Tire Basics


The importance of your car's tires cannot be overstated; after all, they are the only things keeping you on the road. While things like brakes, suspension, and airbags are very important components, they are useless if your car isn't able to stay on the black stuff in the first place. 
So, tires. They help support the weight of the vehicle, and they provide grip in myriad conditions to ensure you can accelerate, steer, and brake effectively. They have to work in rain and snow as well as on dry roads that may be sealed or unsealed gravel tracks, and so it goes the design of the tire generally caters to specific seasonal use (generally, summer or winter tires), but it is also possible to buy all-season tires too; the jack-of-all-trades as it were. 
You see two main components of a tire when it is fitted to a wheel; the sidewall and the tread. The sidewall gives the tire lateral stability and also protects the unseen inner components of the tire (body plies). It is where the writing and essential data of the tire is printed, like its date of manufacture, load and speed ratings, and size. The tread is the top of the tire and what is touching on the road, giving you grip, and where the pattern is cut from to provide that grip. 
A tire's tread is arguably the most important part of the tire. Why? Well, without tread, when the road is wet, your tires will be unable to grip the road surface and you will do more than simply hydroplane; you may in fact spin right off the road, a result nobody wants to see. The tread in your tires disperses the water as the tires roll along, allowing the tires to continue gripping the road. If you consider a race car generally uses “slick” tires while racing on the dry surface (because they provide much more grip than grooved tires with tread), as soon as it starts to rain during a race, they must make a pit stop and swap to grooved wet-weather tires to continue racing safely. If not, the cars will just spin off the track as the tires are unable to grip. 
That's not to say it is safe for you or me to drive around with tires that have worn down to no tread. Far from it. Road tires are designed to operate with a certain level of tread to ensure they are structurally safe, maintain a minimum level of grip, and do not overheat. The minimum tread depth allowed is 2/32” across the whole width of the tire (not just at one part!), but on winter tires it is more conservative, at 5/32” (this is because the tread blocks in winter tires have small grooves cut into them, providing grip on a slippery and loose snow-covered surface. When a winter tire has less than 5/32” of tread left, this snow-driving ability is greatly diminished). The all-season tires mentioned above have characteristics from both summer and winter tires in their design, and are another topic in their own right. It is also worth mentioning that summer tires are designed to handle the heat of summer and winter tires are designed to operate at their best during the cold months. They are even made from different compounds for this reason, too, so running them all-year is not ideal if you live in an area that has proper winters. 
Tread depth can be checked a number of ways. The most accurate way is with a tread-depth gauge, but by law every tire must have easy-to-see tread wear indicator bars which indicate a depth of, you guessed it, 2/32”. If you are having trouble finding these tread wear indicator bars, fear not as there is a little trick you can try called the penny test. Simply dig into your pocket and find a penny. Insert the penny into the groove of the tire's tread with Lincoln's head pointing down, and if any part of his head is concealed by the tread, you still have tires which are legal to drive on. If not, new tires are definitely necessary. 
Of course, if you are not certain you need new tires, you can always call the experts, Charlie and Sergio, at (866) 881-6687 or book an appointment online, and they can assist you further with your tire needs.  

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