Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Tire Myths Debunked

Mechanics Hub - October 31, 2013

As one of the most commonly replaced parts on a car, vehicle tires represent a $23 billion industry, according to IbisWorld.com. Everyone seems to have some kind of advice about proper tire care and replacement, but it can be hard to separate the facts from fiction. Check out these four tire myths:

Only Big Companies Make Good Tires

Based on sales, Bridgestone is the world's leading tire manufacturer. But that doesn't mean its tires are superior to other brands. Smaller manufacturers penetrate the market with niche tires designed for fuel economy, traction and longer life. For instance Nexen tires, a small Korean tire manufacturing company, makes touring, high-performance and all-terrain tires that rival those produced by the bigger companies and cost less. Most brand-name tires cost more just because of brand recognition.

Lower Tire Pressure Equals Better Grip

While a reduced tire pressure used to provide better grip in older tires, it won't today. Lowering tire pressure will reduce your mileage and impact your handling. Manufacturers actually recommend you increase the tire pressure when driving in the winter, because tire pressure drops about one pound for every 10-degree drop in temperature. You may even want to go up another 5 pounds per square inch.

Overinflating Will Cause a Blow Out

Some people think inflating past the recommended tire pressure takes you to the brink of a blowout. However, tire pressure ratings refer to the amount of weight the tire is able to carry, and going over by a few pounds is fine. While inflating a tire to double its max pressure rating may cause tire failure if you hit an object or deep pothole, most tire failures are actually due to lower tire pressure, the Connecticut Department of Transportation reports.

Tire ratings indicate the pressure at which the tire provides the best grip when turning. Keeping your tires properly inflated to the right pressure gives you better traction and helps you avoid objects in the road. Reducing pressure only slackens your tread and makes for less control.

Rear Tires Are Less Important Than Front Tires

While rear tires usually wear more slowly in front-wheel drive cars, they are still important. Rear tires help you brake, accelerate and stay on the road. Swapping worn tires to the back can reduce your car's handling and cause your vehicle to brake slower, skid more often and fishtail on sharp turns. You need decent traction on both ends of your car for the best performance.