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Florida Tire Basics – 101

In South Florida, our roads can turn from hot and dry to wet and slippery in a matter of seconds making for dangerous driving conditions! As we approach summer, afternoon thunderstorms are certainly headed our way and with that we can find ourselves in dangerous driving conditions rather quickly. Also, if you plan on drivng to your summer vacation destination, make sure your tires are in good shape for the trip.

With that said, here is a little background on your tires.

In North America, regulations require tire manufacturers to grade passenger car tires. These regulations are based on treadwear, traction, and temperature resistance. Treadwear is based on the wear rate of the tire. A wear rating of 300 to 400 is considered good; 500 to 700 is very good. Further, a tire graded 200 would wear twice as long as one graded 100. Traction grades (from highest to lowest: AA, A, B, and C) represent the tire’s ability to stop on wet pavement. Temperature grades (from highest to lowest: A, B, and C) represent the tire’s resistance to the generation of heat.

If you’re only buying one or two tires at a time, always put the new tires on the rear axle. It’s a myth that putting the new tires on your drive-wheel position will give you the most protection; instead, doing so will make your vehicle more susceptible to oversteer (fishtailing or swinging out during fast cornering).

Under-inflated tires wear more on the outside edges. Over-inflated tires wear excessively in the center of the tread.

You may think in today’s economy pennies have lost their use and value. Not so fast; use a penny to determine if the tread on your tires is too low. Take a penny and put Abe’s head into one of the grooves of the tread. If part of his head is covered by the tread, you’re ok. If you can see all of Abe’s head, it’s time to replace the tire. When the tread is worn down to 1/16 of an inch, your tires should be replaced.

Most manufacturers put “P” (passenger car) rated tires on 4WD trucks as well. Some put “LT” (light truck) tires on SUVs and four-wheel drive trucks, but most do not.

The “T” on your tire’s sidewall does not stand for Truck, it stands for “temporary” spare.

The “recommended” tire pressure is almost always lower than the “maximum” tire pressure printed on the tire’s sidewall. Check your owner’s manual to find out where to look on your vehicle for the recommended amount of air (usually on the driver’s door, the glove compartment, or the gas filler door).

Since tires can harden and crack with age, you should steer clear of old tires and buy the freshest ones available. Here’s how to tell: Every tire carries a U.S. Dept. of Transportation serial number on the sidewall (EX: DOT M6 RV T1HR 499). The last 3 digits are a date code indicating the week and year the tire was made. (EX: the 49th week of 1999).

Most punctures, nail holes or cuts up to 1/4 inch and confined to the tread may be satisfactorily repaired by trained personnel using industry-approved methods.

For the most accurate reading, tire pressure must be checked when tires are cold. You can check tire pressure any time of the day, as long as the tires have been sitting for a few hours or haven’t been driven for more than a few miles.

Under normal loads, you should inflate tires according to the vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations, NOT the maximum pressure listed on the sidewall.


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