Tires 101: Selecting The Right Tires For Your Vehicles
With hundreds of name brand and economy tire models available on the market today, how do you choose the right tires for your fleet? It’s really not that difficult, if you start by considering your vehicle type, tire category, and tire size.
Auto tire models are broadly divided into:
- Passenger — for sedans, coupes, and minivans. They have the broadest range of performance categories.
- Light Truck/SUV — engineered to handle heavier loads. Many are designed for both on and off -road use. Trucks, SUVs, full-size vans, and the new crossover vehicles all use these heavy-duty tires.
Manufacturers and retailers classify tires by seasonal use and handling characteristics. The most common used for fleet vehicles are:
- All-Season — are original equipment on most cars, minivans, and some trucks. Replacement all-season tires offer acceptable handling, noise, tread life and value, but don’t excel in any one area. All-season tires are engineered for: year-round use, all temperatures, all weather conditions, and all surfaces.
- Winter/Snow — look for the mountain snowflake emblem stamped on the sidewall. All-season tires are designated M+S, M/S, or MS for “mud and snow,” but are not true snow tires. Winter tires for passenger cars and trucks offer:
~ Softer, stickier rubber formulated for temperatures below 45 degrees
~ Maximum grip on cold pavement, snow, and ice
~ Tread patterns designed to grip and release snow
The tire specifications for your vehicle can be found:
- In your owner’s manual
- Printed on the vehicle placard — usually a sticker on the driver’s door post, the edge of the driver’s door, or inside the fuel door.
The manufacturer provides tire size and other information for your original tires and replacement tires.
Reading a Tire
You can find out a lot about a tire by checking the codes on the sidewall. Some of the things you can find out from the codes on the sidewall are: tire type, section width, aspect, construction, diameter, load index, and speed/performance rating.
When to Replace Your Tires
It’s recommended that you start shopping for new tires when your tread wears to 4/32 inch. This is just enough tread to sluice away water and keep your tires in contact with the pavement.
The most common tread depth on new tires is 10/32 inch. The legal minimum in most states is 2/32 inch.
- The Quarter Test — A Washington quarter, placed upside down in the tread grooves at several points, is a handy gauge for safe tread depth. From the coin edge to the top of Washington’s head is 4/32 inch.
- The Penny Test — To be legal in most states, your tires must pass the Lincoln penny test. From the coin edge to the top of Lincoln’s head is 2/32 inch.
Even on dry pavement, it takes longer to stop with bald tires. On wet pavement, you might not be able to avoid a hazard in time.
Taking Care of Your Tires
Your tires take care of you, so take care of your tires. They will last longer and save you money on gas if you follow these tips:
- Keep your tires inflated to the correct pressure. Your vehicle won’t handle well if your cars are too soft or too hard. Under or over inflation can even cause a blowout. Consult your owner’s manual or check the vehicle placard for the specified PSI for your tires. Properly inflated tires wear evenly and can help you get up to 3 percent better gas mileage.
- Rotate your tires. This helps ensure that your tires wear evenly. Most tire manufacturers recommend a 6,000-8,000 mile interval.
- Periodic alignment checks. You won’t notice by looking at them, but rough roads can knock your wheels slightly out of alignment. They fight each other, reduce fuel efficiency, and cause premature tread wear.
- Periodic suspension checks. Worn shocks, struts, and other suspension components can also shorten tire life.
If you select the proper tires for all over your vehicles and maintain them properly, you will not only keep your employees safer on the roads, but you will save your company some money in the long haul.
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