on the Sidewall mean?

    sidewall

    It's a good idea to understand what the codes and numbers on the side of your tire mean. Click below to learn about tire sidewall terms.

    Learn More

  • Tire Tread and the Useful Penny Test

    Anyone who drives a car knows what tire tread is. But do you know how to tell when it's wearing thin?

    Worn-out tires affect your car's performance and your safety. Luckily, there's a simple way for you to check your tires with just your pocket change.

    MEASURING TREAD DEPTH WITH THE PENNY TEST

    A new car tire typically has a tread depth of 10/32 or 11/32 inches while a light truck will have between 11/32 and 19/32 inches. The U.S. Department of Transportation recommends that you replace your tires once they've worn down to 2/32 inches. Many states require tires to be replaced when the tread reaches that depth.

    How do you know when your tires are officially worn out? You can use a tread depth gauge or take your car in for a professional evaluation. But the easiest way is to do a penny test.

    test tread depth with a penny test

    1. Take a penny and place it with Lincoln's head upside down between two ribs on your tire.
    2. If part of the head is covered, your tires are still in good shape.
    3. If you can see his entire head, your tread is worn to 2/32 inch or less and it's time for new tires.
    4. Check various points on the tire ? around the circumference and between different ribs ? to look for uneven tire wear.

    time to replace your tires

    Many car and truck tires come with indicator bars at 2/32 inch. If these are even with your tread ribs, you'll know your tires need to be replaced.

    Now you can measure your tread, but you may not know about all its components or what different tread patterns are for. The more you know about types of tread, the easier it will be for you to choose the best tires for your vehicle. Here are some facts to beef up your tire knowledge.

    WHAT IS TIRE TREAD?

    There are four (sometimes five) main components to tire tread:

    1. Ribs: The long, raised bands that go all the way around a tire.
    2. Blocks or lugs: The raised segments between ribs.
    3. Grooves: The space between ribs.
    4. Voids: The space between tread blocks.
    5. Sipes (sometimes): Thin slits cut across the tread blocks and ribs.

    main components of tire tread

    Ribs and tread blocks make contact with the pavement, while grooves and voids channel water when roads are wet and allow the blocks to flex as tires grip the road.

    Siping is designed to improve tire performance during wet and winter driving conditions.

    Different tire manufacturers combine these features to create signature designs and offer good performance for a range of driving conditions.

    TYPES OF TIRE TREAD PATTERNS

    Though each tire manufacturer makes unique variations on tire tread, the patterns generally fall into three categories. Each pattern provides different handling and performance.

    symmetric tire treaddirectional tire treadasymmetric tire tread

    1. Symmetric designs, as the name suggests, have the same pattern across the whole tire. This is the most common tread pattern for passenger cars.
    2. Directional tread patterns include lateral voids pointing in only one direction, making a V design, and are used on performance cars (those designed for speed). These tires channel water in one direction for reliable handling in wet conditions and provide zippy handling on dry roads.
    3. Asymmetric designs combine the above two patterns to offer good grip on dry roads as well as traction in wet and winter conditions. The inner side of the tire often features lateral voids like those found in directional tires, while the outer side uses larger tread blocks.

    Summer tires and winter tires both generally have a symmetric design, with winter tires sporting deeper tread depth and sipes. Asymmetric patterns are often a good choice for all-season tires.

    SAFETY RISKS OF WORN TIRES

    Though tires are considered bald at 2/32 inch, they lose some of their performance capabilities before that.

    As tire tread wears, it becomes less able to channel water and the risk of hydroplaning increases, especially at higher speeds. If you know your tires are partly worn, be sure to give yourself extra stopping distance in wet conditions.

    Grip loss on snowy or icy roads is a concern. As the rubber wears, sipes disappear and tread blocks don't provide as much grip. Again, allow yourself more stopping distance and consider replacing your tires to stay safe during winter months.

    Tires with partly worn tread are more likely to get punctures and lose air pressure, too. And punctures can cause tire failure, which is a particular problem at high speeds because you can lose control of your vehicle.

    DRIVE ON SAFELY

    A penny test will tell you when your tires are bald, but if you're headed into winter or a rainy season, a tread depth gauge is the surest way to test. Or stop by your local tire shop to have a professional evaluate your tires.

  • Can I Mix Run-flat Tires with Standard Ones?

    You'll have safer handling and prevent damage to other parts of your car when all four tires on your vehicle match closely in type, tread depth and size. This is not the case when you mix and match run-flat tires with standard tires. Here's why.

    Run-flat tires (RFTs) are built with reinforced sidewalls, which make them a lot stiffer. This is why they can be driven between 50 and 100 miles (depending on the type) at about 50 mph with low or no air.

    When there's a big difference between your front and rear tires' sidewall flex, your car's handling will be imbalanced. You won't have proper stability, especially when you need it most: around corners, at highway speeds and when swerving.

    Due to the way they're made, RFTs typically wear out long before standard tires. If you mix and match, you may end up with significant differences in tire tread depth between your front and rear axles. This could result in other problems if you replace only the two worn-out tires.

    Consider costs, repairability and convenience if you're thinking about getting or ditching RFTs.

    Costs

    RFTs (also called zero-pressure tires) come standard on about 12 percent of new vehicles. You can expect to pay more for them than regular tires. That's not the only expense to factor in:

    • You'll be replacing them sooner. RFTs wear out an average of 6,000 miles before standard tires.
    • While some manufacturers say it may be OK to repair RFTs in some circumstances, driving any distance on a flat RFT can damage the internal construction of the tire. No type of tire should be run when it is very low on air pressure. You'll not only ruin the tire but risk damage to the wheel.
    • It's a misperception that RFTs can be driven flat and still be usable. You're looking at buying a new tire whenever you drive on a tire with zero air in it. A single flat can therefore start adding up in cost.

    Can a Run-Flat Tire Be Patched?

    Some may be repairable in limited circumstances: It's a simple, small puncture in certain parts of the tire, you didn't lose a whole lot of air and no internal damage is done.

    The tire technician should inspect the exterior for severe shoulder wear and sidewall scuffing. The tire should be unmounted and the interior checked for puncture size, possible bead problems or other damage. Driving with really low air generates a lot of tire heat which can destroy the rubber and plies. It can be difficult to detect such internal damage. Any of these indicators likely mean the tire isn't fixable.

    If a repair is possible, check to be sure that the tech doing the repair has the specialized equipment and certification to do it right. The shop should use a rim-clamp-style mounting machine to put the tire back on and take care not to damage TPMS sensors.

    Be aware that once an RFT has been repaired it may void all other aspects of the warranty.

    Are They Really More Convenient?

    If you simply must avoid ever changing a flat tire and you live someplace where you're always within 50 miles of a service station, run-flats may be an option to consider. But the conveniences of zero-pressure tires are very limited.

    If you hit some large debris or the tire suffers damage to the sidewall, you're going to be stranded. RFTs cannot roll at all when the sidewall structure is compromised.

    And when it comes time to get one replaced, they may be hard to find. They're specialty tires. You may be waiting for a replacement.

    Run-Flat Tires or Not?

    RFTs offer some convenience and quick steering response. You can get safely off a busy freeway when you have a flat or skip changing a tire in cold rain. If one suddenly deflates, you'll have more stability when steering through the tire failure.

    But some drivers find them noisy and stiff-riding. They cost more, especially if you end up with a flat. They don't last as long as standard tires. Since RFTs won't visibly sag if the air is low, it's especially important to maintain correct pressure and be sure that the TPMS system is working at all times.

    If you have a roadside assistance plan as part of your auto insurance or with AAA, evaluate whether it may be cheaper and more convenient to buy traditional tires and rely on a tow in case you get a flat. (And consider whether it may be better to carry a spare.) If you decide you want to replace the run-flats that came on your car with standard tires, it's perfectly fine to mount them on your existing wheels. They'll fit properly so as long as they're the same size.

  • Want Quiet Tires? Look for These Features

    If you put a high priority on a quiet ride, your tire selection is important. Tread patterns, wheel size and traction elements can all affect tire noise.

    Tire Features That Cut Road Noise

    Tire noise reduction is a science. Designers have figured out how to tune tread patterns to change the harmonics and disrupt air flow. There are sizing and rating considerations, too. Here's what to look for to get quieter tires:

    • Continuous, circumferential ribs with straight grooves in between.
    • Varied tread block shapes that create a multiple pitch pattern.
    • Smaller blocks.
    • A reinforced shoulder, which stabilizes tread blocks.
    • Small hash marks inside the grooves that break up air flow.
    • Narrower tire sizes.
    • Softer rubber composition.

    What's That Noise?

    There's more to quiet ride quality than your tires. The engine, suspension, transmission and wind all generate exterior sound. Road texture also matters. A mountain highway paved with asphalt that offers more winter traction will generally sound louder than the smooth blacktop on a freeway.

    As for tires, there are several sources of noise. The air chamber inside the tire is one. Like a drum, the space inside a tire is big and empty. As the tire rolls, the vibration in this space causes a low-frequency hum.

    Tread pattern and air flow also come into play. Tires with uniformly shaped tread blocks (the segments of the tire between the grooves) can produce a whining sound, known as harmonic noise. Differently shaped tread blocks create noise at different pitches that tend to cancel each other out, making it less noticeable to the human ear.

    Tires with tall tread blocks, like on a traction tire, may squirm a bit which can also increase noise. The sound of air circulating through tire grooves and large voids adds noise.

    Heavy-duty tires designed to carry big loads may produce more noise. Traction tires that have more space between the lugs that help with off-road traction are noisier. Tires that are getting to the end of their tread life may be louder, since there's less rubber between the steel belts inside and the road. Unevenly worn tires are likewise noisy: When the tread loses its uniform shape, the sound-muting features built into the tread pattern get distorted. They cannot perform as intended to reduce noise.

    How Tire Tread Affects Road Noise

    Other Factors in a Quiet Ride

    Your vehicle type and options play a large role in how loud the ride is. A softer suspension generally means lower noise. Laminated windows can dampen sound. Station wagons are considered louder than sedans, which trap some of the road noise in the trunk. SUVs and trucks will have more wind noise. Accessories like tow mirrors and roof racks will also cause noise. Electric vehicles generate almost no engine noise.

    To reduce tire noise, drive at slower speeds and keep tires fully inflated to the recommended air pressure for a quieter ride. Tires will stay quieter longer with simple maintenance that promotes even treadwear: regular rotations, rebalancing and alignments.

    If you're really after that catlike quiet, consider a luxury car that delivers the best insulation from engine, pavement and wind noise.

    Tire Types from Quietest to Noisiest

    Today's passenger cars are an estimated 80 percent quieter and trucks 90 percent quieter than those made in the '80s. It's a good thing, given all we have going on inside modern-day vehicles: GPS instructions, stereo and passengers involved in cellphone conversations, videos or games.

    But some classes of tires are always going to be noisier than others.

    Quietest to Loudest Tire Types

    If noise is a top priority, ask your tire dealer about the quietest tires in each category. Noise-reduction technology is always advancing so there may be new options on the market that can improve your driving experience.

  • What are Directional Tires?

    Directional tires have a tread pattern designed to rotate in only one direction. When you look at such tires head on, the lateral voids and channels on the tread all point forward and down. The channels on both sides of the tread will run like two waterfalls joining from opposite sides, like this: ϒ

    Directional tires (also called unidirectional) are better for performance cars — and traveling at high speeds — than tires with symmetrical or asymmetrical tread patterns. The tires channel water away efficiently for excellent hydroplaning resistance and deliver sporty performance on dry surfaces.

    But directional tires cannot be easily rotated to as many positions on the vehicle. In order to rotate directionals to opposite sides of a vehicle — not just between front and back on the same side — the tires have to be dismounted from the wheels and remounted before being installed.

    For this reason, most drivers end up just switching directional tires from front to back on the same side when they get a rotation. This means the tires will wear less evenly and more quickly, and that's why you may get less mileage.

    How to Identify Directional Tires

    Most directional tires have a solid center rib, which adds rigidity for high-speed stability. Also, the lateral channels on the tread pattern all point down in a V-shape. Such designs are used on summer or winter tires.

    Here's a comparison between directional, symmetrical and asymmetrical treads.

    symmetric tire treaddirectional tire treadasymmetric tire tread

    The most common tread pattern for passenger cars is symmetric. The left and right tread blocks mirror each other, and the grooves and voids point in multiple directions. Both summer and winter tires use this type of pattern.

    Asymmetric treads combine the above two patterns to offer good grip on dry, wet or snowy roads, making the tread type a better choice for all-season use. The inner side of asymmetric tires often features lateral voids like those found in directionals, while the outer side uses larger tread blocks.

    Installing and Rotating

    On directional tires, there's an arrow on the sidewall of the tires — when correctly mounted, the arrow points toward the front of the vehicle. If directional tires get mounted backward, you won't get the hydroplaning resistance and other performance driving benefits the tread is designed for.

    directional tire sidewall marker

    Front and rear tires often wear at different rates. It is recommended to rotate standard tires between front and back and crossways to maximize lifetime mileage.

    When you have directional tires, you can only easily swap fronts for rears on the same side of the car. If you want to cross tires to opposite sides, you'll have to go through the time and expense of having the tires taken off the wheels, flipped, remounted on the wheels and swapped.

    Pros and Cons

    Directional tires provide superior handling in wet conditions or dry. The V-shaped tread allows water to be pushed outward as the tire rotates, evacuating water better than a symmetric tire.

    The tires handle better at high speeds. Most race and sports cars run with directional tires.

    Directionals can also provide better fuel efficiency, since they have less rolling resistance. (But if you're a spirited driver, faster accelerations and speeds may offset these gains.)

    The main downside is cost. The rubber compounds used in these high-performance tires mean a premium price point compared to standard passenger car tires.

    Also, directionals typically have shorter tread life. It's not because the tread is less durable, but rather it's because tire rotations involve extra labor and cost. Many drivers opt to swap front and rear tires on the same side to avoid the hassle.

  • What Is Rolling Resistance?

    Rolling resistance is the combination of forces that work against the forward motion of your vehicle. The weight of the vehicle, gravity and inertia, the amount of friction between the tires and the road surface, and air drag all play a part. When you coast in your car or on a bike, rolling resistance is what slows you down. The more rolling resistance, the more power it takes to propel a vehicle. Between 3 and 11 percent of the gas used in passenger vehicles goes to overcoming this force, so reducing it means saving on gas.

    Since tires contribute to between 15 and 25 percent of a vehicle's overall rolling resistance ? depending on how fast you're going, vehicle type and road surface ? they are a significant factor in gas economy.

    What Are Low-Rolling-Resistance Tires?

    Think of coasting with your foot off the gas. If you have a cargo carrier on the roof, your vehicle will slow down quicker (air drag and extra weight). If you're going downhill, you pick up speed (gravity). If your tires are low on air or the ground is soft, you'll stop sooner (more friction with the road). Eventually you come to a halt due to rolling resistance.

    Here is what happens as a tire goes through each revolution. As a tire rolls under a vehicle's weight, it flattens a bit at the contact patch (where it touches the road) then recovers its roundness as it circles. This consumes energy and creates heat. Fuel (either gasoline, diesel or EV battery power) is used to compensate for this lost energy.

    Low-rolling-resistance tires strike a balance between safety features that helps control and stop the car, and design elements that provide better gas mileage. These tires:

    • Weigh less and have thinner sidewalls.
    • Are made with rubber compounds that reduce heat and friction.
    • Have tread designs with shallower tread depth.

    These types of tires are one way auto and tire manufacturers are trying to improve fuel efficiency.

    How Much Does Tire Choice Affect Fuel Economy?

    A 2005 Transportation Research Board study looked at the differences in fuel consumption and tire life if passenger car owners opted for low-rolling-resistance tires. The results? A 10 percent reduction of average rolling resistance was feasible, would not result in significant safety issues and would increase the fuel economy of American passenger vehicles by 1 to 2 percent. This would mean saving about 1 billion to 2 billion gallons of fuel per year, the equivalent of taking 2 million to 4 million cars and light trucks off the road.

    They also found that tires offering the best wet traction were often higher in rolling resistance. Every tire type offers a tradeoff in road grip, handling, noise, wear resistance, appearance, price and gas mileage. Tires with worn tread may have less rolling resistance due to shallow, smoother tread but might be unsafe to drive on, for example.

    The desire to reduce rolling resistance has to be balanced with considerations like air pressure, road conditions, climate, driving style and the vehicle type.

    What To Do for More Fuel-Efficient Tires

    According to the EPA, there are ways to get better fuel economy no matter what type of tire you have mounted. By keeping your tires properly inflated, you can improve gas mileage by about 3 percent. Also, get your tires rotated regularly so the tread wears evenly. Remember that worn tread will have lower rolling resistance, so you may notice a slight decrease in fuel economy when you replace tires.

  • When Does a Flat Tire Need to be Replaced?

    Here's when you're going to have to replace a flat tire rather than having it patched:

    1. The tire has a sudden loss of air and you drive on it flat.
    2. The tire is making a "fwump, fwump, fwump" sound when it rolls. This is a sign of internal damage, such as tread separation, which can't be fixed.
    3. The sidewall has a puncture, a cut exposing the cord, or a visible bubble or bulge.
    4. The shoulder has any damage, even if it's a small puncture.
    5. You spot a bulge on the tread (often following an impact).
    6. There's a gash deep enough to have cut into one of the steel belts.
    7. The size of the wound in the tread is greater than one-quarter inch.
    8. You have some types of run-flat tires.
    9. The tire has been repaired before and the new injury is close to the previous patch. Or the manufacturer doesn't recommend one or more repairs. (Check your owner's manual and/or tire warranty.)
    10. The tread is worn to the treadwear indicators or to 2/32 inch tread depth.

    Today's tires have lower profiles. Their shorter sidewalls mean it's easier to permanently damage a tire when it's driven while underinflated. The heat generated is so great it can break the sidewall down in seconds. Rolling on a severely low tire for as little time as it takes to move from the fast lane to the shoulder can make it beyond repair.

    Slow Leaks in the Contact Patch Can Be Repaired

    If you have a slow leak from a nail or screw that stays lodged in the main part of the tread, chances are good that the tire can be fixed. It may cost you nothing (depending on your warranty) or up to around $35. Done right, your repaired tire should be safe to drive on for its full tire life.

    Tire repair is a job for a professional, to protect the nylon and steel cords inside from more damage. First, the tire technician will identify the location of the leak and make sure there are no others by submerging the tire and wheel in water. Then they'll demount the tire, inspecting it inside for structural problems and outside to make sure there's sufficient tread left. If the hole is too close to a previously patched area or on the same body cord as a previous repair, the tire will be too weakened for a new repair.

    Flat tire repair

    If the flat is repairable, they'll start by buffing the injured area being careful to avoid any damage to the liner. Buffing too deep could expose the cords and ruin the tire. Then they'll use vulcanizing compound and a one- or two-piece plug patch combination to fill the hole and seal the liner.

    This method ensures an airtight seal.

    What About Plug or Spray Repair Kits?

    If your vehicle doesn't have a spare, you may be relying on a tire plug or sealant kit when you get a flat. These aren't substitutes for proper repair.

    Driving a plug in at the wrong angle can break more of the internal cords that provide tire strength, causing permanent damage. Aerosol sprays may get you out of an emergency situation on the side of the road but they may also cost you. Such sprays can damage TPMS sensors, which run $45 to $200 to replace.

    When You're Not Sure About Replace Vs. Repair

    Go to any reputable tire store. You should get an answer in minutes on whether a flat is beyond repair. (Les Schwab Tire shops also fix most flats free.)

  • Why Do My Tires Squeal?

    You'll most often hear your tires squeal during fast acceleration, braking and turns. The sound you hear when you're speeding up is the tread skidding against the road surface as it tries to gain traction. Skidding is also the cause of a squeal during hard braking. Sharp cornering can cause the rubber to slide laterally on the road surface, producing a sound. If you notice sound even when taking gentle turns, you may have underinflated tires that are flexing too much. Or there could be an alignment issue.

    Tire sounds don't always mean there's problem. For example, turning on a tight radius at slow speed, like in a parking garage or on painted surfaces, often causes a squeaky shoe sound. This is from normal tire slippage on such surfaces, which are a lot slicker than typical asphalt. In an enclosed space, the sound can echo and seem much louder, but it's harmless noise.

    There's a risk of confusing normal tire squealing with sounds that indicate other problems like misalignment or worn brake pads or suspension parts. Here's a list of possible squealing sound issues and sources.

    Accelerating

    They call it peeling out for a reason. When you floor it, your tires immediately spin at a much higher rate than they were initially going. The tires slip before they get full traction. Some of the rubber on the tread gets peeled off and left on the road, and you hear that squealing sound effect.

    Braking

    Conversely, hard braking will abruptly slow tires revolving at a much higher speed. As when accelerating quickly, skid marks and squealing indicate that your tires have dragged along the blacktop rather than rolling, leaving behind some rubber.

    Turning

    Tires slip sideways some during a turn, which is how your car changes direction. There's a difference between the direction the tires are pointing and the direction the vehicle is moving. When this transition happens at higher speeds, the vehicle will slide more, causing tires to squeal.

    Underinflation

    Underinflated tires cannot compensate for the physical forces at work during a turn. When you take a corner on well-inflated tires, they keep their shape better, which allows them to maintain the right amount of contact with the road. If your tires are low, the sidewalls flex too much and cannot generate enough traction to turn the car smoothly. Instead, the rubber will slide sideways more, causing a squeal. (Keeping tires filled at the proper pressure will also extend their tread life.)

    Side-by-side comparison of underinflated and properly inflated tires

    Worn Tread

    Tires that are getting to the end of their life or have uneven wear, will squeal more. If you've got uneven tread pattern or depths, you'll have less road grip. So when you take corners, accelerate or brake, your tires will slip more easily.

    Other Car Parts

    Wheel-tire issues aren't the only causes of auto noise. Other possibilities include:

    • A brake pad wear indicator. If what started as a squeal becomes a metal-on-metal grinding sound, you are overdue for brake servicing.
    • The alignment. Your vehicle's suspension could be off, and the toe or camber angles need adjustment.
    • Suspension parts. The bushings or bearings could be worn.
    • Steering system parts. Tie-rod ends, seals, ball joints or universal joints may need lubrication.
    • A loose or worn engine drive belt. Suspect this if squealing increases with engine speed.

    What To Do About Squealing

    Get your tire pressure checked first. If that's not the problem and the noise persists, don't ignore it. Bring your car in for service to find the source. You might head off much costlier repairs.

    Fun fact: Along with castle thunder, bullet ricochet and the Wilhelm scream, car skidding is among the most overused special sound effect in Hollywood.

  • 8 Great Ways to Get the Most from Your Trailer Tires

     

    Maintaining trailer tires isn't always the same as what you do for passenger vehicle tires. Here are the basics on getting the longest tire life, figuring out your load range, making sure you've got your trailer weight calculated right and preventing tire failure.

    1. Maintain the right trailer tire pressure.

    Running ST (Special Trailer) tires under-inflated is a sure way to quickly wear them out and invite tire failure. Keeping them at the full PSI (pounds per square inch) pressure is key for longevity, load-carrying ability, cool running and best fuel economy.

    You can't tell if trailer tires are properly inflated by eyeballing them. An under-inflated ST tire may not sag like a passenger vehicle's because it's built with a stiffer sidewall. Trailer tires can look fully inflated and be far below the safe PSI.

    Find the proper tire pressure by looking at your tire sidewall. (The right tire pressure for passenger vehicle tires is found on the placard inside the driver's side door.) Look for the small notation Max. Load followed by a PSI number (80 in the example below).

    Trailer tire sidewall showing the right tire pressure

    Trailer tire pressure should always be checked when the tire is cold, ideally before being driven that day. Driving generates heat and heat generates pressure, which will throw off your measurement. Here's how to do it yourself.

    2. Figure out the maximum load for your trailer tires.

    It's really important not to overload trailer tires. Overloading tires can cause premature wear and increase the risk of tire failure.

    The "Max. Load" information stamped on the sidewall indicates a tire's load capacity when it's inflated to the proper PSI. In the example, this tire can handle a maximum 2,830 pounds when it's inflated to 80 PSI and used in a "single" application: one tire on each side of the axle.

    Note: Some trailer tires are also marked with a "Max. Load Dual" number. This comes into play when two tires are mounted on both sides of the axle (four trailer tires total), a "dual" application, or dually, which is an unusual application. In the above example, each tire's load capacity is reduced by 13 percent to 2,470 pounds when it's used as a dually. This assures that if one of the dual tires fails, the remaining tires can keep the trailer stable until you come to a stop.

    Be aware: If your tire pressure is lower than what's recommended, the tire's carrying capacity will be lower, too.

    3. Determine the actual weight of your trailer.

    You just need to get tires that can support the trailer weight listed on the placard on your trailer or in your owner's manual... right?

    Not quite. That weight figure doesn't include all the cargo your trailer will be carrying. Get an actual weight by visiting a truck stop, feed store or gravel supply store when you're fully loaded, including full water and propane tanks.

    4. Get the right trailer tire size.

    Refer to the trailer placard or your owner's manual. Either will tell you the manufacturer's recommendation. (Trailers have a federal certification/VIN label generally located on the forward half of the driver's side of the unit. Some trailer sizes also have a separate vehicle placard located there that describes tire and loading information.)

    Or you can look at the tire sidewall sizing information. Then be sure to check with a tire professional before you buy to make sure what you have in mind is the right fit for the loads you're hauling and roads you're traveling.

    5. Have tires inspected yearly.

    Travel trailer and boat trailer tires sit for long stretches in one spot. The contact area of the tire that bears all the trailer weight while it's parked can get weakened when a trailer isn't moved for weeks on end. You should have your tires and bearings inspected every year by a tire professional.

    6. Get a spare tire.

    Carrying a spare for your trailer may just save your day or vacation. Boat trailer and travel trailer tires are often specialty tires that aren't always readily available in places where you're recreating.

    A spare tire means you'll have an hour or so of hassle changing a tire if you get a flat, versus missing a day or more of vacation, or having to leave your trailer loaded with gear to go in search of an open tire shop.

    Money-saving tip: When you replace your full set of trailer tires, consider keeping the one that's got the least wear to use as a spare, so long as a tire professional inspects the tire and confirms it it suitable.

    7. Don't mix and match radial and bias-ply tires on a travel trailer.

    The trailer's certification label or owner's manual may give you advice on which type of tire construction is best. Some of your choice depends on the type of trailer you have and the kind of travel you're doing.

    Radial tires run cooler so on longer trips they don't wear as fast. They're also less prone to developing flat spots when a trailer is parked in one place for weeks at a time.

    Bias-ply tires have stiffer sidewalls, which can reduce trailer sway.

    Whatever your choice, don't mix-and-match tire types or sizes. Go with all radials or all bias tires.

    Travel trailer tires

    8. Extend tread life through simple maintenance.

    • Visually inspect your tires before each trip.
    • Check tire pressure before you use your trailer, and every morning when the tires are cold during long trips. Keep your tires inflated to the maximum PSI branded on the sidewall.
    • When you're storing your trailer for the off-season, use tire covers to protect them from early wear. Park in a cool, dry place.
    • Keep caps on tire air valve stems, to keep debris and moisture out.
    • If you notice excessive, uneven trailer tire wear, get a tire professional to assess what's going on and determine if there's a fix.
    • Don't assume that replacing tires with a set that has a higher load capacity will fix uneven wear problems. You'll likely have the same problem with the new set if there's something wrong with the trailer alignment, suspension or axles.

    Come on by your local Les Schwab Tires store and we'll be glad to help.

  • Do I Need Snow Tires if I Have AWD?

    You can probably safely drive your AWD (all-wheel-drive) with all-season tires in light or moderate snow. But it’s a common misperception that AWDs will drive like tanks in slick conditions.

    It’s recommended that you have either winter tires or snow chains on your AWD if you’re driving in a blizzard or icy conditions. Traveling with summer or worn all-season tires on any vehicle in winter is a safety risk. Even a 4WD (four-wheel-drive) will slip and slide on snowy roads if its tires don’t have enough tread.


    What AWD Does Really Well in Snow

    AWD is great at getting your car moving from a dead stop and accelerating smoothly in a straight line when the pavement is slippery. It’s able to do this because it sends more power to whichever wheels are getting the most traction and less power to the spinning wheels.

    But if you don’t have enough traction in the first place, the AWD system can’t compensate. If none of the four tires has enough grip, you’re in trouble.

    This is why an AWD equipped with all-season tires might not deliver safe braking and sharp cornering in significant snow or on ice. In fact, some independent testing shows that a front-wheel-drive (FWD) mounted with winter tires will have shorter stopping distance and better cornering than an AWD with all-season tires.


    How Winter Tires Provide Better Traction

    To be clear, what some people call snow tires are, in fact, winter tires built for better road grip in ALL winter conditions — rain, ice, snow and slush.

    Winter tires are made with specialized rubber that stays softer during cold temperatures. They’re designed with tread features like bigger grooves, biting edges, sipes, optional studs and variations in the block shapes for improved gripping even in subzero temperatures.

    Differences between all-season and winter tires graphic

    All-season and summer tires are made with a different rubber compound so they will maintain their shape even on hot pavement. They don’t have as many jagged surfaces and have fewer or shallower channels for ejecting water or snow.


    Are Winter Tires Worth it for AWD Vehicles?

    AWD is helpful when you’re starting to move or accelerating on slick roads, but not so much when you’re cornering or stopping. It’s not a substitute for having winter tires.

    If you’re only visiting snowy areas once or twice a year, you may be fine driving an AWD with all-season tires in good condition. Just be sure to carry tire chains.

    If it’s frigid where you live or you’re traveling in more than light snow every month, then buying a set of winter tires for your AWD will deliver the road grip you need for most winter weather conditions. Of course, you may also need a set of good chains for the worst weather.

  • Summer Tires vs All-Season Tires: Which Are Best for You?

    Are summer tires better in rain?

    Yep, it may surprise you to know that summer tires outperform all-season tires on wet pavement.

    Read on to learn about the upsides and downsides of summer tires, including handling, temperature range limits and how they manage heat.

    What Are Summer Tires?

    Summer tires are also known as performance tires. They're called that for a reason.

    Performance tires are designed to provide excellent dry and wet traction along with precise handling. They're meant to be used during warm months, or all year in regions that don't get a true winter.

    Why Summer Tires Perform Better in Heat and Rain

    Summer tires are optimized for excellent road grip whether it's baking hot, slightly damp or raining heavily on the road. They're made from a tread compound (the mix of rubber and fillers that make up the tread) containing sticky additives for road grip in wet conditions. But this tread blend also provides enough stiffness so tires hold up and retain their shape when the heat is on. This keeps rolling resistance to a minimum on hot pavement.

    Tread patterns typically feature shallower, straighter grooves than what you'll see on all-seasons, and solid, continuous ribs, so more rubber is always in contact with the road. The result: more stability during cornering, braking and acceleration.

    Since performance tires often have asymmetrical or unidirectional tread patterns, tire rotation options may be limited. You may only be able to rotate front tires to opposite sides versus criss-crossing to even out tread wear, for example.

    While it may come as news to many that summer tires outperform all-season tires when it comes to both wet and dry traction, here's something that won't surprise: Performance tires don't offer any winter traction. They get rigid at cold temps and aren't a safe choice in any snow or ice conditions.

    Comparison of summer and all-season tire tread features

    All-Season Tires Trade Off Some Traction for Longer Wear

    All-season tires are engineered to give vehicles enough winter traction to get through light snow conditions, making it possible for a driver to run one set of tires year-round in places that don't get a lot of snowfall or ice.

    They're made with a compound that stays flexible even at temperatures a bit above freezing, to maintain road grip. Their tread patterns have deeper grooves and feature more voids and variations which help with traction for occasional travel in snow. The designs are usually symmetrical, so there are more rotation options to even out tread wear and extend tire mileage.

    They are like a hybrid between summer and winter tires, made to handle a broad variety of weather and road conditions moderately well, while getting good tread life. They don't substitute for genuine winter tires, which are necessary for stable driving on serious snow, sleet and ice.

    If you're choosing between performance and all-season tires, here's a quick comparison.

    Comparison of summer tires and all-season tires

    Should You Buy Summer Tires?

    If you live where it never snows and temperatures are typically 44°F or warmer during your normal drive times, summer tires are a good choice. Performance tires are especially well-suited to urban areas with warm climates that get some rain, because they are better at preventing hydroplaning at highway speeds than all-season tires.

    If you live in an area where the weather is not so predictable, where you may encounter freezing rain or light snow conditions in fall or spring, it's better to go with all-season tires.

    And if winter in your area means temperatures that dip below freezing along with precipitation, or you regularly travel to high elevations, get a set of winter tires and swap them out in November and March.

    Driving in rain regularly? Find out how to avoid hydroplaning.

  • 4 Reasons Not to Drive Winter Tires Through Summer

    If you’re thinking of driving on your winter tires year-round, there’s a strong case against it. You’ll wear out your tires much faster. You’ll compromise traction and handling in all four seasons. And changing out your tires twice a year doesn’t have to cost you anything, including your valuable time. Here’s what you should know.


    1. Winter Tires Wear Out Faster in the Heat

    Winter tires are made with a more flexible rubber compound that helps deliver the best road grip in snowy and icy conditions. All-season tires are made with a harder rubber blend that can withstand hot weather.

    Differences between all-season and winter tires

    Heat is really hard on winter tires, which are meant to be used when temperatures are 45°F or below. Winter tires run on hot pavement will wear out much faster than their expected tread life. Because they are made with a softer compound, they will also tend to wear unevenly when driven in the wrong conditions.


    2. It Will Cost You, Not Save You Money

    Since winter tires typically cost more than all-season tires, using them all year means you’re wearing out a more expensive set much faster than its expected mileage life. It’s smarter to buy two sets of tires made for your driving conditions and swap them when the weather changes.

    You’ll also pay more for gas when you use winter tires in summer. On hot blacktop, they roll with far more friction than tires built for warm weather.

    This higher rolling resistance means worse fuel economy — and more out of your pocket at the pump. It doesn’t do any favors for Mother Nature either since you’ll be contributing higher carbon emissions from using more gas.

    As with any investment, you save money when you get the most value from your tires. One way to get the longest life out of tires is to use them for what they’re made for.


    3. Traction and Handling Issues

    Take it from Click and Clack of Car Talk:

    Stopping distance is also a big issue since winter tires require a bit longer for braking on wet or dry pavement.

    Stopping during a rainstorm.

    Plus, when cold weather comes around again, you’re going to be relying on worn tires. Tires designed for winter will get uneven shoulder wear and faster tread wear if used in the summer months.

    Winter tires with worn tread blocks don’t provide as much grip on icy, snowy surfaces. Without deep grooves and intact traction features, your tires won’t channel snow, slush and water as well. When it comes to traction, lack of tread depth is a bigger safety risk in winter.


    4. Swapping Tires Can Be Easy and Free

    Swapping out winter tires for all-season or performance tires twice a year is only a big effort if you do it yourself. The best tire shops do it for free as long as your tires are on wheels. If not, you can generally pay a small fee to have it done with little waiting.


    The Bottom Line on Driving Winter Tires All Year

    Convertible with hot pooch in summer

    Your overall cost per mile will be lowest when you drive on tires that are proper for the season and your driving conditions. You’ll get the most mileage out of them along with the control and traction you’ve paid for. And you’ll be more secure on the road.