Basic Tips On How To Take Care Of Your Wheels And Tyres

Wheels and tyres are really important components for your car, because it literally makes the whole vehicle move, though some people still have problems taking care of them, or that they just don”t care. If you do care and you don’t want to waste money when your tyres fail at the absolute wrong time, here are some basic tips on how to take care of your wheels and tyres.

Wheel maintenance

Bent wheels from subtle to noticeable
Source: MiataForum, clublexus, acurazine.com

From the photos shown above you can clearly see that these wheels aren’t exactly round, as it should be, these wheels have been subjected to harsh driving, sometimes unintentionally by their owners. Bent wheels are almost always caused by hitting potholes and giant crater sized holes on the road, and living in Malaysia, those types of pavement are normal, my car’s new wheels already have some chips and road rash, which aren’t as bad, road rashes and chips are just mostly cosmetic.

However bents like these are far from just an eyesore, some people purposely love to hit potholes, not caring what is actually happening to your wheels and suspension, well¬† this is what happens if you look closely at your wheels, and sometimes you don’t actually see it as it can bend on your inner wheel. The only way to really see if you’re wheels are bent is by going to a tyre shop, which brings us to some tips on how to know, take care and maintain them.¬†

  • Avoid purposely hitting potholes, especially big ones, they can seriously damage your wheels.
  • Cars with bigger wheels and low profile are generally prone to have bents, road/curb rashes, be extra careful.
  • If you’re wheels are bent, the steering will begin to shake, uneasy handling and your tyres will start to deflate.
  • It is also obvious that there is visual damage on your wheels.
  • Your tyres will start to wear unevenly and may cause a blowout (seriously bad wheel bends).
  • Other mechanical components may be damaged from vibration.
  • Most tyre shops will offer to fix bent wheels (price depends on size, type, color etc).
  • Realign and balance your wheels every few months to know the condition of your wheels.
  • Replace wheels if they are bent too bad as the structure may be compromised.
  • Cracked wheels must be replaced immediately, as they can cause loss of control when driving.

As a driver who owns a Kia with 17 inch aftermarket wheels, because the original factory wheels were bent beyond fixing, it’s a bit hard taking care of them, I only had them for a few months at it’s already showing some scratches, luckily I haven’t bent any of them. The tips above are as basic as it can get, you just have to drive carefully and try to avoid damaging a rather expensive component of your car, because shops charge each wheels to fix! plus you have to leave it there for hours, days even. Cars with big wheels and low profile tyres (we’ll get to that portion soon) will have more problems, unless the wheels are built to handle continuous pothole slamming, now this doesn’t mean if your car has smaller wheels, you’re safe, I’ve seen Perodua Vivas with stock steel wheels turn into a square from hitting holes.

Tyre maintenance

Tyre maintenance are a whole different thing, these are the rubber that goes around your wheels that help you drive as smoothly and comfortable as possible. Tyres come in many different brands, sizes, width, profile and use, from big off-roading tyres to super sticky track tyres and to our normal road tyres, but even they have different variations within their range. 

Tyre diagram
Source: Wikipedia

Before getting tyres, you need to know what all those numbers mean, even though a tyre shop would know what to put on your care based on the manufacturer’s standards and the size of your wheels, it’s good to have more knowledge on these. The most important part of your tyre are rows of numbers with the slashes (/), as shown on the diagram above, that tells you the type (passenger), width (in millimetre) height and wheel size/diameter (in inches), you can ignore the R (radial) because here in Malaysia, we don’t have a four season climate, so radials are really your only choice. Now all of those factors play a role in getting a comfier ride, for instance your car, from the factory may have a 175 width with 65 height tyres on 14 inch wheels, tyre height is important, it is what most people call tyre profile, low profile tyres have very thin sidewalls, commonly used on high performance cars for tighter and stiffer performance, while high profile tyres have big sidewalls, which is comfortable on roads because of the big gap between the pavement and you, but it won’t be the best at handling, as the tyres might flex when cornering hard. This applies to having wider and thinner tyres, the wider it is, the better it handles.

Now this doesn’t have to be a major concern to you, because as normal people driving normally, you should just stick to the manufacture’s standard of wheel and tyre size, which is perfectly fine for normal daily driving. For example, my Kia came from the factory with 17 inch wheels, so when I changed to my aftermarket wheels, I didn’t have to modify anything in order for my wheels and tyres to fit. Wheels and tyres are extremely tedious when working on them to get the right fitment, if you really want to change any of them, such as getting wider and bigger wheels, always choose the right tyre for it to fit, because if you don’t get a wide enough tyre to fit your larger wheels, that tyre is going to be stretched over your fat wheels and it’s not going to last long with all that stress. There are so many factors to consider too, such as wheel spacing and clearing your inner wheel wells, but that’s a story for another time, let’s talk about how to know if your wheels are old, worn out and how to take care of them. 

  • Check the date of manufacture by looking at the numbers from the picture shown above.
  • Older tyres tend to get hard and generate loud road noises, a tyre would typically last around 4-5 years.
  • Tyre age also depends on how you drive, the more you drive, the more wear it gets. Though if not driven for a long time, they start to deflate and dry rot into the ground, check for cracks on the sidewalls.
  • Tyre brands are subjective, some brands may offer quieter rides, but my cost higher, stick within your budget (personally I’d use Bridgestone or Continentals).
  • Do not buy old tyres (check the date at the shop) or mismatched tyre brands for each wheels, this will cause compromised handling, braking and fuel efficiency. 
  • You can use a coin (old 20 cent) and dip it into the tyre tread (bunga) to measure the depth.
  • If your coin is deep into the tread, your tyre is fine, but if its sticking out, you need to consider getting new ones.

Tire wear patterns & coin test
Source: Tyrepower & cars-care.net

  • Check your tyres for uneven wear, each wear will dictate what is happening to your car.
  • One sided wear are caused by misalignment or worn down suspension parts, go to a tyre shop do re-do your alignment and balancing.
  • You will know your car is misaligned or non balanced when the steering starts to shake and the car will pull to one side when letting go of the wheel.
  • Misaligned tyres will also create a sound when driving at speeds.
  • Do your alignment and balancing every six months or when your tyres start to pull the car.
  • Two sided or the middle portion wearing is caused by under inflation (both sides) or over inflation (middle section).
  • Inflate or deflate your tyres, always use the recommended PSI air levels.
  • Your tyre PSI levels is usually on the driver side door sill (look down), or on some occasions the fuel door.
  • Look for a number (30 PSI for example) and insert that number to the air compressor, which are usually found in gas stations, wait for the machine to beep, indicating its done.
  • Patched tyre wear is caused when other suspension components are worn out, or aggressive braking.
  • All of these worn tyres are NOT safe to drive, especially on long journeys at highway, replaced them as soon as possible.
  • Tyres can get so worn and bald, the metal cords under them might be exposed, you shouldn’t be driving anymore if that happens.
  • Compromised tyres can cause, handling, breaking, and fuel efficiency issues along with a loud and uncomfortable ride.
Bubbled tyre
Source: parksidemotors.ca
  • Bubbled tyres are the worst case scenario, the sidewall may expand due to constant unevenness and wear when driving.
  • The bubble will burst and can completely shred your tyre and destroy your wheels.
  • Bubbled tyres must be changed immediately.

So there you have it, these are just basic tips on how to take care of your wheels and tyres, there are more detailed things that you can consider, mostly number based decision making, but for an ordinary driver with an ordinary car, these tips will work just fine, always remember to take care of your car tyres and wheels, because they aren’t cheap to replace and is not worth wasting your precious time. Avoid bad road pavements that can misaligned your car, routinely check up on your tyres to make sure they are in good shape to be driven because you’re going be in great danger if your wheels or tyres decide to give up driving at high speeds. 

If you have tips of your own and questions, feel free to share to us in the comments section, drive safe and smart everyone!