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Every year, Patrick resolves to lose that spare tire. Every year, he fails. And then he complains about it. He caught me at a low point last week, and I barked back, “Well, why not take better care of the tires on the car? You can probably manage that.”

God bless him, he took me to heart and has resolved to do the whole “scheduled rotation” thing the guys at the tire shop are always on about.

Why rotate? Mike, senior systems manager at Discount Tire in Pacific Beach (858-581-9000; discounttire.com), had an answer. “All tires wear out, but the outside shoulder of the front right tire usually gets the most wear. If you’re jogging, and you break to the right, you’re putting your body weight on the outside of your right foot. It’s the same with your car, and we make more right turns than anything else. But if you rotate your tires, you can distribute that wear more evenly among them, and they should last longer. Usually, we rotate the front tires to the rear.”

Scheduled rotating also allows for periodic tire balance. “Balancing should be done every other rotation,” said Mike, with a rotation every 5000 miles. “If a tire is out of balance, the steering wheel is going to shake. The tire changes size and shape as it wears. When we balance it, we put it on a spindle and use a computer to locate the heavy spot. Then we add steel weights to compensate and restore balance.”

Together with proper inflation pressure, rotation and balance helps a tire to live its expected lifespan, which varies according to model (and price). “A Goodyear tire,” said Mike, “might warranty for 40,000 miles, whereas a Michelin or Pirelli in the same size might warranty for 65 to 80,000 miles. The cheapest we carry would be 13-inchers — say, for a Toyota Tercel. Four tires, installed and out the door, $234.13. For something like a Porsche, it may cost $1400. Discount Tire does not charge to rotate or repair tires, even if they aren’t purchased from us. If you do purchase them from us, balancing is also free for the life of the tire.” Otherwise, it’s $29.99.

Inspection is a key aspect of rotation, according to Gary Tillery, owner of Tire Depot in Normal Heights (619-280-0331; tiredepotinc.com). “It gives us an opportunity to see if you have other issues. For example, if your alignment is out. Also, because a lot of cars are low to the ground and have low-profile tires, you can’t always see the inside shoulder. They might look beautiful on the outside shoulder but be dangerously worn on the inside. That could result in loss of traction.” Or, if the tire gets worn enough that the interior steel belting starts to get damaged, it could lose its ability to hold up under stress, meaning at some high rate of speed.”

Tillery notes, “In my experience — and I’ve been doing this for 25 years — many manufacturers offer warranties that are unrealistic in the real world. In my opinion, 98 percent of the time, when a tire wears out prematurely, it’s not a result of the tire not performing well, it’s because there have been mechanical irregularities in the car, or poor air pressure, or lack of rotation. Those cause a tire to wear out more rapidly.”

Prices at Tire Depot start “at the low end, with taxes and labor at $225 to $250. But it’s not inconceivable to have tires cost $1600 to $2000.” Rotation and repair are free on tires purchased onsite. “Balancing runs $8 to $18, depending on tire size.”

Omar Qayyum, owner of San Diego Tire and Wheel Outlet in City Heights and Clairemont Mesa (619-280-0711; 858-277-6500; sdtireandwheel.com), offered good shopping advice.

“Ask about the tread ratings on the tire. They pretty much determine the tread life of the tire. Also ask about traction ratings. Those tell how well the tires do on wet roads. And temperature ratings say how well they perform in heat and dryness. The ratings come from the results of government tests. Those are three of the most important things. And ask what kind of mileage warranty the tires have.”

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Comments

SurfPuppy619 Jan. 22, 2011 @ 11:32 p.m.

Rotating tires is too much hassle for the small amount of extra tread you get out of it......I rotated every 5K, just like Discount tire advises, but even with their free rotations you spend an hour or two geting it done and it just isn't worth the time......

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Gekko4321 Jan. 25, 2011 @ 11:20 a.m.

I 100% agree Surfpuppy. I used to follow all the auto manufacturer recs for everything from tires to fluids to checkups. All I did was throw good money away on inevitable 'problems' that came back when I went in for something simple. The only thing I do regularly is change my oil and change tires when it gets to be that time. My 2001 Tahoe has 200,000 miles and no problems. I was told by Chevy dealer 3 years ago my AC belt was going to go 'any day' and it still works just fine. Bad, thieving mechanics have made it impossible to trust any of them! This article seems like a fluff piece for the 2 companies interviewed too.

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SurfPuppy619 Jan. 25, 2011 @ 11:53 a.m.

The only thing I do regularly is change my oil and change tires when it gets to be that time. My 2001 Tahoe has 200,000 miles and no problems.

I change the oil and air filter every 5K miles. I have changed the oil and air filter in my truck 66 times.

My 1986 1/2 Nissan Hardbody P/U truck has 331K miles on it. Runs strong STILL! I do change the belts, plug wires, plugs and radiator hoses every 50K miles, whether they need changing or not. Preventative care. I have never had the truck break down on the road from a belt or hose failure.

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Gekko4321 Jan. 25, 2011 @ 12:20 p.m.

You must do it yourself I assume or have a shop you can trust. If you have the latter, please put out the rec cause the trial and error to find a good one is too darn expensive! Ha, ha. I always love the "3 oil changes for $30" ads I see. Whats that gonna cost me really???

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SurfPuppy619 Jan. 26, 2011 @ 2:12 p.m.

No, these are not major jobs like clutches or brakes-I do all of this myself. Changing the oil and air filter is very easy, and it is $15-20 in parts to do that.

Changing hoses and belts is also pretty easy. Changing 7 of my 8 spark plugs (Nissan 2.4 litre, 4 cylinder engine with 8 spark plugs!!) is pretty easy too-the last plug is in the back and very hard to change-so I am glad I only do it every 50K.

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Ponzi Jan. 25, 2011 @ 7:25 p.m.

I buy tires at Costco. They have a good replacement policy and they do the rotations and repairs for free. I just have them rotated when I go shopping. The secret is to get their early on a weekday.

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