When most people buy a car, they often overlook one part of the car that can affect the safety and cost of operation as much as any other part of the car.
When you buy a new car today, you can specify almost every option and accessory except the make of tire that comes on the car. This is predetermined by the auto manufacturer. Most new car buyers just assume that you are getting a good set of tires because you are buying a new car. This is not always true. You will remember the negative hoopla a few years ago regarding Firestone tires and rollovers on Ford Explorers. This controversy lasted over a year and hundreds of thousands of new car buyers were still buying new vehicles with Firestone tires that were in dispute. The only alternative a buyer had was to refuse to buy the car unless the dealer switched the tires. Some people did exactly this and let somebody else end up with those tires on her new truck.
You should research the safety history of the tire brand you are contemplating buying just like you would research the safety history of the car you buy. As with anything you buy, the Internet has a lot of information. One site that I highly recommend is www.nhtsa.gov. This is the Web site for the National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration and it can answer all of your questions about tires. Consumers Report is also a great source of unbiased information because they accept no advertising.
Auto manufacturers equip new vehicles with tires that will help the vehicle give the quietest and smoothest ride. However, the same tires that will do this are also the softest and most prone to wear. Auto manufacturers also tend to equip their cars with well known brands, like Firestone, Goodyear, BF Goodrich and Michelin. You are paying more for the brand name than you are for the quality and performance. Sumitomo and Yokohama are two Japanese tires that are priced considerably below the well known brands and will give you over twice the tread wear. The tread wear index is molded into the tire. A tire with a tread wear index of 600 will give you twice the wear of one with a 300. The difference in ride and level of quietness is virtually indistinguishable. Using an average cost of $1,000 for 4 tires, you can see how much you can save over 3 or 4 years with tires having twice the tread wear.
There is another code molded into all tires which tells the age of the tire. After 4-5 years, a tire may develop dry rot, a deterioration that could cause a blowout. Be sure that your tires are less than two years old to be on the safe side.
The only part of your car that is not covered by the manufacturer’s warranty is the tires. They are covered by the tire manufacturer. If you have a problem with your tires while they are under warranty, ask your car dealer’s service department to handle the claim for you. They should be familiar with the tire warranty and your tires; also they likely have an established relationship with the tire dealer.
Keeping your tires inflated to the pressure recommended by the tire manufacturer (found in your owner’s manual and tire information placard (Tire placards are permanent labels attached to the vehicle door edge, doorpost, glove-box door, or inside of the trunk lid). You should check your tire pressure at least once very month when your tires are cold (an hour after you have stopped driving). You tires lose air naturally and you must regularly add air. Under inflated tires will cause excessive tire wear on the sides of your tires and are unsafe because of inferior braking and handling. Under inflated tires also lower your gas mileage up to 3 miles per gallon. You should also have your tires rotated and checked for balance every 5,000 miles. Your alignment should be checked once a year and right away if you hit a pothole, curb, or other obstacle.
Replace your tires when the tread depth reaches 2/32”. This is the standard recommended by the Federal Highway Safety and Traffic Administration. The tread is measured on that part of your tire that meets the road. You may see wear on the sides of your tires due to under inflation or misalignment. This can be a safety consideration when turning corners. When your tires are properly inflated, as long as you have at least 2/32” tread depth where “the rubber meets the road” your tires are perfectly safe.
The bottom line is to choose your make and type of tire carefully. When you buy a car, make it part of the deal that you get the best tires on your car. Maintain your tires carefully especially regarding proper inflation. I even recommend that you buy an inexpensive tire gauge to keep in your glove box.