Tire Maintenance How to Get the Most Out of Your Tires

I realized something last week. I know I put a lot of miles on my vehicle, but I’ve never really budgeted for the expense of new tires. It costs me nearly $400 for four new tires. That is a lot of money to come up with all at once, so I’ve decided I need to start putting aside $34 a month for replacement tires. In this post I also share some of the things I’ve learned about getting as many miles from my tires as possible.

I think I know more than the average person knows about tires, because I put a lot of miles on my vehicle. It’s gotten to the point where I actually have a Tire Guy.

My Tire Guy’s shop is just a few miles down the road from my job, which makes it easy for me to drive over at lunchtime or after work. He’s a small business owner, and that makes me even happier as I like to support the small guy whenever possible.

In April my son had a blow out on the freeway. He was able to pull over safely, but he happened to be at a spot where there is no emergency lane. He is a fairly new driver – he’s had his license for a couple of years now, but hasn’t driven a lot on his own. There was so much traffic that he could not move the vehicle once he came to a stop. The cars were speeding around him and past him. Thankfully a highway patrolman came by and stopped traffic and helped him into the gore area which was two lanes over from where my son had come to a stop.

NASCAR tires
NASCAR tires (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The tire was completely shredded. Mr. A drove down to meet him and help him change the tire, and the next day I took my vehicle in to my Tire Guy. He said from the looks of it, my tire had separated. We were feeling vibrations while driving the week prior to the blowout, and Mr. A checked the air pressure and looked at the tires, but couldn’t see anything amiss. So I bought two new tires, the cost was $183. My Tire Guy provides free spin balance and rotations and when I get a nail or flat he fixes those at no cost. I’m pretty happy with my Tire Guy.

About a year ago, I started shredding through front tires like nobody’s business. It turns out that my vehicle’s front end alignment had gone out, and I put on new tires and didn’t get that fixed. It is awful to have to pay nearly $200 for two tires, and then pay another $50 for a front end alignment. But it’s even more awful to have to replace those two tires in four months time, when they should have lasted at least a year!

So now I also have a Front End Alignment Shop. They are also close to my job. Now every time I get new front tires, I have my front end alignment checked. These guys check it for free every time. I am so happy to have found them.

Over the weekend, Mr. A was driving us to church and asked me if the car had been vibrating like this? I told I noticed it, but wasn’t sure if it was the car vibrating, or the wind blowing. Well, the wind was blowing on Sunday, so Mr. A said I should go to my Tire Guy and get the back tires looked at.

So I went after work yesterday. It turns out both of my tires were separating. I complained to my Tire Guy and told him it didn’t seem like it had been THAT long. He couldn’t look up my past records because his computer crashed in December, but he said he would look at the tires and see if the company would send an adjustment. I told him I could find the mileage and the date I bought the tires once I got home.

As it turns out, it has been over 41,000 miles since those tires were replaced back in July 2007. My Tire Guy said my new tires should last about 40,000 miles.

So I determined today that I need to set up another yearly savings account. One for tires. I need to save $400 between now and 12 months from now, so I need to start putting another $34 into savings in anticipation of buying new tires for my vehicle. While we’re at it, we should probably sock away some money for tires for Mr. A’s truck, which also gets a lot of miles put on.

So here are my tips for keeping your tires working correctly for you as long as possible:

  1. Keep the air pressure correct. Having the wrong pressure not only can affect the number of miles you get from each gallon of gasoline, it can cause your tires to wear unevenly and will age them quicker.
  2. Have your front end alignment checked when you replace the front tires. Also, if you run into a curb, that could throw your front end alignment out of whack.
  3. You can sometimes tell if your tires or your alignment is out of whack by taking your hands off the wheel while you are driving down the road (only for an instant!) and see if your car veers to one side or the other. Also, while on a street that is not busy, when you are coming to a stop, take your hands off the wheel as you are braking and see if your call pulls to one side or the other. If your tires are good and your alignment is correct, your car should not veer off to one side or the other.
  4. Keep track of when you buy your tires, and the mileage in case the manufacturer can offer an adjustment (if the tire separates before its lifespan).
  5. Keep a regular Tire Guy, ideally close to home or your job. Maybe one near each, if it’s convenient.
  6. Figure out how much it costs for four new tires and save 1/12th of it over the next year, or however long it will take until you need new tires. If you only put 10,000 miles a year on your car, you will have four years to save up the money you need, if your tires are advertised to last 40,000 miles.
  7. Have your tires rotated regularly (I think the recommendation is every 3000 miles – every time you get your oil changed, basically).
  8. If you feel vibration while driving, it could be your tires are separating. Notice if the vibration is in the wheel, or in your seat, it will assist your Tire Guy in narrowing down your problem if you can offer him that information.
  9. Don’t buy the cheapest tires you can find. Try to find the balance between cost and the life (how many miles) of the tire. You can calculate a cost per mile for the anticipated life of the tire. For example, my tires were $91.50 each. They should last 40,000 miles. That means my tires cost about $2.28 per 1000 miles. That is really not too bad when you break it down into dollars per mile.
  10. Always keep your spare in good working condition.
  11. Know where your jack equipment is, and know how to use it! You never know when you might have to change a tire on your own. Chances are you won’t have to, but it doesn’t hurt to know how to change a tire. I have changed my tires several times, but usually some gentleman or a highway patrol officer stops to help me finish the task.
  12. Make sure your jack equipment is adequate for changing tires. You might want to invest in one of those four-way wrenches. They look like an “X”. You can use that tool to apply counter pressure if the lug nuts are frozen in place. They are much easier to use than the L shaped tire irons. With the four-way wrench, you can pop a lug nut that is impossible to budge otherwise. Put the four-way wrench on the nut that is stuck, then put your foot on the bar nearest you, and bounce your foot downward, while jerking up with your hands. If you do this just right, the lug nut should come free.
  13. If you travel a lot of miles, don’t buy used tires. If you travel only in town and not many miles, you can save a lot of money buying a good used tire. When I lived in the city I regularly bought used tires, but now that I can put as many as 3000 miles in one month on my vehicle I only buy new.

Do you have anything to add?

This post was included in the 154th Carnival of Personal Finance. Thank you Canadian Dream – Free at 45 for the hard work of hosting this event, and including me in the festivities!

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4 thoughts on “Tire Maintenance How to Get the Most Out of Your Tires

  1. Boy, but you sure make it sound like it’s *my* fault for not wanting to drive 40 miles an hour on a blown-out tire for half a mile.

    I told you how the highway patrolman had to start shooting behind him before people stopped. Gunshots, then a break, then more gunshots, then when we stopped he was reloading, so I assume he used two clips on them before they finally relented.


  2. Dear A. Jr., you took my post all wrong. I know your life was endangered by the crazy freeway drivers. I’m glad the nice policeman came to stop traffic for you. You did great with your first flat tire, and now you have that experience under your belt.


  3. Holy smokes you drive alot!

    I like to buy the very best gripping tires I can afford, because to me the value of avoiding an accident and potentially preventing injury and death is well worth the extra money. I bought 4 semi-race tires for $750 installed.. they should last me 40-50,000kms, about 30,000 Mi. Then again I also could drive like a grandma and get a similar effect, but past experience proves that I dont do that…



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