How To Shop for Tires

Despite how well you keep up with the regular maintenance of your vehicle, there are always going to be things you'll need to replace. Motor oil, windshield wiper blades, and brakes―all of these need to be replaced or changed from time to time.

Included in this group are tires. Many people think tires serve one purpose: to roll the vehicle where it needs to go. However, tires also aid in stopping the vehicle, as well as providing a cushion against rough driving surfaces.

Before you begin shopping for tires, you need to know why you are shopping for tires. Ideally, it's just time to buy new tires; however, sometimes you find that there are other problems going on that contribute to your need for new tires.

There are three main reasons for needing new tires:

  • Normal wear and tear: Use the penny test to determine if it's time. Turn a penny so that Lincoln's head is upside down. Then, stick the penny in the groove of the tire tread. If you can still see the top of his head, it's time to replace the tires. (Note that uneven wear and tear might mean you aren't rotating your tires often enough.)
  • Over/Under-inflation: Having too much air or not enough air will cause quicker wear and tear than when tires are properly inflated. Look at your tires. If the middle of the tire is more worn than the edges, you have been putting too much air in your tires; they are over-inflated. If the edges are more worn than the middle, you haven't been putting enough air in your tires; they are under-inflated.
  • Alignment, balance, and parts problems: If one edge of your tire is more worn than the other, and has a "feathered" appearance, your tires are experiencing either too much "toe-in" or "toe-out", you have an alignment problem. If the tire appears to be "cupped," you may have damaged parts or you may not be keeping your tires properly balanced.

Once you have determined whether you're shopping for new tires due to normal wear and tear, or an actual problem, you can talk with your mechanic and take the steps necessary to correct the problem and cut back on tire costs. Tire safety needs to be a top priority.

Buy Your Tires

The easiest way to shop for tires if you know nothing about tires is to take your vehicle to a dealership. They will replace your old tires with exactly the kind of new tires you need―in some cases, more than what you need. This ease comes with extra costs, so you may want to shop for tires yourself.

You can begin the process by checking your owner's manual to find the exact tire size and type recommended for your vehicle.

Then, take into consideration your needs, such as what kind of ride you want, how much driving you'll be doing, how heavy a load your vehicle will be carrying, and the weather conditions in your area. For example, you probably won't need to purchase snow tires if you live in California.

There are so many places you can buy tires these days, so you may want to shop around first for sales or prices that best suit your budget. Also ask your family members, friends, and coworkers where they purchase tires―remember, word of mouth is often the most truthful form of advertisement.

Choose a store that employees a knowledgeable, helpful staff. A salesman who knows what tires are recommended for your vehicle, as well as the kinds of tires that will meet your driving needs, will be your best friend during the shopping experience.

Another factor to consider when choosing where to purchase your new tires is installment. If you don't know how to replace your own tires, and you don't have anyone close by to replace them for you, you're going to want to purchase them from a store that will replace them for you. This might add to the cost, but it's better than driving down the highway at 65 mph only to have a tire unexpectedly pop off.

After the Purchase

Now that you have replaced your old tires with new ones, make sure to keep them properly inflated, and rotate them as needed. Also be sure to pay attention to your vehicle's alignment, and replace any worn or otherwise damaged parts.

These are all steps you can take to get the most out of your new tires.

DMV.ORG BBB Business Review