The world of tires can be complicated and confusing; it’s no wonder why there are many false – and seemingly logical – claims out there. We believe that knowledge is power, and knowing the truth behind some common tire myths can ultimately help keep you safer on the road. Let’s debunk some common misconceptions:
Myth #1: All cars come with a spare tire
In fairness, this practice did use to be the norm for all vehicles. For many reasons (mostly fuel efficiency and space-saving), only about 2/3 of cars currently come equipped with a spare tire. So, what do the other 1/3 of cars have if they don’t have a spare? Typically, they come equipped with a temporary mobility kit (a tire sealant and tire inflator) or a set of runflat tires. They both have their pros and cons, as do full-size spares and donut spares. You can learn more about spare tires by clicking here.
Myth #2: If you’re only replacing 2 tires, the new ones should always go on the front
This is common practice at many shops, and logically, you’d think that especially if you have front wheel drive, the newest tires should go on the front. In truth, the newest, thickest tread (and therefore better grip) should always be on the rear axle of the vehicle, regardless of whether you have front wheel, rear wheel, or all-wheel drive. The rear tires provide stability, and this really matters when it comes to driving in wet conditions and standing water. If your front tires can grip a wet road but the rears can’t, you’ll wind up hydroplaning and spinning out (called oversteering), which can be extremely hazardous. If you’re still skeptical, check out this video from Michelin USA – they did testing about 6 years ago that helps prove this method to be safer.
Myth #3: The correct tire pressure is listed on the tire sidewall
We get it – tires have a million and one pieces of information on their sidewalls, and they do even list “max inflation pressure”. However, the ideal tire pressure is actually set by your vehicle manufacturer, and while your tires need to be a safe match for your vehicle, they don’t determine the proper inflation for your specific ride. So, where do you find that information? It’ll be listed on your vehicle placard, which is a little white sticker that is typically in the driver’s side door jamb. If you don’t see it there, you can check your owner’s manual. You can read more about tire pressure by clicking here.
Myth #4: The tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) in your vehicle ensures that your tires have the correct inflation pressure
The reality – TPMS usually won’t alert you to a problem until your tires are 25% below the vehicle’s recommended inflation pressure. While it can help you learn of a tire problem you may not have been otherwise aware of - which may help you get to safety in good time - 25% loss of inflation is well below what the industry considers safe and ideal for any tires. The TPMS should be thought of more as a last-minute warning before tire failure, rather than a reassurance that your tires are 100% properly inflated. The solution? Check your tire pressure at least once a month, and especially right after the weather turns cold (as colder tires will have lower pressure). It’s also a good idea to buy a high-quality tire pressure gauge to keep in your vehicle at all times, allowing you to check your tires whenever you suspect a problem. You can read more about how TPMS works by clicking here.
Myth #5: Lots of tread = plenty of tire life left
While a tire’s tread may look beefy and measure just fine, it could still be out of life. How is that possible, you may ask? The culprit in this case is dry rot. (Dry rot is a natural breakdown of rubber, which is unavoidable and can’t be corrected.) As a rule of thumb, retailers generally won’t sell a tire that’s 5+ years old because at that age, the risk developing dry rot skyrockets. Most manufacturers recommend replacing tires once they are 6-7 years old, regardless of how they may appear, because dry rot can also occur inside the tire where you can’t see it (unless a tech takes it off the wheel to inspect it). Dry rot looks like little hairline cracks in the rubber, and they can appear between the treads, on the sidewall – pretty much anywhere on a tire. Not sure how old your tires are? Look on the sidewall and find the DOT code – the last 4 digits will be the week and year it was manufactured. It’s important to note that tires can develop dry rot long before the 5-year mark, though. Things like environmental exposure, tire shine chemicals, and lack of use can all expedite the process. You can read more about dry rot by clicking here.
As you can see, logic doesn’t always prevail if you don’t know the nitty gritty about how tires work. Hopefully this lesson helps you stay as safe as possible on the road. If you’re ever in need of a tire inspection, repair, replacement, or just basic maintenance, Wiygul Automotive Clinic has you covered. Stop in to any of our convenient locations today and our expert techs will get you cruising in no time!