"Today's tires are designed so well, you never really think about them," says Theresa Palang, public relations manager for Yokohama Tire Corporation, maker of a variety of truck and car tires. "Even though they can capably handle all manner of surfaces in all kinds of weather, it's still a good idea to become familiar with your tires, especially if you're going to be on the road a good amount of time."
Palang says the first thing to know is what type of tires you have and what they can do. "Most people have no idea and get confused because there are so many types and performance categories. By educating yourself about tires and how to maintain them, you will be able to save money and fuel, vastly improve your vehicle's ride and handling, and better prepare yourself for the road ahead."
According to Palang, tires are defined according to whether they are summer, all-season or winter tires. Summer tires offer excellent handling in dry and wet conditions. All-season tires are designed for varying road conditions that include moderately cold or low temperatures. Winter tires are best for conditions that call for improved cold weather and snow/ice performance.
To best match the type of tire with your driving needs, look for the performance category that meets your requirements the most:
* Ultra High-performance - Deliver superior high-speed traction and control with a firmer, sportier feel.
* High-performance - Engineered to provide crisp handling, responsive feedback and allow the tire to operate at higher speeds.
* Touring - Provides the ride and noise comfort of a standard passenger car tire.
"There's a lot to consider when deciding on tires," explains Palang. "You have to take into account how you drive, how far, weather and road conditions, how you want the vehicle to perform and so on. Plus, there are new tire technologies, such as the use of orange oil we put in our AVID Ascend, which creates a special compound resulting in a balance of long tread life, all-season handling and great fuel economy."
For road trips or the daily commute, driving smart and maintaining your tires can save money at the gas station. Here are some of Palang's tips:
* Keep your tires properly inflated. Once a month, when the tires are cold (at least three to four hours after the vehicle has been driven), check tire pressure with a reliable tire gauge. Be sure the valve stems have a plastic or metal cap to keep dirt out and seal against leakage.
* Tires must be replaced when the tread is worn down to 2/32 of an inch to prevent skidding and hydroplaning. An easy test: place a penny upside down into a tread groove. If part of Lincoln's head is covered by the tread, you're driving with the proper amount of tread. If you can see all of his head, you should buy a new tire.
* Tire alignment should be checked once a year. Misaligned tires can cause the car to scrub, which lowers mileage and creates unnecessary tire wear.
* Slow down. All vehicles lose fuel economy at speeds above 55 mph. Driving 55 mph instead of 75 mph can reduce fuel costs by up to 25 percent. Driving 65 mph instead of 75 mph can save up to 13 percent.
* Turn off your engine if you're stopped for more than a couple of minutes. Fuel efficiency savings of up to 19 percent are possible by not letting your engine idle too long while stationary.
* Blasting off from a stoplight and then slamming on the brakes to stop uses gas at a much faster rate. Accelerating less and slowing moderately can increase fuel efficiency by more than 30 percent. Also, many traffic lights are timed for efficient traffic flow, so you'll hit more green lights in a row by maintaining the speed limit.
For additional tire care and safety tips, visit www.yokohamatire.com or www.rma.org.