Top 5 Tire Myths Debunked

Tires stacked in zig zag patternThey affect your car’s handling, ride, braking and safety. But most people don’t give much thought to them.

Eighty-three percent of drivers aren’t “tire smart” (i.e., they don’t know how to properly check tire pressure), according to a 2015 survey from the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA).

You may be thinking, Tires haven’t changed since I bought my first set. Wrong! Since they carry you and your car around on the road, taking proper care of them is one of the most important safety factors that also happens to be the most overlooked. Here, we deflate the top five tire myths to make sure you know your way around on four wheels.

Myth #1: All Cars Come With Spare Tires

This used to be standard, but not anymore. For space-saving reasons and fuel efficiency, approximately one in three new cars don’t come with a spare tire in the trunk. Instead, you’ll get a “temporary mobility kit” with a tire sealant and a tire inflator or run-flat tires, says Maryland-based master mechanic and automotive radio show host, Pat Goss. If your tire is punctured, apply the sealant through the valve stem then use the inflator to re-inflate it, he explains. The downside? If the damage is more severe than a tiny hole (think nail size), the mobility kit probably isn’t going to cut it and you’ll have to be towed (GEICO’s mobile app makes it a cinch to request emergency roadside assistance.). Go check your trunk now, so you’re not surprised in an emergency.

Myth #2: The Correct Tire Pressure Is Listed On The Tire Sidewall

Half of all drivers believe this is where you should look to find out the ideal tire inflation pressure number. But these numbers actually tell you what size and kind of tire you have as well as the maximum cold inflation PSI the tire is rated for—not the recommended pressure for your vehicle. That information is actually listed on a label inside the vehicle’s driver-side door or in the owner’s manual.

Myth #3: A Tire-Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) Ensures That Your Tires Are Always Good To Go

A tire-pressure monitoring system electronically tracks and displays tire pressure via a gauge, pictogram display or a warning light on your vehicle’s dashboard. “These have lulled most drivers into believing that if the warning signal is off, everything is fine,” says Goss. Since a signal is only triggered when tires lose 25 percent of their inflation pressure (aka “dangerously low” tire pressure), you could be driving on tires that are underinflated enough to cause unnecessary wear, waste fuel and in some cases, decrease cornering ability while increasing stopping distances. Goss advises that you should check tire pressure every 30 days the old-fashioned way: manually, with a tire pressure gauge. (Need a refresher? Watch this quick how-to video on how to check your tire pressure.)

Myth #4: You Should Rotate Your Tires About Once A Year

Not exactly. Tire rotation should be performed every 5,000 to 8,000 miles, which also coincides with the typical oil change recommendation. So the easiest way to ensure this happens is to get both done at the same time, says Goss. Another way to keep track? “Most cars today have dual trip meters, so you can set one trip meter to zero when the oil is changed or the tires are rotated and wait for it to reach the desired miles,” says Goss.

Myth #5: Never Continue Driving If You Experience A Flat

Run-flat tires—which let you keep driving after a puncture so you can make it to an auto shop—are becoming more popular. “Many manufacturers are using them because the additional cost of four run-flats is less than the cost of a spare tire, wheel and jack,” says Goss. Run-flats vary as to how far they can be driven and at what speed, but generally speaking they can be driven for up to 50 miles at a reduced speed (usually about 50 miles per hour), he explains. You can tell if your car has run-flats by looking inside the driver’s door, in your owner’s manual or checking the tire sidewall for one of the following codes: RFT, DSST, ROF, RFT, EMT, XRP, ZP or ZPS.

Have more tire questions? Here are 5 signs you need new tires.

Knowing your way around your tires is one thing, but being truly streetwise means having dependable insurance that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Get a fast, free auto insurance quote from GEICO to see how much you could save.

By Nicole Cherie Jones

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  1. Bill Mahelona says

    You forgot something on Myth #1: If you find a spare tire, make sure it is properly inflated. Most people don’t check it at all.

  2. Rita Lamberson says

    Who makes run flat tires as in brand names and how much do they cost? How do u know if a vehicle can be ecquipped with them as well.

  3. E. C. Mabe, Jr. says

    You comments on proper tire inflation are not quite right. As a rule of thumb the inflation pressures on the inside of the door well are only for the factory tires. Not all tires have a maximum inflation of 35 psi either. There is no substitute for common sense. Observe the maximum inflation pressure for the tire that is on your car. Then, realize you will get the best performance with a certain tire profile against the street. This profile puts your tire fully in contact with the street with fully inflated sidewalls (not overpressure because this lifts the edges of your tires off the street). When in doubt what this should look like, ask your tire vendor or manufacturer. Also, realize that the inflation pressure between the front and back tires will be different based on the weight distribution of your vehicle and how you load it.

    You know when I look back at life, I begin to understand the wisdom of my Mom when she drove a Chevrolet Corvair. That car was horrible for under-steering so she inflated the tires until they looked right. Wisdom from the 60’s in the teens.

  4. Audrey Charron says

    Very good information, didn’t know several myths. Just purchased a new vehicle and is good to know…. Thank you…

  5. Jennifer says

    Bravo! Thank you for the info. I’m presently looking to replace my current tires. This article was perfect timing. Can’t wait for the next article…

  6. Rena H Butt says

    Thank you very much for all this information, being a woman, don’t know to much about what needs to be done or how. I do have a very good mechanic though, he keeps me straight! This information has been a big help to me, thanks again.

  7. Hector Ortiz says

    Thanks for the information its good to know since I just got a 2017 Honda Accord and there’s a lot of things I don’t know of the vehicle. Thanks