How to Extend Tire Life

Tips for getting your tires to go the distance

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Tires. Every car has them. Although they can often be neglected, it is hard to overstate the importance of caring for the only part of the car that actually touches the road. As we have been seeing with our treadwear testing, tires may not live up to their advertised promise for total tread life. But there are some simple things that car owners can do to ensure their tires go the distance.

Keep the pressure up. Maintaining correct inflation pressure is important for maximizing tire life and keeping you safe. Check at least once per month—when tires are cold—and before long trips. Underinflation can affect handling and build excess heat within the tire, leading to failure. You can find the correct pressure on a label in the car, usually on the driver’s doorjamb. But it’s not the “max. pressure” found on the tire itself.

Straighten out. Have alignment checked for all four wheels at the intervals spelled out in the owner’s manual, after any serious pothole bump, and when installing new tires. Improper alignment can shorten tire life.

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Rotate regularly. For even wear, tires should be rotated as specified in the owner’s manual or new-tire warranty guidelines, usually every 5,000 to 8,000 miles.

Skip the donuts. If you like to squeal your tires on takeoff and grind them on curves, what you’re hearing is rubber getting left on the road. If you want your tires to last, take it easy, especially on bad roads, and try to avoid potholes and broken pavement.

Don’t go bald. Tread depth is measured from the top of the tread to the deepest groove. Tread-wear bars at the bottom of the groove appear flush with the tread when there’s 2⁄32 inch remaining. That’s when the tire is legally worn out in most places. But we recommend shopping well before then, when 4⁄32 inch remains. A quarter inserted upside down in a tread groove can serve as a gauge. If the top of Washington’s head is visible above the tread, it’s time to shop for tires.

Quick change. The extra slits and pliable rubber that make winter tires so exemplary at handling ice and snow are the same things that make them wear down more quickly on cleared roads. Be sure to remove winter tires as soon as the threat of inclement weather passes so that you can get as many winters out of those tires as possible.

Editor's Note: This article also appeared in the November 2015 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.