Buyers Guide to Tires: Where the Rubber Meets the Road - - Jackson, MS

Buyers Guide to Tires: Where the Rubber Meets the Road

By Brian Gregg

For a year, tire recalls have occupied the headlines, with deadly tales of separated tread, highway accidents and tire recalls by Firestone, Bridgestone, Goodyear and others. Now, Ford has dumped Firestone in favor of Goodyear as its tire provider.

Marvin Bozarth, executive director of the International Tire and Rubber Association, Inc., wants to assure people most tires are safe.


"Tire quality today is at the highest level, probably the highest level it has ever been," he said. "We have tires that run for 70,000-80,000 miles."


Consumer want assurances that their tires are safe, but few people know much about tires. Many often settle for what's on sale or what looks the best.


Kristen Udowitz, spokeswoman for the Rubber Manufacturers Association, which is also home to the Tire Industry Safety Council, said tire buyers should visit their local tire dealers armed with information that will make the purchase easier, including the make, model and year of car; and the brand name, size, speed and type of current tires (located on the tire).


Your driving style will make a difference in the tire you choose.


"What do you want from the tire when driving it?" Udowitz asked. "Do you want a smooth comfortable drive, or something that harnesses the power of your sports car?"


You should inform your tire dealer about factors such as the weather conditions that the tires will most often be subjected to, and where the car will be most often be driven, whether on local roads, highways or off-road.


"Tire dealers are very knowledgeable and have trained so they know what tires are best," she said.


Once the tires are purchased, the most important thing to do is inspect them regularly, Bozarth said.


"Most people don't look at their tires," he said. "When's the last time you looked at your tires before you got in your car? You don't. You just get in your car and go."


Frequent inspection can spot problems before they occur. Bulges or puncture wounds could cause the tire to blow at high speeds, Bozarth said.


"It could be the difference between life and death," he said.


For more information about tires, consult the Tire Industry Safety Council at or the International Tire and Rubber Association Inc. at


Here are some tips to ensure that your tires operate at peak levels and keep you safe while driving:


  • Use tires with the same size and speed rating as specified in the owner's manual.


  • Inflate tires to proper levels (this should be detailed in your owner's manual or on a placard located inside the car door, glove box door or fuel door). You can't tell if a tire is underinflated or overinflated by looking at it. Use a tire gauge to determine the amount of pressure.


  • Tire pressure should be checked monthly and before long trips. Check tires when they're cold.


  • When you check tire pressure, also examine them for irregular wear, scrapes or punctures. Don't forget to check the spare.


  • Do not overload your vehicle.


  • When the tread is worn down to 1/16th of an inch, the tire must be replaced. How to tell? Insert a penny into the tread of a tire. If you can see the top of Lincoln's head on the penny, it's time for new tires.


  • Align, rotate and balance your tires at regular intervals (specified in the owner's manual; if not, it is generally every 6,000 miles).


  • Tires should be stored upright in a cool, dry place when not in use.


  • Observe speed limits.


  • Avoid fast starts and stops.


  • Avoid potholes and curbs.
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