Your tires are arguably among the most important components of your car. They ensure good traction on the road, of course. However, they also have to do with everything from smooth handling to maximum fuel economy. Despite this, some drivers have quite a few misconceptions about car tires. If you’re among them, you’re putting yourself at risk for accidents and car trouble. With that in mind, let’s bust some common myths:
Some skeptics ask if it’s really worth getting your tires rotated. The simple answer is yes. Tire rotations usually cost around $20, and they allow your tires to last for much longer. (Improving handling and reducing the likelihood of an accident in the meantime). That’s $20 well spent.
If you’re wondering when to get new tires, you’ve probably been told, you should use the penny test. Stick a penny upside-down into your tire’s tread, and if the top of Lincoln’s head is still visible, you need new tires. The problem with this test is that you may actually need new tires long before the test indicates you do. The penny test is based on a target tread depth of about 2/32 of an inch, but this should be considered an absolute minimum for safe tread depth. If you drive anywhere with rain or other tough conditions, you should be aiming for 4/32 or even 6/32 of an inch.
If you can only afford two new tires, it’s commonly said, you should put them on the front two wheels. But the reverse is actually true; rear tires are the ones that provide stability -- regardless of whether you have a front-wheel-drive, rear-wheel-drive or four-wheel-drive vehicle -- so new tires should go in the back if you absolutely can’t afford a full set.
People sometimes shy away from used tires, but there's not a lot of backing for that. Yes, you’ll need to learn to inspect them a little more carefully, but you may be able to get some great deals by being open to buying used. It’s more about where you buy your tires. You most likely have a lot of options in your area. Not all auto repair shops sell tires, of course, but take a look at these figures: There are about 87,032 auto repair businesses in the U.S. and 701,100 auto mechanics. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the auto repair industry is projected to grow by 9% in the decade between 2012 and 2022. It’s worth sorting through a few shops to find one you trust because once you do you’ll be able to take advantage of cost-saving strategies such as buying used tires without worrying.
As long as your tire pressure warning light doesn’t come on, you’re good, right? Wrong. That indicator will only let you know if your pressure is dangerously low, so you’ll want to either get your pressure checked at the shop on a regular basis or learn to use an old-fashioned tire pressure gauge.
Any more car-related popular wisdom you want to be fact-checked? Let us know in the comments.