Don’t let tire shopping tire you out

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There are closed treads, open treads, all season tires, snow tires, tires with a warranty for 40,000 miles, 50,000 miles, even 85,000 miles. Who could have guessed that shopping for tires could be so complicated?

“The process begins knowing the customer’s needs,” admitted Don Gilks, manager of Sullivan Tire and Auto Service. “There are entry level tires that are inexpensive for general use. Someone who travels a bit more on a regular basis might need a higher grade, more aggressive tire. It all depends on the vehicle and the way it’s used.”

Adam Smith, manager at VIP Tires in Auburn put this writer to the tire test.

“What kind of car do you drive?” he asked.

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“A 1998 Buick Century that I inherited from my 96-year-old mother-in-law,” I responded.

“A family car,” Smith nodded, adding that I’d want a smooth ride on the road. “I’d recommend all-season tires with a closed tread—less aggressive ride, quiet and comfortable for summer weather conditions.”

“Should I still consider winter tires when the cold weather arrives once again?” I asked.

“Some people are fine with all-season tires year round, but I like to recommend winter tires,” Smith responded.

In writing this story, I discovered there is no shortage of tires to choose from and there is a wide price range to meet every budget.

“Our tires range from $40 to $120,” said Smith, noting that buyers can purchase good, better and best tires from all major brands.

Gilks reminded me that there’s more involved than simply purchasing tires. There’s ongoing maintenance that extends the life of the tire.

“You should rotate tires on a regular basis,” said Gilks, recommending that it be done every 6,000 miles or so.

Rod Cameron, owner of Cameron Tire & Service, Inc., agrees that rotating tires is essential, and that a wheel alignment every 12,000 miles or once a year will extend the life of the tire.

When asked about wheel alignments, Gilks chuckled, saying that with Maine roads, especially during the winter, a regular wheel alignment is very important.

Most dealers offer tire warranties as well as packages with follow up tire rotation, wheel re-balancing, and wheel alignment throughout the life of the tire. These services vary in price, conditions and restrictions.

Cameron suggests that car owners pay special attention to the manufacturer’s specifications for tire size and speed.

“There’s a wide range of sizes and speed ratings for tires that will fit your vehicle,” said Cameron. “If you fluctuate from the manufacturer’s specifications, you can end up with many handling problems for your car.”

And perhaps the simplest but best advice for maintaining tires is to check the air pressure in them on a regular basis.

“If you have five pounds more air pressure than you need, or have five pounds less air pressure, either way you can have handling problems or unnecessary tire wear,” said Cameron. “Checking the air pressure is the best thing you can do.”

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