Originally posted by Jeff S. Bartlett, via consumerreports.org, March 20, 2019
Winter is tough on tires: Road conditions can be brutal, and temperature swings can often mean your tires have become badly deflated. As spring emerges, potholes often blossom and create their own risks to your tires. That makes this a great time to spend a few minutes checking your tires and making pressure corrections as needed.
“Being proactive with tire maintenance can improve safety and save money in the long run,” says Gene Petersen, Consumer Reports’ tire program manager. “Just a little time spent inspecting can make a big difference.”
If You Have All-Season Tires
Check the air pressure level on your tires and adjust it as needed to the amount specified on the tire information placard found on the driver’s doorjamb. Improper inflation pressure can affect tire longevity and fuel efficiency.
Don’t forget to check the pressure on your car’s spare tire, too.
Inspect your tires for signs of damage, such as cuts, cracks, and sidewall blisters that could result from striking potholes. Some tire manufacturers and retailers provide road-hazard warranties that can save you money if you have to replace a tire.
If there’s irregular treadwear, that can indicate a problem with how well a tire is balanced on its wheel. Coming out of winter, that treadwear can signal that the tires are out of alignment or that the car’s suspension has been damaged. You might experience symptoms of this while you’re driving, such as a shimmy in the steering wheel or the car pulling to either side. Have such issues evaluated by your mechanic, Petersen says.
This is also a good time to check on how worn your tires have become.
Check the tread depth by placing a quarter upside down in a tire groove. The distance from the coin’s rim to George Washington’s hairline is about 4⁄32 of an inch. If you see all of Washington’s head in any one groove where a treadwear indicator appears, you might want to start shopping for new tires while you have some seasonal grip left. They should definitely be replaced by the time they reach 2⁄32 of an inch. Worn tires tend to stop longer on wet pavement and hydroplane on water more frequently—a concern when spring showers may be in the forecast. (Learn more about how tire wear affects performance.)
It may also be time to rotate your tires. This typically needs to happen every 5,000 to 8,000 miles. Consult your owner’s manual for guidance on the rotation pattern (front-to-rear, side-to-side) and frequency. Some retailers may provide free rotations to customers. This service not only saves money but also is good encouragement to remain on schedule. Regular rotations keep the tires wearing evenly and can help maximize their longevity.
See Consumer Reports’ complete all-season tire ratings.
If You Have Winter/Snow Tires
As the risk of snow and ice melts away, it’s time to replace your winter/snow tires with all-season tires. Don’t delay: The tread on winter/snow tires wears quickly, and you’ll want to preserve them for future use. On top of that, all-season tires provide better grip on dry and wet roads.
Inspect the tires for potential damage: Check the bead area—the inner lip of the tire that seals against the wheel—if the tires have already been dismounted from the wheel. Sometimes the bead can be damaged in the removal process, creating rips or tears in the rubber.
Like with the all-season tires, check the tread depth with a quarter, placing George Washington’s head down into each major groove. If the top of Washington’s head is visible, there is only about 4⁄32 of an inch or less of tread and the tire might not have enough useful life for another season.
Finally, clean the tires with soap and water to remove salt and/or road de-icer. Store in a cool, dry place—out of the sun.
See Consumer Reports’ complete winter/snow tire ratings.
Jeff S. Bartlett via consumerreports.org, March 20, 2019