Keeping your tires in top condition

You’re driving down the road and feel a vibration in the steering wheel, or your vehicle starts to pull to one side. Either could be a sign of tire trouble.

“The best way to maintain your tires is to do a periodic, just visual inspection of your tires,” said Angie’s List founder Angie Hicks. “If you see cracks on the sidewalls, it may be time to get them replaced. If you see a bulge in the side of your tire, you definitely want to get it replaced because you’re likely going to have a blowout soon.”

Your tires are no longer safe when they’re under 2/32 of tread, and you don’t need anything special to check them.

“Stick a penny upside down in the tread of your tire, and if you can see the top of Abe Lincoln’s head, then your tire tread is way too low and you need to replace your tires,” Hicks added.

If just one or two tires are worn down, you don’t need to buy a whole new set, but only if the others are fairly new.

“If you have an all–wheel-drive vehicle, if you replace one tire, there can’t be more than 5/32 of tread difference between the other three. If so, it can create problems with the differential, the drive–line system,” tire expert Chris Fox said.

When buying new tires, make sure they really are new. Check the D–O–T number on the sidewall – the last four digits. Those indicate the week and the year that tire was made. It’s common to see new tires that are actually six to twelve months old. Don’t consider anything beyond that.

It’s always best to replace all four tires at the same time if you can afford it, but Angie says it’s okay to patch a punctured tire as long as the hole is less than a quarter–inch wide and located on the crown of the tire, not near the edge or sidewall. Make sure to rotate your tires every 5,000 to 6,000 miles to help them wear evenly and keep the warranties valid.