How to Buy Safe Tires
Your tires may not be something that you think about every day, but most people rely on them to get them safely to their destination every day and get them back home every night.
It can be a financial strain when tires wear out and it’s time to buy new ones, and buying the cheapest tires available may be tempting. However, choosing the right tires could be the difference between safety and injury in the future. There are a few simple principles that will help you choose the right tires for your vehicle.
Knowing When to Buy
Tires aren’t cheap. Everyone who has looked at tire prices knows this and no one wants to buy tires before they are needed. Here are a few simple points to help you know when it is time to replace your tires.
- Always keep an eye on your tires’ wear, but be especially mindful after five years of use. Inspect them regularly, and have a professional inspect them to see if they need to be replaced.
- Tires have an expiration date themselves. They should be replaced after they are 10 years old, even if they have not been used for that long. Look on the tire for the date of manufacture.
- Look for signs of damage to your tires, such as uneven tread, objects stuck in the tire, or damaged valves.
- Be mindful of how smooth your car’s ride is. If it becomes rough, there is probably a problem, and it may be your tires. Don’t ignore a “rough” feeling in the car.
- The rule of thumb of tread wear uses a penny. Put a penny down into the tread of the car with the President’s head pointing down toward the tire. If at least part of Lincoln’s head is covered, the tire’s tread is considered safe. If you can see Lincoln’s entire head, the tread is too worn and the tire needs to be replaced.
What Makes a Safe Tire?
Of course, the most important rule of buying safe tires is to choose tires that are the right size and configuration for the vehicle. Consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual or ask a professional to determine which tires will work on your vehicle. However, there are options in each size that can make the tire safer.
Weather. There are three main categories of tires relating to weather. They are summer, winter, and all-season. Each one does better in different types of weather, but none of them outperform the others in all areas.
- Summer tires do well with handling and braking in dry weather but do not do well with traction in the snow.
- Winter tires give a comfortable ride and give good traction in the snow, but they do not handle as well and brake as well in warmer weather.
- All-season tires do fair in all areas. They do not outperform summer and winter tires in any area.
When choosing which types of tires to buy relating to weather, consider what type of weather is in your area and in what type of weather you will tend to drive.
Speed rating. The system by which speed ratings are assigned to vehicles is complicated, but the most common speed ratings are in the following ascending order: T, H, V, W, and Z. Each letter corresponds to a different maximum speed for which the tire has been tested to be safe.
Each vehicle will come with a speed rating recommended by the manufacturer. The speeds for which the tires have been tested seem very fast, but they are only true for optimal conditions. Less optimal conditions, such as tread wear or tire pressure, will negatively affect the speed at which a tire can safely travel.
The tires used for a vehicle should never be a lower rating than the manufacturer recommended for safety, but higher ratings can be used. The driver may prefer a higher rating because higher rated tires tend to perform and handle better, but the tread tends to wear faster. This is a personal choice made by the buyer’s preference.
New or Used?
In short, the safest way to go is to buy new tires. Used tires may have been damaged inside by being underinflated, overloaded, or driven over their speed rating. These misuses can damage the inside of a tire and make them unsafe on the highway. Even if the tread is still safe, the weakened inside of the tire may cause a blowout on the road, and there is no way to know it is damaged by looking at the outside.
If the previous owner is known by the buyer to have taken good care of the tires, the used tires can be used at the buyer’s risk, but used tires are still considered less safe than new tires. Carefully inspect each tire and take the tires to a professional to have them inspected regularly.
Now that you have chosen and bought your tires, they must be properly maintained to be safe. Here are some steps you can take to keep your tires in safe working condition.
- Regularly inspect your tires. A good habit that many people have is to quickly check every time they get into a vehicle to drive just to be sure there are no flat tires. Also, regularly inspect your tires more closely for damage.
- Keep the tires properly inflated. Each vehicle will have printed somewhere (usually inside the front door) the proper amount of air that should be kept in each tire. The unit for this is p.s.i. or pounds per square inch. Tires can be inflated slightly above this, but should always be kept as close to this number as possible. It is especially dangerous for the tire to be below the required pressure.
- Regularly check tread depth. Using the method with the penny described above, check that your tires have enough tread to be safe. If you are uncomfortable with checking your tires for safety, take them to a professional for inspection.
- Don’t drive above the speed limits. Driving above the speed limits is unsafe in every way, but add to the list of reasons that it is damaging to tires, and can cause a blowout.
- Pay careful attention to load capacity. If you choose tires with the load capacity recommended for your vehicle, this will probably not be an issue, but if you haul large loads, be careful not to exceed the load capacity.
Following these steps will help you to choose the right tires and care for them properly, helping to keep you and your family safe.
Jeffery Robinette was admitted to practice law in 1991 and is licensed in all levels of state and federal trial courts in West Virginia. Mr. Robinette is also licensed in all state and federal appeals courts in West Virginia and the United States Supreme Court. As a National Board Certified Trial Attorney who has handled hundreds of motor vehicle, injury, and construction defect claims and a leading author on insurance claims settlement issues and difficulties in West Virginia, Jeff Robinette is uniquely qualified to represent your best interest.