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Tires: The Most Important Part of Your Vehicle

Never Overlook the Importance of Your Tires

Tires: The Most Important Part of Your VehicleThe last thing most people consider in the new car buying process is the set of tires that come with the vehicle. We tend to gravitate towards the style and performance, the color, whether it fits our lifestyle or not, the ergonomic comfort of its interior, the sound system, and if it'll fit into our budget.

We unconsciously assume if the car is new that the tires are fine and don't give them a second thought nor do most of us ever take the time to ask questions or read the manual about tire care and safety. Yet our lives, and those of our children and other loved ones, ride on them every day.

What good are all the wonderful accouterments you've purchased if they end up condensed into an accordion at the bottom of a ditch because a tire blew out? And worse, your kids are strewn about covered in blood from being ejected from the vehicle's violent roll six times before it came to a stop by a tree?

How important are all those extra goodies that you added on if you get a flat on the side of the freeway at midnight and you're by yourself? If you're lucky someone will stop to help. If you're unlucky it will be someone who will rob, rape or murder you. Is this an exaggeration? No. Women alone along the roadside at night make the perfect targets for any of the above. Basically, you're a sitting duck.

All these possibilities because you assumed!

In another article coming soon, I'll discuss road safety and how to protect yourself in those situations but today the topic is prevention and why tires should be one of the most important factors to consider when buying a new or used car.

Goodyear Tires recently held an event for automotive journalists to test and compare tires under a variety of conditions. The tires were placed on Corvettes and Audis, both quality vehicles with excellent handling ability to maximize the reaction of Goodyear and its competitor's tires. We drove the cars on wet pavement at high speeds then slammed on the brakes to see which tires stopped in the shortest amount of time. We also tested tires on a racetrack to experience how well each tire gripped the road in tight turns at high speeds.

These scenarios can be applied in real life to long winding country or mountain roads, or unexpected tight turns, sharp corners, and especially in on-and-off exit ramps on freeways. How many times have you found yourself in a corner going just a little too fast? Did it feel like the car was sliding? Good tires will help prevent that by gripping the road tightly adding a wealth of safety and security to your ability to control the car, not to mention your peace of mind. Cheap or bad tires will not.

In fact, have you ever noticed all those black scrapes on the walls of exit and entrance ramps? Drivers who take the ramp too quickly leave those marks when their car slides into the wall. Some tires just don't grip the road well as a driver tries to recover out of a slide. Good tires help prevent sliding.

The stop and go braking test we did was equally important. When someone slams their brakes on in front of you, or should a child run out from between two parked cars in your neighborhood, you need to stop your car in the quickest and shortest amount of time possible. The Goodyear tires we tested came out ahead every time. Even as a seasoned automotive journalist, I was surprised at the significant difference in both tests between the Goodyear and the competitor's tires.

The Eagle F1 tires we tested at the Goodyear Proving Grounds in Texas were developed for high performance vehicles such as the Corvette and Audi. The reason that's important is to make clear to you that not all tires are alike. And, the different designs (aka tire treads) in tires are not there to just look pretty or differentiate themselves from other tires. These differences are one of the most important factors you must consider when buying new tires.

Let's say you just bought a new SUV and you live in Florida. Most vehicles designated for Florida dealerships are equipped with tires that are conducive to Florida weather conditions and roads. Some claim they're all-weather tires but what does that really mean? You need to find out exactly what that includes. Here's another scenario on how tires could make the difference between life and death.

Let's now say you just got a job promotion and are being transferred to Michigan where there's more snow than you'll ever want. You can't assume the tires on your Florida-bought vehicle will handle the slippery conditions that are indigenous to Michigan winters. You absolutely must define what tires are the most appropriate for winter driving. And remember, air intake may vary from tire to tire depending on weather conditions and the kind of driving you do.

This is a good example of tire tread differences. The grooves and patterns you see in tires are designed by engineers and often can take up to a full year of testing to ensure they work well for the conditions in which they're intended. The tread design is designed specifically for certain road, driving and weather conditions.

If you live in an area in which it rains frequently you want tires that are specifically designed to handle water. The wrong tires in wet conditions can cause hydroplaning, which can send you sliding into oncoming traffic or off the road. Why? Because tires not made for water conditions don't grip the road well and can literally cause you to drive on top of the water instead of through the water. When you're driving on top of the water you lose a great deal of control of the vehicle.

Goodyear Aquatred 3
Goodyear Eagle F1

The tread pattern cut into water repellent tires, like the Goodyear Aquatred™ for example, is specifically designed to force water away from the tire as you drive through it so the tire remains in contact with and grips the actual pavement at all times. This maximizes control of the vehicle for the driver during harsh weather.

The same goes for tires in areas in which there is a high concentration of dirt, mud or off road driving. The tire treads cut for those conditions help keep your vehicle gripped in the dirt to prevent slipping, sliding and even getting stuck. The same goes for tires made for snow and icy conditions. The tires must fit not only the vehicle but also the conditions.

Even sunny California has its challenges since it seldom rains. Grease and oil from millions of cars builds up on the freeways so roads become slick. When it does rain, the roads become like ice as you have water on top of grease. This creates the ideal condition for plenty of rear-ending in the miles and miles of stop-and-go traffic for which L.A. is famous.

I realize there are some very graphic examples in this article of what could happen if you don't have the right tires on your car but it's important to point out the seriousness of this problem. Your most precious cargo is riding on your tires, leaving no doubt that you want to do everything possible to ensure their safety as well as your own. It doesn't matter how cool your new car is, or how fast it goes, or how much it cost, if the tires on which it is riding are an accident waiting to happen.

So take the time to learn about the tires that come with your car. Read your manual, which provides useful information about them. Check your tires at least once a month to ensure the right amount of air pressure is always present. Be sure to get your tires rotated and balanced at least every 7,000 miles to ensure that everything is in maximum working condition. If your tires are off-balance that will affect how your car handles, which can cause other costly repairs.

And most importantly, when it comes time to replacing your tires, don't assume all tires and brands are alike. Be sure to do your homework on which tires best suit your geographical area, weather conditions, and driving habits.

There are dozens of brands available, each of which has their own pecking order of quality. Similar to the name brand appliances or designer clothes you select for their quality, there's also the Cadillac of tires. If your budget allows, we recommend exploring Goodyear's line-up of quality tires first. Otherwise, when considering other brands, we urge you to research the best products they offer in the tire you need.

Ask yourself, 'What is my family worth?'. You may save some money but it will be nothing compared to what you'll save in a little thing called life and the extension of it for you and those you love.