Myths About Tires and Tire Safety

When it comes to tires, tire maintenance, and tire safety, there is a lot of misinformation out there. A lot of people have thoughts and opinions about tires, but they are not always accurate. We want to dispel some of the myths surrounding tires and most importantly tire safety.

Common Tire Safety Myths

Myth: Having TPMS means I do not have to check my air pressure unless the warning light comes on.

The Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) is designed to provide a warning of low tire pressure in order to avoid tire failure, not to monitor and sustain the recommended air pressure. In fact, the TPMS warning light is not required to come on until the air pressure is 25% below the vehicle’s recommended air pressure. This means that the air pressure could be low enough to impact fuel efficiency and handling before the light even comes on. For this reason, we recommend checking your air pressure at least once a month, even if you have a TPMS system. Regular air checks help maintain the proper air pressure in your tires, making the TPMS light less likely to come on due to regular air loss or temperature change. Learn more about TPMS.

Myth: The new tires should go on the front of the vehicle when replacing only two tires.

It is actually much safer to install the new tires on the rear of the vehicle. Installing the new tires on the front axle provides less hydroplane resistance, and actually makes the vehicle more susceptible to a driving condition called oversteer. It is much safer to have the two new tires on the rear of the vehicle. Installing the new tires on the rear means the front tires will hydroplane before the rear tires, causing a condition known as understeer, which is much easier to correct than oversteer. In fact, simply taking your foot off the gas will slow the vehicle down, allowing the front tires to regain traction. Oversteer, on the other hand, is much harder to control. Installing the new tires on the rear of the vehicle provides more reliable hydroplane resistance. This can also occur on vehicles with a staggered fitment or dual rear wheels. However, because of the vehicle restrictions, the new tires may not necessarily be installed on the rear axle. We recommend ensuring that the remaining tires have adequate tread depth before replacing only two tires. Learn more about replacing two tires.

Myth: The tire sidewall provides the recommended air pressure.

The air pressure listed on the tire’s sidewall is actually the maximum air pressure at which the tire can be safely operated for the maximum load of the tire. The recommended air pressure is determined by the vehicle manufacturer for all original equipment specifications, and can typically be found in the owner’s manual or door placard. If, however, the tire size or tire load index has been changed from the original equipment, a new recommended air pressure based off of the new tire dimensions may be needed. We can help you determine the new recommended air pressure using a load/inflation table.

Myth: Low-profile tires and large diameter wheels improve the vehicle’s handling.

While having a low-profile tire with a large diameter wheel may improve steering response by reducing sidewall flex, it doesn’t ultimately provide improved handling. The tread design, rubber compound, and vehicle suspension play the greatest role in handling performance.

Myth: All tires with the same size designation have exactly the same dimensions.

Although tires from different brands may exhibit the same exact size designation, it is very possible that the tires will not have precisely the same overall dimensions. It is very common for tires to vary slightly in size from brand to brand, even if they are both the same size. In fact, tires may even vary by size within the same brand, from model to model. This is important when it comes to tire mixing, and it is particularly important to keep in mind if you drive a 4WD or AWD vehicle.

Myth: You can tell if a tire is low by looking at it or kicking it.

The only way to accurately check the air pressure is with an air pressure gauge. Visually inspecting and or kicking the tires may lead you to believe that the tires are properly inflated, but they may potentially be low. If you do not use a proper tire pressure gauge, you may be driving on tires that are underinflated, putting unnecessary strain on the tires. The best way to avoid this is to always check your air with a tire pressure gauge. Learn more about checking your air pressure.

Myth: Repairing a tire with a plug or an injected sealant is a safe way to repair tires.

While these methods may provide temporary protection, they’re not the safest option. The reason we say they are unsafe is because the temporary plug and tire sealant do not allow you to inspect the inside of the tire, which can easily be damaged if driven on at all while underinflated. They also do nothing to repair the inner liner, which is the feature that actually works to hold in the air. The surest way to repair a tire is to fill the hole with a solid rubber filler and vulcanize a patch to the inner liner, effectively sealing the hole and repairing the liner at the same time. This process helps to ensure that the tire maintains the proper air pressure and keeps moisture and debris from making its way into the hole, which can cause further damage.

Myth: If the tire has enough tread, it is safe to put into service.

Although tread depth is very important when it comes to tire safety, it is by no means the only consideration. Several other variables can compromise your tire’s ability to perform. First, if the tire has been used previously, follow these guidelines. One of the most important factors is the age of the tire. As tires age, the rubber molecules change, losing grip and structural integrity. We recommend considering replacement at six years of age. If your tire is ten years of age or older, it is considered non-serviceable. It is also important to check for weathering or ozone cracking. Exposure to heat and ultraviolet rays can cause weathering, which in excess can damage the structural integrity of the tire.

Myth: All-season tires have better wet grip than summer tires.

You might think that all-season tires would have the best performance in wet weather, but that is not the case. In fact, because all-season tires are modified to provide moderate traction in winter conditions, some compromises are made so that they don’t perform as well in wet weather. Summer tires have a more compliant rubber compound for better grip and wide tread voids to evacuate water from the contact patch rapidly. On the other hand, because summer tires are optimized for wet and dry performance, they should not be used for winter or snow driving under any circumstance.