Purchasing New Tires

Honolulu residents spend an average of 26 extra hours a year in traffic delays. In addition, TRIP, a National Transportation Research Group, states 61% of Hawaii's roads in Honolulu are in poor condition and 45% of the state's urban highways are congested. A vehicle's tires are a critical and often overlooked component to a vehicle's safety. While the life span of a tire can be as much as 75,000 miles, poor road conditions and a lack of proper maintenance can significantly lessen the manufacturer's stated life span.

Tire Information

When purchasing new tires, it is important to find the right size and type recommended by your vehicle's manufacturer. Federal law requires tire manufacturers to place standardized information including a tire's identification safety standard information. This information may found on the placard in the door jamb or glove compartment, on the fuel door or the owner's manual of your vehicle or on the sidewall of the tire.

Choosing a tire*

Tire size (the dimensions necessary to find the tire fitment) as well as load rating and speed rating can be found on the sidewall of a tire.

Speed rating is the maximum sustainable speed usually found on the tire sidewall directly after the load index. Try to choose tires that have a speed rating at least as high as what is recommended for your vehicle. Tires with higher speed ratings tend to provide better handling at legal speed limits.

  • Q = 99 mph
  • S = 112 mph
  • T = 118 mph
  • U = 124 mph

Ride quality - Lower profile tires have stiffer sidewalls, which improve handling but decreases ride quality. In general, a lower profile tire also exposes the wheel to damage more easily.

Noise – Some tread designs are noisier than others and will vary between tire brands and tread design. When choosing a tire, a salesperson will be able to tell you which tires are quieter among those you are considering.

*SOURCE: Edmunds.com, Consumer Reports.

Types of tires

According to Consumer Reports, there are three types of tires: car, truck and winter. In each category there are choices depending on: how you drive, the type of tire currently on your vehicle and the performance you prefer.

  • All-season tires - come in sizes to fit everything from small cars to full-sized SUVs and pickups and are for drivers who prefer year-round traction, long tread wear and a comfortable ride.
  • Performance all-season tires - has a higher speed rating than standard all-season tires. Performance tires generally provide better handling and braking and usually have a shorter sidewall height and a wider footprint for sportier applications.
  • Ultra performance tires - are usually fitted to upscale sedans or sport vehicles. Designed to provide good handling and responsive steering in wet and dry conditions, the tread wear and ride comfort are commonly compromised.

Tire Maintenance – P.A.R.T**

Pressure – Under inflation can result in unnecessary tire stress, irregular wear, loss of control and accidents. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration reports 600 deaths and 33,000 injuries occur each year as a result of under inflated tires.

Alignment – A bad jolt to your vehicle from hitting a pothole or curb can throw your vehicle's suspension out of alignment resulting in uneven tire wear and possible problems with your vehicles handing.

Rotation – Each tire on your vehicle supports a different amount of weight. Uneven weight distribution can cause your tires to wear at different rates. If your vehicle owner's guide does not specify a rotation period, tires should be rotated approximately every 5,000 miles.

T.R.E.A.D. or Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation refers to the "wear bars" or small, raised bars of rubber in the groove that indicates when tires are worn out. Advanced and unusual wear can reduce the ability of tread to grip the road in adverse conditions. The "Lincoln Penny Test" has become a reliable method to determine if it is time to get new tires. The minimum safe tread depth in Hawaii is 2/32", which is the exact distance from the tip of Abraham Lincoln's head to the rim of a penny.

**SOURCE: The Rubber Manufacturers Association.

The Penny Test***

The Lincoln Penny Test has become the tried-and-true method of determining if it is time to purchase new tires for your vehicle.

  • Take a penny and pinch between your thumb and forefinger at the bottom of the coin, making sure Lincoln's head is the top of the coin.
  • Turning the coin upside down, making sure Lincoln's head is in one of the grooves on the tread. Select a tread on the tire where the tread appears the lowest.
  • If any part of Abe Lincoln's head is obscured by the tread, you're driving at the legal and safest amount of tread. If you can see above his head, the thread may be below the legal limit and it may be time to purchase new tires.

***SOURCE: Road and Travel Magazine.

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