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Girl’s Guide to Purchasing Tires

Purchasing tires, otherwise known as those black, rubber things that keep your car rolling along, is not what I consider a glamorous purchase. For me, making a tire purchase is like scrubbing a toilet. You know you need to do it, but you wish someone else would swoop in and do it for you. With the cost of tires for my car, I could take a mini vacation to a tropical island. Instead, I’m buying tires. Safety first, right?

My car recently hit a big milestone, ten years, 100K miles. I love my little car, and I’ve done a good job of keeping it running. I recently purchased four new tires. Oh yes! Four. All four. Go big or go home, I always say. I admit that I’m “auto mechanically” challenged, so I decided to do some research. Ladies, the Internet is crawling with information and advice for us gals on how to purchase manly things like tires. I stumbled over a large number of online tire guides, tire websites, and information on how to make a tire purchase. I did my homework. I shopped around and opted to go with Discount Tires. They are a stand up company and the road always seems to lead me back to them. Pun intended. I probably could have wheeled and dealed a little more, but there comes that point in time where I knew I had to bite the bullet and make the darn purchase. Being a woman, walking into a tire shop can be intimidating, so it’s good to walk in somewhat prepared. It doesn’t have to be a nerve-racking experience.

Here are 10 basic things we ladies should know when making a tire purchase:

  1. Know what to do if you get a flat tire: how to drive off the busy road, learn how to change a tire, and know how to use sealant foam properly. If you have AAA or other roadside assistance, you can always call for a tow. For more help see: http://www.wikihow.com/Fix-a-Flat-Tire
  2. Know the size and type of the tire you need.
    • There are thousands of types of tires and brands out there. For my ‘lil sports car, run flats are recommended. I also have no space for a spare. But this go around, rather than spend over $1,000+ on four new run flats, I opted to purchase Michelin Pilot Super Sport – Max Performance Summer tires instead.
    • The number on the outside of your tire (i.e. 225/45 R17) is there for a reason. Still with me?
      • Some tires have a letter in front of the first number:  P (for Passenger Vehicle) or LT (light truck). My tires are European, so there is no number.
      • 225 = Width of the tire in millimeters
      • 45= Aspect ratio (height of the sidewall from the edge of the rim to the tire’s tread is 45% of the width of the tire)
      • R = Radial construction (there is also B [Bias Belt] and D [Diagonal])
      • 17 =  The tire size was designed to fit rims or wheels that are 17″ in diameter.
    • You can find the air pressure information printed on that sticker inside your driver’s door.
    • Make sure you get the right tire for where you live. Since I live in California, I went with summer tires.
  3. Know how your tires wear on your car. For instance, my tires wear on the inside. Keep reading. It’s not so easy to tell if they are wearing down. So I have to turn my wheels and check the inside treads of the tire.
  4. Check the air pressure from time to time:
    • Buy a trusty gauge at your local discount auto store, Walmart or Target.
    • Stop into one of the tire stores and ask if they can check the air pressure. They usually will do it for free.
  5. Know when you need new tires:
    • Feel of your drive on the road – does the car pull in one direction? Do you feel every groove in the road? Does your steering wheel shake? Is your drive smooth?
    • The Penny Test – Place a penny in the tread of the tire, if more than ½ is showing, your thread is toast and you need a new tire.
    • You should rotate your tires every 3,000-6,000 miles. Check your owner’s manual and ask your mechanic or tire guy what he suggests.
    • Have your mechanic check them out when you get your car serviced. Every girl should have one. I do, and he’s a good guy.
  6. Do your research – know what you’re buying.
    • Look up best tires for your car make and model. Tirerack.com is a great resource, and you can chat online with a professional.
    • Check out the various manufacturers: Bridgestone, Dunlop, Extensa, Goodyear, Kumho, Michelin, BFGoodrich, and more…It’s like shopping for shoes online for your car but not.
  7. Shop around. Usually the car dealer charges way too much unless they are running a special. Even then, shop around. The discount chains offer competitive prices and usually have coupons available online, through direct mail, in the paper, etc. Costco offers great deals too. However, in my case, they required me to purchase and bring in the manufacturer’s spare tire before they would consider replacing my run flat tires. My car is too small to house a spare tire. So my other option is a tire sealant foam like Effetto Mairposa’s Cafféelatex sealant.
  8. Wheel and deal a little. Use your female wiles if you need to but don’t play dumb. Show that you are confident and informed.
  9. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
  10. Make the purchase and take a deep breath when you see the bill.

Also, Make sure to properly align your tires – It’s more scientific than you may think. It’s more about suspension than your actual wheels. Wikipedia defines it as “wheel alignment sometimes referred to as breaking or tracking, is part of standard automobile maintenance that consists of adjusting the angles of the wheels so that they are set to the carmaker’s specifications.” Also rotate them. Rotating your tires makes them last longer. It’s suggested that you rotate them every six months or when you get your oil changed. It’s also recommended that you only rotate your tires front to back not left to right.

You don’t have to do or know it all, but it’s good to have basic knowledge of your car and tires.

By | Gina Cafasso

2 thoughts on “Girl’s Guide to Purchasing Tires

  1. Wow! Thank you for these tips on buying car tires. I just got a used car and I know I should replaced the tires before I head out on cross country trips this summer. I also know that it’s important to look at the sidewalls of the tires to make sure that the tires you’re purchasing aren’t too old. Good luck to those buying new tires for their cars!


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