When you go to buy tires, it helps to know a few things. Some of us know all about cars and their proper care that not only can save money but makes the whole experience of owning a car or truck safer, more pleasant, and actually fun! Not so much for me. Now I’m not a cultural anthropologist, but for some strange reason I believe that proper car knowledge is something that comes along when you’re growing up. Mom or Dad is usually the one that teaches those lessons and if you don’t learn about that stuff when you’re a kid, you may wind up a lot like me. I was basically clueless. When it came to cars, I pretty much just ”went along for the ride” and never really showed any interest in them until I was 16 and eligible for my driver’s license.
How Do You Learn About Cars?
I remember my first driving lesson with my Dad and me in a big parking lot in NE Philadelphia where I grew up. Dad let me sit in the driver’s seat and promptly handed me the key and said, “Okay Gary, start the engine”. I turned to Dad and I said somewhat confused, “How do I do that?” He answered with, “Just put the key in and turn it like you have seen me do a million times”. Right there was the beginning of the problem. I had never paid one bit of attention to Dad and his starting the car routine and believe it or not I didn’t even know how to put the key in and turn it. I was pretty much sitting in the back seat listening to the music on the radio whenever we were in the car. Needless to say, the driving lesson that day went downhill from there.
What Do You Know About Your Tires?
In this world, you can’t survive very well without a car unless you live in a big city and have access to great public transportation. That means you have to attempt to learn something about cars along the way. Nowadays, I’d say that my knowledge of autos is much better. I can start the car almost 100% of the time today without asking for help, 😉 but there is so much more to it than that.
Of course you need to fill your tires with air from time to time. And hopefully you know something about maintaining your tires, such as rotating and aligning them (every 6,000 to 8,000 miles or as recommended by your manufacturer). But even then, tires don’t last forever.
One area that most of us need help with is buying tires for the car. Springtime means it’s time to evaluate our tires after a long winter’s wear and tear. Tires can and should last anywhere from 3-6 years depending on the type, quality, and the driving habits of the car owner. If you can, time your purchase to April or October when tires are most likely to be on sale.
Most of us these days seem to replace our cars faster than the tires wear out, leasing cars and buying new ones all the time. Isn’t it kind of remarkable how many new or newer cars you see on the road today compared to years gone by? This seems to be true, even though the cost of a new car keeps on going up and up. People just like a new car for all the right and many of the wrong reasons too. So you may not even be concerned about buying new tires. But you should be.
9 Things to Know When You Buy Tires
- First of all, tires are pretty dammed expensive. In fact, if you haven’t thought about the replacement cost and go shopping for them, you may get sticker shock. Usually, unless you have been really good about maintaining your car, buying new tires means buying 2 or 4 at a time. Don’t mix types of tires and brands on your car if you want to get the best results and comfort from your tires. If you haven’t budgeted properly for them, you will be looking at hundreds of dollars kicking your budget in the rear with this purchase.
- Tires translate to ride comfort, noise levels, handling, wear and tear and cost of running the car. Each component and feature of the tire will change the amount you spend on tires. Your driving habits are another big consideration. Is it a winter climate or do you live in a warm area? Do you drive 5,000 or 25,000 miles per year? Is your vehicle a light weight or a heavy truck? All of these factors figure in to what kind of tires you will need to buy.
- If you are the original owner of the car or truck, and even if you don’t know a thing about tires, you can be fairly certain that replacing your tires with the same model and type that the car came with is the best possible choice. Why? The manufacturers have thoroughly tested and researched your car to find the best type of tire for comfort, handling and wear and tear for your model. Although you won’t find a real bargain on them, they are the best “fit” for your car. Whether you drive a sedan or a sports car, a pick-up or an SUV, the type of tire you choose needs to be right for your vehicle and that research is best when it comes from the manufacturer. If the original equipment is no longer available, you should ask and try to find out what has replaced it for your type of car of truck.
- For every car made, there are 2 different “standard” equipment tires provided. One is for the “basic version” and the other for the “upgraded” ones. There is a difference in cost although the tires may be quite similar. If you are looking to save some money, replace the upgraded tires with the “basic version”. You can research them online from the manufacturer and find out about that option before you go shopping.
- New tires are safer than used tires. There are piles of used tires at every tire dealer and they will be cheaper, of course. Sometimes, you can find an almost new or even a new “used tire”. Spare tires that aren’t used when leases are returned are sometimes sold as used. Check the tread on any tire like that: use a penny and turn it upside down in several of the tread grooves. You shouldn’t ever see the top of Lincolns head if the tire is good to go. Safety is my number one prerogative when it comes to tires and even if I pay more, I feel that it’s worth it. You should invest in your safety.
- Make sure you know the model number and size of the tire you are shopping for. It is found on the tire sidewall and will give you the size and all the specs you will need to shop properly. Don’t be confused by the different types of names on the tires. There are several different kinds but all seasons are the ones that most people need and use. Other types of tires are for different kinds of vehicles and usage. If you are doing what the average person does, all season tires are most likely for you.
- Tires wear out, that’s a fact. If you expect tires to last more than the recommended numbers that are placed on the tires when purchased, remember that number only applies if you drive according to “averages”. More use, heavier loads, and poor maintenance like improper air pressure will mean you will be replacing tires more often.
- Some people like to change the tire size on their cars for cosmetic effects. Bigger, wider tires can mess up your speedometer readings. These tires will turn less frequently than smaller tires and may distort your speed reading so that you may be traveling faster than you think. The calibrations for your speedometer are based on the factory tires, not any deviation from that.
- Check you other car maintenance when you get new tires. It’s a good time to balance them (which is different than alignment). If you have a trusted mechanic and your car is up on the lift, they should look at things like your brakes and pads while you are there. If you trust them, you may get some really good advice about your car’s needs and safety.
There are an awful lot of tire dealers these days from club warehouses to car dealers and specialty stores. All can be good and if you know your stuff you can even shop online and save some money too.
Doing research online, reading customer reviews and things like consumer reports will be a huge help before you buy. In any event, shopping for new tires is serious business.
Are you in the market for new tires this spring? What do you know about your tires and how did you learn it? Are you teaching your children this skill that affects their safety and their wallet too?