To answer the question of how many miles a tire should last, we'll say it depends. Consider the speed rating, the size, the kind of car it’s on, the brand, the pressure. Depending on the brand, the tread, that is, the outer layer of the tire that makes contact with the road could outlast the rest of the tire. Some tire manufacturers will give you a mileage warranty, i.e. replacement before 70,000 miles or so. If the quality of the tire is high, with timely tire rotation and modest driving those tires are capable of lasting much longer.
Tire maintenance is preventative. If you don’t pay attention to your tires, and they end up bubbling or warped, or low on pressure for an extended period of time, it could affect things like steering, alignment, gas mileage, acceleration, deceleration, braking, etc. Tires are the only things that keep your car from going out of control, they are the only direct contact your car has with the ground.
If your tires are in bad condition, your car is a safety hazard. If you try quickly stopping a car going 60 mph that is suddenly without tires, you’re going to have a bad time. Hopefully, you’re beginning to understand how big of a deal tires are, and if you don’t, then do us all a favor and sell your car for a bus pass.
There are a couple things you can buy that help with tire maintenance:
When using a tire tread gauge you can check the depth of your tread against a tread depth chart and see just how much tread you have left, and how dangerous your tire conditions might be.
To check pressure simply remove the dust cap on the tire you want to check, connect the gauge’s stem to the valve and you’ll get a reading. Higher psi ratings can improve gas mileage, and lower psi ratings can improve traction, but there is a delicate balance that needs to be reached because too far in either direction will prove detrimental to your car’s performance and safety.
One of your tires exploding is a possibility, and it can happen anywhere at any time, for a number of reasons. For instance, if your tires are overinflated, old, cracking and falling apart, or so low on tread life that the metal band that holds it all together is visible, your tires run the risk of exploding.
When that happens, your car will be harder to steer, braking will be less effective, and you could suffer massive damage to your wheel. In the event of a tire blowout on the highway, it’s best to release the throttle, stay off of the brakes, and coast to the shoulder with your hazards on. Stop the car as soon as you can, and assess the damage.
There are a couple of emergency kit items that could come in handy depending on how your tire is affected:
Sometimes bad things happen to tires, for instance, punctures or slow leaks. In those instances, these two things can help preserve your tire at least until you can get it to a shop.
In general, the more you pay for a tire the better quality it’s going to be. Each one is different, so be sure to research which is better for your climate, commuting, town driving, motor racing, or whatever else it is you do with your car.
Cars have thousands of elements that all work together for one thing, and that is moving under its own power. It all ultimately comes down to tires, as those are what connect that power to the ground.
Several elements go into making tires, and technology has come a long way to manufacturing how long tires last, what kind of compound they are made of, as well as how they are constructed. Tires are built to degrade at a certain rate and are designed to work properly until a top speed rating is reached. Tires are also built to operate at specific temperatures.
Tire technology stems in part from motor racing R&D. Pirelli as the sole tire provider for Formula 1 spends millions of dollars per year researching and building tires that are designed for maximum grip in multiple situations. For instance, Pirelli’s tire compound choices for F1 cars go from an ultra soft compound to a hard compound, with the exception of intermediate and wet, both for wet weather racing.
The softer compounds heat up faster and offer maximum grip much earlier than the hard compounds, but they don’t last as long as the harder compounds which take longer to heat up but last for many more laps. F1 teams will choose which tire compounds they’re going to bring to each circuit based on how tight the turns are and how much speed the cars can carry through each corner. It’s the same for street tires.
You may notice on the side of your tires there are lots of numbers and letters, and each one matters:
The size is denoted by three numbers, for example, 205/55/R16 where the first number (205) indicates the width of the tread, the second (55) measures the sidewall, or, the area between the inside rim of the tire and the tread. The third number, beginning with R for radial ( which is a type of construction), is the diameter of the inside. Radial tires are made up of layers of fabric.
A load index is what tells you how much weight the tire is designed to handle, while the speed rating is the top speed at which the tire is supposed to go. Going beyond that speed stretches the capabilities of the tire. The speed rating is shown as a letter, which represents a range of speed.
A tire’s speed ratings have been tested in laboratories, and don’t account for things like punctures and potholes, so any incidents like that will severely reduce the tire’s top speed capabilities. It’s also a good indication of how well your tire handles hotter temperatures, so if you live in a hot climate a higher speed rating might be ideal.
Avid Formula 1 fan and motorcyclist, I enjoy chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream and long rides to the beach.