For the non-mechanically inclined, cars are pretty much an assembly of mysterious parts and pieces, and if one of them stops working, there’s a good chance the whole contraption will be rendered useless. While those who aren’t gear-heads might be puzzled over many breakdowns, there’s one type of problem nearly anyone can identify: a blown tire. Naturally, this only happens at the most inopportune time, usually in inclement weather, and results in having to slowly limp home on a donut. Most of us aren’t even aware of what tires we need, or how to find a tire shop near you. How do you know what tires you need? How do you pick a tire shop? There are plenty of questions to be answered before you can drive your car again. It can be tempting to just give up and use public transportation or ride share for the rest of your life, but costs can quickly add up, and your car payment will not go away just because the car can’t be driven! Instead, it’s time to learn a few things about tires, and how you can locate not only the best tires for your needs, but a tire shop near you to help with the process.
When Do I Need to Replace My Tires?
Sometimes, a tire blow-out is caused by a very obvious encounter with road debris or dangerous road conditions (potholes, anyone?). A blown tire can also be the result of an accident. In many cases, though, your car might try to tell you there’s a problem with the tires. In this day and age, many cars have tire sensors that will sound an alarm or display a message when the tires are low, but symptoms of tire issues can occur without tripping those sensors. A regular, quick once-over of your tires will help you identify any concerns before the damage is too great. Here are some things to look for:
Bulging Tire Sidewalls
- Maybe you ran over a branch or a curb, and everything looked OK at the time, but now the sidewalls of your tires are starting to bulge. This can mean that the interior structure of the tire has been compromised, so it’s a good idea to get them checked out.
- Aluminum rims are very popular, and it doesn’t take much to bend them. A bent rim can create uneven pressure on a tire, so it’s best to get this taken care of right away.
Drifting, trouble steering, or uneven suspension
- When you drive, does your car naturally bear to the left or right? Do you have trouble turning your vehicle one direction? When you hit the occasional normal bump in the road, do you feel like you’re getting thrown around the cabin a bit more than usual? It could be that the tires are out of alignment. This will cause the tires to wear unevenly, which can impact the inner mechanics of your vehicle.
- Is there a new noise or noise level that seems to be coming from the road? Thin or damaged tires often have a different “whining” noise when driven, especially at higher speeds. To avoid a thin or damaged tire becoming a full freeway blowout, consider getting the tires looked at now.
Even undamaged tires need to be changed. The general test to determine if you’re in need of new tires is to insert a penny headfirst into your tire treads. If you can see the top of Abraham Lincoln’s head, the tires need to be changed. Of course, there could be other reasons to change your tires, as mentioned above, so if you have any doubts about the soundness of your tires, have them checked out by a qualified professional mechanic or tire shop near you.
How Do I Choose the Right Tires for My Car?
Before you purchase new tires, you’ll need to know what tires you’ll need. You don’t have to be a tire expert to know that tires come in many different sizes and capabilities, and that purchasing the correct tires for your vehicle is essential for keeping it on the road.
The good news is that your vehicle will tell you exactly what tires it needs. Either the owner’s manual, or a placard on the driver’s side door jamb will provide you with the information you need. Tire measurements usually look something like this: P215/60R16 94T. You can actually enter those exact digits into Google to find out what tires meet those requirements, but in case you were wondering, the first part means that you’re driving a passenger vehicle with a tire width of 215 millimeters. 60 is the aspect ratio of the sidewall height, which in this case means that the tires height from the edge of the rim to the tire’s tread is 60% of the width. R indicates a radial tire, which is what most modern tires are. 16 is the diameter of the wheel that the tire needs to fit. 94 is how much weight each tire can support, and T indicates the speed rating, which is Touring. This is typical of many passenger vehicles.
Now that you know the size tire you’ll need, consider how you’ll use those tires. Are you a casual driver who doesn’t spend a lot of time in the car, but wants a comfortable ride? Consider touring tires, which have a soft ride and stable grip on both dry and wet surfaces. If you’re jetting around in your sports car, you’ll definitely need performance-designed tires, which are capable of providing better road grip at higher speeds. Do you spend a lot of time off-road? In that case, all-terrain tires might be the best choice for you. If you haul a lot of cargo or do a lot of towing, you’ll want tires with a higher load index (the 94 number in the example above). Special tires are made for work trucks, too, so you might need to consider these options. All-terrain and truck tires often have more aggressive tread, which helps them gain purchase on a variety of surfaces. This might be a little more than you need for your Chevy Cruze. For most daily commuters, touring or high performance tires will be a good fit.
Which Is the Best Tire Shop Near Me?
Once you know what you need, finding it is the next step. It is always a good idea to shop around for tire shops near you to find the best sales, service, and value. Of course, typing “tire shop near me” into Google is going to lead to you page after page of friendly local retailers, so how do you decide which one of the many to choose?
The first thing to know is that you shouldn’t choose your tire shop based strictly on price. Yes, it is important to know if a tire shop is deeply undercharging or terribly overcharging for their tires and service, and it’s definitely worth noting if a tire shop is having a very limited time sale on the exact tire you need. However, value is created by many factors beyond price, so do a lot of shopping around.
First, ask around. Friends, family, coworkers, local forums or Facebook groups: ask them all. Granted, when it comes to any business, someone will have had a horrible experience, and someone will have had an absolutely fantastic experience. It’s important to vet all opinions based on the situation and the speaker. If Aunt Edna hasn’t been happy with her car since her AMC Gremlin gasped its last breath in 1978, she is not your best resource. On the other hand, if a dozen people mention that they’ve had a positive experience every time they go to a certain location, that’s a generally trustworthy level of experience.
At this point, you’ll probably have a few names on your list. Check their online reviews next. Again, discount all the Aunt Ednas and look for the general consensus on opinions. Once you get a good feeling about a shop, you’ll want to find out more about them. For example, do they sell the tires only, or do they install, handle the alignment, and more? Are they strictly knowledgeable about tires, or do they handle a variety of other mechanical services? You want to make sure that the professional from whom you purchase your tires really knows what they’re doing, so if the tire person isn’t in when you stop by, see if you can’t make an appointment with them. If you are lacking in experience, it is highly recommended to use an expert!
A tire blowout can be a stressful experience. While avoiding this situation isn’t always feasible, there are measures that can be taken to ensure you purchase the proper tires from a tire shop near you before the situation becomes dire. And regardless of the cause, doing a little investigation will help you find the best tire shop near you for all of your tire needs.