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How to Keep Your Car from Getting Sore Feet: Tires, Alignment, and Balancing

If you think about tires only when it’s time to buy new ones, you need to think again. The right tires in the right condition can enhance your driving experience and make it safer. In fact, your brakes and your tires have a twoway relationship: Poor braking action results in increased tire wear, but properly.

balanced and aligned wheels and properly inflated tires in good condition can help stop your car up to 25 percent faster! Worn tires can cause your vehicle to skid or hydroplane in wet weather even if the treads aren’t down to the legal tolerances. So checking your tires can save your life! There’s also a strong correlation between tire inflation and tire wear.

If your tires are underinflated, the outer treads wear out faster. If your tires are overinflated, the centers of the tread areas go. And if the wheels get out of alignment, your tires can wear out in as little as one day of hard driving! So, to get more mileage from your tires plus better braking action and a smoother, quieter ride, you ought to know a bit about buying, checking, and maintaining the tires on your vehicle.

In this I tell you about the kinds of tires available. (You can buy different types and grades, and just as you wouldn’t wear your finest shoes to the beach, you don’t want to put the most expensive, long-lasting, high-speed set of tires on an old car that just goes back and forth to the shopping center.) I also tell you how to check your tires and how to read your treads for clues about how well your vehicle is performing — and how well you’re driving.

If these clues show that you need to have your tires and wheels balanced or aligned or your tires replaced, I provide enough information for you to be sure that the work is done the right way for the right price. You don’t have to do much (in terms of physical labor) with this , so just find a comfortable place to read, relax, and enjoy. For information about how to change a flat tire, see 1. Whenever you encounter a term set in this font, you’ll find it defined in the glossary in Appendix A.

Tire Construction

Every tire has several major parts . You find out more about them in the next section, “The Secrets on Your Sidewalls, Revealed!,” which decodes all the useful data molded into the sidewall of a tire. But to start, here’s a brief description of each part: The sidewall is the part of the tire between the tread and the bead. It keeps the air in, protects the components inside the tire, and keeps it stable.

The tread is the part of the tire that gets most of the wear and tear. It used to just be made of rubber (hence the phrases, “where the rubber meets the road” and “burning rubber”). Today, the tread can be made from natural rubber, synthetics, or both. The tread patterns help the tire grip the road and resist puncturing.

These patterns also are excellent indicators of tire wear and have built-in treadwear indicators that let you know when it’s time to replace your tires. I get into reading these clues later in this chapter, in the section called — unsurprisingly — “Checking your tires for wear.” The bead is a hoop of rubber-coated steel wire that’s shaped to help hold the tire onto the rim of the wheel. Most tires have several beads grouped into a bead bundle.

The body of the tire is located beneath the tread and the sidewalls. It helps the tire keep its shape when inflated instead of blowing up like a balloon. The plies make up the body of the tire. They’re rubber-coated layers of various materials (the most popular is polyester cord). The more plies, the stronger the tire.

The innermost belt is called a liner; it provides a stable base for layering all the plies. High-speed tires sometimes have cap plies on top of the regular ones to keep the plies and belts in place. The belts are located between the body and the tread.

They provide longer wear, puncture resistance, and more directional stability and are usually made of rubber-coated steel. Belts also can be made of aramid (which is harder than steel), fiberglass, polyester, rayon, or nylon. But steel is the most popular type of belt material.

Last word

The tire valve lets air into and out of the tire. The valve core prevents air from escaping. Each valve should have a valve cap to keep dirt and moisture from getting.

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