There are many of you who are in the habit of just plunking down your hard earned dollars when buying car tires without ever doing your homework. Oy vey! Buying tires should never be as easy as putting ALL of your trust in one retailer, paying for them, then driving off. You've got to research the tires you want, then question when you get to the store.
Here are some tire buying tips so that you won't wind up stranded on the side of a road due to treads gone bad.
1) Do you need tires? Are your tires bulging, discolored? Have you had them since the year of the flood? Are the sidewalls cracked? Test the tire's tread to determine if it's a goner by pinching a penny between your thumb and forefinger, so that the top of Lincoln's head is exposed. Place the top of the former president's head into one of the tire tread grooves, then try to measure in the deepest point within the tread. If any part of Lincoln's head is hidden by the tread, you can refrain from dropping dollars on tires. However, if you can see the Lincoln head, get ready to put a hurting on that credit card! BUT.... Make sure to first check for tread wear on different spots (the inner, outer, and middle grooves of each tire) as tires can wear differently on each side, due to improper wheel alignment, suspension issues and/or low inflation; perform this monthly.
2) When shopping for tires, you need to know your vehicle's tire size, how you drive and the conditions you drive in. Zero in on a couple of potentials and read expert and consumer reviews on the tire you want. Due diligence before you buy is, in the words of Martha Stewart, a "good thing!"
3) Keep in mind that all tires succumb to age so when purchasing one, make sure you're not sold a dinosaur that will probably blow out on a highway! As far as how old is too old, auto, tire and rubber manufacturers all disagree as far as their opinions about the lifespan of a tire. Some say six years is the limit for tires and regardless of tread life, you should chuck it. Even if the tire has been sitting on a shelf for six years, various conditions can reduce its life. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, tires tend to break down faster when it's hot outside, so folks in warmer climates should take heed.
How do you decipher a tire's age?
The sidewall of a tire has a bunch of numbers and letters. Tires made after 2000 have a four-digit DOT code. The first two numbers represent the week in which the tire was made. The second two represent the year. A tire with a DOT code of 1109 was made in the 11th week of 2009. Tires with a three-digit code were made prior to 2000 and are trickier to decode. The first two digits still tell you the week, but the third digit tells you the year in the decade that it was created. The hard part is knowing what decade that was. Some tires made in the 1990s — but not all — have a triangle after the DOT code, denoting that decade. But for tires without that, a code of "328" could be from the 32nd week of 1988 or 1978. But do keep in mind that you might not always find the DOT number on the outer side of the tire.
If you are buying 'new' tires and find out that you were sold old ones, ask for either your money back or newer tires! Any worthwhile established retailer should not have any problems either giving you a refund or providing you with newer tires.
4) Steer clear from used tires. Tire prices are astronomical and the temptation of buying used tires can sound like a sweet deal BUT oftentimes it is not! When folks plop down money for used tires, you really don't know what you're getting--the product might be old, patched; the driver could have run his vehicle around on low pressure tires. The tires could have been excessively beaten against a curb, one time, too many. Buying used tires is an 'AT YOUR OWN RISK' situation that could have calamitous results!
5) When replacing tires, it's best to buy a matching set, this way you won't compromise the car's handling and suspension and most importantly, safety.
6) Winter vs. all-weather tires. Winter tires are designed with special rubber compounds designed to improve traction, handling and braking in all cold weather conditions, not just ice and snow All-season tires feature optimized tread patterns to better tackle and help provide grip in wet and less severe snowy conditions; their reinforced sidewalls keep the tire shoulders on the road, enabling better grip when turning on wet roads.
So which ones should you invest in--winter or all-season?
Well, with winter tires, you should only have them on your car during the colder months which means you'd have to purchase an additional set of tires to plop on, after the frost goes away. Some industry experts say that all-seasons behave like the Jack and Jill of all but are masters of none, and besides, in below 45 degrees Fahrenheit, their rubber hardens somewhat, making them less suitable for snow.
So here's the dealio, if you live in a climate that is brutal in the cold months, winter tires will be the way to go during the season, offering a safer ride when Old Man Winter lets loose! Word of caution though, the best time to buy winter tires is in the summer. Companies selling winter tires tend to run out of them during the harsh winter months.
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