Do your own maintenance
Tires don't require a lot of everyday maintenance. The two main strategies are to keep them inflated to the proper pressure, and to protect from the elements. They'll last longer, ride better, and be less likely to blow out.
The trickiest part of checking your tire pressure is that you actually have to check it twice: once before the vehicle has been moved that day, and again when you're at a gas station with an air hose. The first reading is from a cold tire, and it's the accurate one, while the second is from a tire that has warmed up from rolling on the pavement. Here's the routine:
- Get a good quality tire gauge, and measure the pressure in all four tires before you move the vehicle. You'll do this by removing the plastic caps on your valve stems and pressing the gauge firmly down over the metal threads on the end of the stem. You'll hear a little hiss as a bit of air escapes, but when you press the gauge firmly down and hold it there, the noise will stop and the gauge will register the tire pressure.
- Write down the measurement for each tire--this is your coldmeasurement. Tire companies specifications reflect cold tire pressures, and pressure is measured in PSI, or Pounds per Square Inch.
- The auto manufacturer has specified tire pressures for both front and back tires. Look for these specs on the inside edge of the driver's door, on the inside of the glove compartment door, or in the owner's manual.
- Compare the cold measurements with the manufacturer's pressure recommendations. If the manufacturer recommends a different pressure (either higher or lower) than the cold measurement, you'll adjust the tire pressure accordingly.
- Find a service station with an air hose. There will either be a metal handle that releases air when you squeeze it, or a simple metal fitting that releases air when it's pressed over the valve stem.
- Take the tire pressure again with your own tire gauge. It'll probably be a bit higher than the cold measurement, since the tire has warmed up from rolling along the pavement. This will be the warm measurement.
- If the cold measurement was lowerthan the manufacturer's recommendation, add the proper amount of air with the hose.
- On the other hand, if the cold measurement was higher than the manufacturer's recommendation, release the excess pressure from the tire. (This is easy to do: find the valve, and press on the metal piece in the center of the valve with your fingernail, a key, or a small stone, until your hear a hissing sound.
The tire's rubber compounds can dry out and crack just from daily exposure to sun, water and road salt.
- There are quite a few pump-spray rubber and vinyl dressings on the market now, and they work well on tires.
- Buy any one of the pump sprays which says that it protects rubber against UV exposure and follow the directions in applying it. Use it on the side of the tire, not the tread. If you apply the stuff three or four times a year, chances are that you won't wind up lots of little cracks in the side of the tire, and the tire will have a better shot at reaching a ripe, old age on your vehicle.