Tires are essential to the safety and integrity of a car, truck or SUV. If they fail, the vehicle can’t run or may end up in an accident as a result. Keeping an eye on your tires can pay off in better gas mileage, safer travel, and fewer expensive repairs. All you need is your eyes, hands, a penny and an air gauge.

How To Know When Your Tires Are Bad

Closeup Image of Tire TreadIs the tire good or bad? If you can’t see or feel anything, try this. Can you place a penny into the tread and see Lincoln’s head? If so, the tread has worn down, and the tire needs to be replaced. If your tire is constantly losing air, it either needs repair or it needs to be replaced. Bald spots are a definite warning sign that the tire must be replaced quickly. Other signs include nicks, chips, tears, and loose tread. If you notice uneven wear when checking the tires, you should head to the local shop as soon as possible for an alignment. A wobbly tire means the tire has become unstable and is ready to blow which presents a very dangerous situation.

How To Purchase New Tires

Once you determine that you need new tires, how do you choose them? You will want to get tires that are the same height and width as your current set. The tires must have the right load rating, or they may be too weak to handle the vehicle’s weight. Other factors include the PSI and the traction grade. Modern tires often contain a tire pressure monitoring chip that communicates with the car. Be sure to ask if your new tires will contain this important device. You can find your car’s size in your car manual or online.

Replacing The Tires

When replacing your tires, it is recommended that all four be replaced at one time. Failing that, try replacing two on the same axle. You will also want to pay for tire balancing. In this process, the mechanic will weigh each tire and add small weights to ensure that all four are truly equal. When shopping, be wary of tires that offer less tread and a lower mileage guarantee. These will wear out quickly. A good tire will pay for itself with a longer road life and smoother ride.

Types of Specialty Tires


  • The most common tires are all-weather or summer tires.
  • Snow tires are good for those who live where winter’s grip is harsh. Some of the newest types are low-resistance tires and run-flat tires.
  • Low rolling resistance tires are supposed to increase gas mileage. Run-flat tires can go as much as 150 miles after going flat.
  • Off-road or all-terrain tires are another special type.

Before changing the type of tire on your vehicle, be sure to get professional advice.

Maintaining Your Tires

Regular tire rotation changes which tires are most stressed on your daily drive. This keeps the wear even, extending the life of all four tires. The same road resistance that destroys your tires can also throw the wheels out of whack. Tires may tilt in or out, unable to roll truly flat. Alignment corrects these issues, protecting the tires and making you safer.

Paying Attention to Tire Wear

Uneven wear may require the attention of a mechanic. Cupping, dips along the tread’s edge, indicates a need for suspension repair. Feathered tires or one-side wear indicates the need for alignment or a bigger problem. New tires cost from $50 to $350 per tire. The cheapest tires generally have the least tread and the poorest mileage predictions. Since tires are such essential equipment, it pays to get the best you can afford. It also pays to maintain your new tires with regular rotation and, when necessary, alignment.