Taking Care of Your Car: Tire Care Tips

While going for a bank deposit Monday, I got a flat tire. I spent yesterday getting quotes for tire replacement and found that a shop we’ve taken our car to before offered a solid deal. I took it in and replaced 2 tires. Included with my receipt and warranty paperwork was a maintenance and safety manual.

Tire Care Basics

read tire markings

The first thing many people want to find out about their tires is learning how to read it. Whenever you call the shop to get quotes on their tires, they’ll ask for your particular tire size.

In the picture included here the tire markings are 175/55 R15. Those numbers break down as follows:

  • 175- nominal width of tire in millimeters
  • 55 – aspect ratio (ratio of height to width)
  • R- radial ply construction
  • 15 – rim diameter code

In addition, you may notice another number/letter combination right after that (in this example 77T). Those markings are giving you the load index and speed symbol.

These speed ratings allow you to make an apples to apples comparison with car tires. It also gives you an idea of maximum speed capability for your tires. If your tires speed symbols don;t match, please go by the lowest rating.

According to the manual included with my tires, the ratings are:

  • M- 81 mph
  • Q- 99 mph
  • R – 106 mph
  • S – 112 mph
  • T – 118 mph
  • U – 124 mph
  • H – 130 mph
  • V – 149 mph
  • W – 168 mph
  • Y – 186 mph
If you car’s tires that have a speed capability greater than 186 mph, you should see both a Z in the tire markings as well as a “Y” in brackets.

Tips for Take Care of Your Tires

Taking care of your tires isn’t difficult. In fact it comes down to 3 things:

  • Inflate: Check your tires’ pressure at least monthly. Tires can lose 1psi each month under normal conditions and with temperature drops.
  • Rotate: Review your vehicle’s manual from the car manufacturer to see how often you should get your tires rotated.
  • Evaluate: Double check your car before each trip for any changes with wear and tear.

While I do check my tires monthly, I didn’t remember seeing my tire’s condition with this last trip as I was in a bit of rush. I should also note that when you check your tires, please include your spare. You don’t want to be stranded without a usable spare.

Thoughts on Taking care of Your Car

I’ll be keeping an eye out for my car; I want it to last for years and taking care of the tires is a part of that. I’d like to hear from those on top of their car care. How often do you check on your car? What’s your maintenance check-up schedule?

Photo Credits: Leo and Mr T. in DC

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  • Michelle Jun 13, 2012, 8:22 am

    Tires are so expensive, so this is all definitely needed information!

  • Money Beagle Jun 13, 2012, 8:50 am

    My father-in-law just gave me a tip that I think applies for most tires: After you do a long trip (even 30 minutes or more), when you get out of the car, feel the side of each of the tires. Chances are they should all feel about the same temperature. If one is really hot, you probably should get it checked out as the sidewall might be ready to go.

    • Elle Martinez Jun 13, 2012, 1:54 pm

      Thanks a handy tip MB! We have a few weekend getaways planned this summer, so I’ll try that out.

  • Shawn Jun 14, 2012, 7:16 am

    Great info and good advice about checking the tires once a month. I think it is also important to make sure all drivers in the family have the knowledge to change a tire. Take an hour or so and make sure everyone that drives in the family knows where the jack is, how it works, where to place it on the car for safe operation and how to properly remove/tighten lug nuts.

  • John Preston Jun 14, 2012, 7:53 pm

    I think there are a lot of teens that ought to know what the R code rating means before drag racing down the freeway.

    Thanks. I’ve read the tire many times, but never knew what it all meant.

  • Jerry Jun 18, 2012, 3:12 am

    This is good information that will lead to longer wear for your tires because they ARE so expensive. But, it’s insurance for making them last longer. Thanks a bunch.