Tires are critical. They're the contact point between your vehicle and the road, and they're surprisingly complicated. Today we'll answer a few frequently asked questions about tires as well as some tire advice:
Why can't my tire be patched?
Why do some tires cost more than others?
Are summer/winter tires better than all-season tires?
Is it okay to drive on used tires?
I know someone who retreads worn down tires. Is that safe?
If only one tire is bad, why do I need to replace the others?
Answers and Tire Advice
1. Why can't my tire be patched?
Tires are unsafe to patch if the puncture was made anywhere other than the middle of the tread area of a tire because there are steel belts that help keep it rigid. Any holes in the sidewall won't hold because there are no steel belts maintaining their rigidity. The tread area can't be repaired in the same place twice, either. Finally, tires can't be patched if the hole is larger than ¼" (or 6mm) because the patch won't properly fill the hole.
2. Why do some tires cost more than others?
Tires vary in cost due to many factors:
Size (tread width, profile height, wheel diameter)
Amount of rubber and steel used to make the tire
Type (or in some cases types) of rubber used
Construction method of the tire (number of rubber plys, load rating, speed rating, etc.)
Research & development costs (performance/specialty tires tend to require more R&D)
With most tires, you'll end up getting what you paid for. That doesn't necessarily mean you're getting what you want, though. It's always worth having a conversation with a professional to make sure you're getting the kind of tire you need and tire advice for the type of driving you do.
3. Are summer/winter tires better than all-season tires?
Summer and winter tires are better than all-season tires in their respective seasons, but using them in the wrong season can be ineffective or even dangerous.
Summer tires have improved handling and tend to stick better to the road in warmer weather. However, driving summer tires in the winter will harden the rubber, allowing them to break loose easier, even on dry roads, and have barely any grip on snow or ice.
Winter tires allow for improved grip during the cold, snowy months, but the rubber in winter tires is so soft that they will wear down quickly in warmer weather. Winter tires also tend to make more road noise than all-season or summer tires and can affect your fuel economy in temperatures above 40ºF.
So, are summer/winter tires better than all-season tires? Yes, if you have both. If you can only afford one set of tires, a set of all-season tires will be the best option for you.
4. Is it okay to drive on used tires?
Are you driving on tires now? Then you're driving on used tires! That's probably not what you're really asking, though.
It can be safe to drive on some used tires, but it's not guaranteed. You have to keep in mind how old the tires are, pay attention if they are beginning to dry rot (show cracks in the side walls), and make sure there is still decent tread on them.
We at MPA do not sell used tires because we want to make sure customers drive away safely and happily with a warranty on tires we replace. Because used tires can be a gamble and don't offer any guarantee, we only offer new tires and from reputable companies. It's also why we are a Tire Rack Recommended Installer.
5. I know someone who retreads worn down tires. Is that safe?
Retreading tires can be extremely dangerous, especially depending on the age of the tires when they were retreaded. When the tread is cut down deeper into a tire, the rigidity of the tire is compromised and it is more likely to burst or break under strenuous conditions, especially since they are usually used tires that are more than halfway through their effective life. The rubber between the end of the treads and the beginning of the steel belts is intended to provide a buffer before the tires burst during normal driving. Retreaded tires have that buffer cut out.
Some airlines retread their tires, but those tires are designed to be retreaded, unlike automobile road tires.
The most effective way to guarantee your tires are safe to drive is to replace them with new ones when the time comes. Used tires that are less than five years old can be safe if they are not cracked and have decent tread, but if you can afford new tires it will cost you the least over the life of your vehicle ownership.
6. If only one tire goes bad, why do I need to replace other tires?
Answer (including some tire advice);
Over the life of a tire, its diameter shrinks as the treads wear down. Replacing only one tire can cause stress on the rest of the drivetrain (axles, driveshafts, differentials, transmission, etc.) and premature/uneven wear on the other tires. When replacing a tire, it's important to consider what others should be replaced based on the vehicle's drivetrain: Is it Front Wheel Drive (FWD), Rear Wheel Drive (RWD), or All Wheel Drive/Four Wheel Drive (AWD/4WD)?
If it's AWD/4WD, all four tires should be replaced at once to ensure all tires have the same diameter. This also ensures the vehicle will sit level.
Here is some tire advice; If the vehicle is FWD or RWD, the good tire on the same axle as the bad tire should also be replaced, and if the rear tires aren't already being replaced the new tires should be installed in the rear. This allows for better control of the vehicle during inclement weather because the rear treads will retain traction with the road better. It's much easier to predict the handling of a vehicle if the front tires break loose than the rear tires because the rear tires will help the vehicle continue moving forward instead of spinning out.
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