In many ways there's a lot riding on your tires. The part of your tire that actually touches the ground is called the contact patch. It's actually fairly small; not much larger than the size of your hand. Think about that. As you and your three-thousand-pound vehicle are driving down the road, you're only tethered to the pavement in four spots not much larger than the palm of your hand. It's hardly an exaggeration to suggest that the condition of your tires is pretty critical.
When should you change your tires?
Most tires today generally have a useful life of 25,000 to 50,000 miles before they need to be replaced. These are averages and how fast your tires wear — and consequently how often they should be changed — depends not only on the tires, but also on how you drive. Fast cornering, heavy braking and rough road surfaces will all wear tires down significantly faster than a life spent on smooth roads, gentle cornering and smooth braking.
You should always refer to your Ford owner's manual for vehicle information, including tires. The section pertaining to wheels and tires provides the information specific to your vehicle, including information regarding tire maintenance and replacement.
What can affect tire wear?
There are several factors that affect your tire wear and tread life. Let's take a look at what they are.
Proper tire inflation is one of the single most important things you can monitor and control. The engineers that designed your vehicle specified an optimum tire pressure. Too much or too little air in your tires could lead to uneven or excessive wear over time. In fact, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that drivers check tire pressures at least monthly.
Be sure to refer to the tire label (located on the edge of the driver's door or B pillar) for the recommended inflation pressure for your tires. In general, over-inflated tires will typically wear more quickly down the center; while under-inflated tires will generally wear along both outside edges. Properly inflated tires wear more evenly and will last the longest. They also provide the best overall ride and handling.
Age of Tire
The age of your tire can be found by looking at the the tire sidewall for the DOT (Department of Transportation) code. This code and the tire sidewall has a lot of important information. Refer to your owner's manual for detailed information on how to read the sidewall of your tire.
The DOT code contains the U.S. DOT Tire Identification Number (TIN). This begins with the letters DOT and indicates that the tire meets all federal standards. The next two characters are the plant code designating where it was manufactured. The following two numbers are the tire size code, and the final four numbers represent the week and year the tire was built. For example, the numbers 317 mean the 31st week of 1997. After 2000, the numbers go to four digits. For example, 2501 means the 25th week of 2001. This information is used to contact customers if a tire defect requires a recall.
Tires are designed with a pattern of grooves or channels on the surface; these are called treads. Treads increase traction and, in the rain, divert water from under the tire. Over time the tread will wear down and will become less effective. Having good tread on your tires is extremely important to safe and comfortable driving.
The depth of the tread on your tires is an important factor in deciding when to buy new tires. When your tires are new, they typically have between 9/32 and 11/32 of tread depth. As the tread is worn down, the effectiveness of the traction is reduced. The legal minimum tread depth is 2/32''. Be sure to inspect your tires regularly and keep them at the recommended inflation PSI (Pounds per square inch).
There are three ways you can check tread depth. Measurements should be taken in two or three places around the tire to make sure you've gotten a reliable reading of the tire's condition.
- The simplest way to verify your tread depth is greater than 2/32” is the do-it-yourself “penny test”. Simply take a penny and insert it upside down into one of the tread grooves. If the top of Abraham Lincoln's head disappears between the ribs, your tread is still above 2/32”. If you can see his entire head, your tread is no longer deep enough and it may be time to replace the tire.
- Secondly, look at the tread wear bars across the width of the tread. These are rubber bridges across the channels of the tire. When these bars are level with the tread pattern, that means the tire has only 1/16” of tread left. It's definitely time to replace the tire right away.
- Finally, you can buy an inexpensive tread gauge designed to measure tread and show you exactly how much rubber you have left.
There's more than just tread life to consider. Take a careful look at your tires regularly. If there are cuts, slashes, damage to the sidewall, or visible wires from the steel belts starting to poke through the rubber, it's time to replace the tires. Also, if there are any bulges or blisters – typically you'd see them in the sidewall – this means the tire is damaged internally and should be replaced immediately. Lastly, improper wheel alignment can lead to tires — especially front tires — wearing irregularly. If any of your tires are showing excessive wear along either the inner or outer edge, that suggests an alignment problem. Ask your Ford dealership to check your alignment.
Here are a few things you can do to help your tires last longer and keep you safe on the road.
- Check your tire pressure regularly and keep them at the recommended tire inflation PSI (Pounds per square inch). It's best to check the tires before you drive the vehicle. (Be sure the vehicle hasn't been driven for at least three hours.) When you drive, the air inside the tire heats up and expands causing the tire pressure to measure higher than it would when at rest.
- Refer to your owner's manual for tire rotation intervals to ensure even tire wear. And if your spare is a full-size tire, consider having it included in the rotation pattern. This will help extend the overall life of your tire set.
- Have your alignment checked periodically, especially if your vehicle starts “pulling” to the left or right on straight smooth roads. This can be caused by an alignment problem, often from hitting a pothole or curb.
- In general, examine your tires regularly for cuts, bulges, belt wires showing through and/or excessive wear.
A word about wheel alignment
Keeping your wheels in proper alignment isn't easy, but it is important. Potholes, curbs and everyday wear and tear can take its toll on the suspension system of your vehicle. Driving a vehicle that's not in alignment can be a challenge. It can also be potentially dangerous. Checking vehicle alignment is not a do-it-yourself project. Special instruments are required to measure the precise settings for toe-in, caster and camber on your suspension. Your Ford Dealer has all of this equipment and is well-trained in the art of alignment.
Misaligned vehicles can cause the steering to pull or drift, even on straight and level roads. And, in some cases it can lead to vibrations in your steering which can cause a safety issue. Lastly, misalignment can also cause your tires to wear prematurely. Ask your Dealer to check your alignment each time you are in for service. It's recommended to do so when you buy new tires.
The Bottom Line – Six reasons to get new tires
Summing it all up, here are the six key things you need to remember when you're considering if you need to purchase new tires:
- The tire is worn to the minimum recommended tread depth.
- The tread or sidewall is damaged (including if the steel cords are starting to show through the rubber).
- There are any unusual vibrations (have it checked out soon; it could be your tires or an alignment or suspension issue).
- If the tires are over six years old. Old tires can form cracks from age. As the rubber deteriorates and loses its flexibility, the material dries and hardens, becoming dangerous to drive on.)
- Excessive wear along one or both edges of the tire. Note that even recent alignments can be impacted simply by hitting a pothole or curb and can cause wear.
If you notice any of these conditions, head to your Ford Dealer and they'll help you get the right tires for your vehicle to get you back on the road.
Why shop Ford dealerships for tires?
When shopping for tires, it's easy to get confused. With a constant barrage of tire coupons, social media posts and ads coming at you every day, the choices can be overwhelming. While it's normal to be concerned about the immediate needs of finding the best prices for tires, it's also a good idea to consider the long-term safety and cost of properly maintaining your vehicle.
The factory-trained service technicians at your local Ford Dealer are ready to help you find the best tires for your specific model at the best price possible. In fact, many dealerships offer Ford's Low Price Tire Guarantee, which allows them to beat the competition's price by $1! See your local Ford Dealer for program details. Consumers also have access to tire rebates during many months of the year on all 16 brands we carry. Dealers may also offer service coupons for tire rotation, balancing and installation.
We carry 16 major brands
Your Ford Dealer offers the following name brand tires and can generally fit all makes and models, in addition to Ford vehicles:
- Kelly Tires
- Michelin ®
- BFGoodrich ®
- General Tire
- Pirelli ®
- Yokohama ®
- Toyo ®
- Nitto ®
Factory-trained tire installation
Most of us aren't familiar with the ever-changing world of tire technology. Thankfully, there are about 40,000 factory-trained Ford technicians across America who are. Every year, forums across the web are inundated with tire installation nightmares. The tales vary from balancing errors to mounting mistakes, such as a technician's failure to recognize tire pressure monitoring systems, run-flats and other special technologies standard in many newer vehicles. These types of oversights can cause your monitoring system to malfunction leaving you in the lurch.
Ford Service Technicians are factory-trained to service Ford vehicles. Their training is developed by the same company that designed, engineered and built your vehicle. This means as the technology advances, so does their training.
Full-service maintenance and repair
As your vehicle reaches the 30K – 40K-plus mileage range, tires are not the only parts that may need attention. While most vehicles follow a regular maintenance schedule, some issues may occur before the recommended date or mileage range has been reached.
While servicing your tires, your Ford Service Technician is factory-trained to recognize and point out these potential maintenance issues to you. He or she can then recommend any needed repairs at the time of service, saving you additional trips to the dealership. These services can vary from a simple tune-up or oil change to more extensive engine or transmission repairs.
With over 48 million Ford vehicles in various makes and models on the road today, it has never been more important to ensure you choose a technician that is familiar with your vehicle's maintenance needs. Other benefits of dealership installation include:
- Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) parts
- Full-service maintenance and repair facility
- Parts and labor warranties
- Clean, comfortable waiting areas
- Shuttle service to and from your destination
- Friendly and knowledgeable staff
While Wi-Fi, shuttle service and clean, comfortable service areas are certainly a bonus, there are other benefits that should get you excited about creating a relationship with your local Ford dealership.
Ford Protect TireCARE Tire & Wheel Protection
Ford Protect TireCARE (FPT) is a smart investment to protect your tires and wheels from the everyday hazards of the road. Your policy covers all costs associated with the repair or replacement of a tire or wheel due to a road hazard, such as:
- Glass or metal in the road
- Potholes, debris, nails, blowouts, etc. (excludes cosmetic damage)
These costs include towing to the nearest Ford or Lincoln dealership or tire repair facility, with a reimbursement up to $100. You will also be reimbursed 100 percent of the cost of a new tire, including mounting, balancing, new valve stem, tire disposal and sales tax as shown on the sales invoice. You can learn more about FPT here.