This is a sponsored post, I am a Sears blogger, though all opinions are my own.

Learn About Tires with Robyn and Sears Auto Center #SACRoadWarriors #ad

There is no way to get around knowing something about cars in my home. Hubby and T are both “car guys” and I actually grew up hanging around a bunch of car guys when I was a teenager even. So while I am not oblivious to the automotive world, there are still things that I could learn more about. Sears Auto Centers asked me to be a part of their #SACRoadWarriors program (disclosure: I am being compensated for my time; opinions are my own) I was happy to accept and be able to learn a bit more than what Hubby and T have told me over the years.

robyn and dowon selfie

Sears Auto Center set up an appointment for me to go in and learn about tires this time. Adam, the store manager, and Dowon (pictured above), an automotive technician, took their time in explaining so much to me about tires. Thanks guys for your help!

tire and wheel 01

Tires are really a lot more than just round rubber tubes your car rides on. Your tires provide the connection between your car and the road and you need to always be sure they are in good condition for your own safety, your passengers, and others on the road.

SAC intake and free inspection

When you take your car into a Sears Auto Center they will complete a Vehicle Intake and Courtesy (FREE) Inspection. This gives them your info, they will ask you about any problems you are noticing about your car and the way it drives and then one of their techs will check over things like tire wear and condition, belts, hoses, brakes, fluids, suspension, filters and more. I like that on this sheet they have the green, yellow, and red boxes to mark for the items they inspect. Green means it is acceptable, yellow means it will need future attention, and red means fix it now. This is where having a reliable shop and technician becomes very important. You want to be able to trust what they are telling you and not worry that they are just trying to sell you stuff. Sears has a long history of good relationships with their customers and that extends itself into the Sears Auto Centers.

bad tire

In case you couldn’t tell, the above tire is in dangerous shape! You can see inside the chalk line there is the brighter spot in the center where the steel belts are actually hanging out – this is bad! The belts are like the framework of the tire. The lighter lines around those are the cords showing because the rubber has worn away. Again, this is still a dangerous tire.

Hopefully, your tires do not look like these. That doesn’t mean that they are safe though. You have to look at things like tread depth which is the depth of those groves you see on your tire (the part that touches the road). You want to have a minimum of 2/32 to 3/32 of tread depth left, anything less and it is time to replace your tires.

Other things to look for on your tires would be bubbles or bulges in the sidewall – the sidewall is the part of the tire that faces out (or in) that does not touch the road. Splits, cracks, cuts, or debris stuck into the tire (like nails) are more things to watch for. If you hit a curb or pothole be sure to inspect your tire right away for these types of damages. Any of these things are signs of tire damage and you should have your tires inspected by a professional.

Tire pressure is important and you should check it yourself or have a tech do this every three months or so. Proper tire inflation promotes longer tire wear and better fuel economy. Most newer cars have a tire pressure monitoring system which will display the pressure and/or a warning symbol if there is a problem. Do not ignore those displays and warnings, have the tires checked out. Better safe than sorry.

Rotating your tires is important to ensure even tire wear. On average this should be done about every 5,000-6,000 miles. It doesn’t hurt to have the balanced checked when they do a rotation also.

engine 01

Even if you bring your car in specifically for tire checks, service, or replacement, a good shop will inspect other parts of the vehicle first. Parts like tie rods, ball joints, struts, shocks, and suspension should be looked at to make sure they are not the root cause of your tire problems. If they are a problem you need to get those fixed before you put new tires on or the problem will continue and just chew up your new tires.

alignment rack

Alignments should always be done when you have new tires put on. They are also done if your steering wheel is off center, if you have hit a large pothole, or your car is pulling to one side or the other. The car is placed on a big rack like this (above) and sensors are placed on all the wheels and a computer tells the technician how the wheels are sitting.

alignment computer screen

Camber, caster, and toe are the primary terms a tech may show you. Camber is the inward or outward tipping at the top of a tire. Caster is the forward or rearward angle of the steering axis. Toe is the inward or outward point of the tires at the front-most part of the tire. Don’t worry if you do not remember these definitions. Technicians are trained on how to use these alignment machines and what all of these terms and numbers on the screen mean and how to adjust them during an alignment.

sears tire wall

If you do need new tires you can find a large assortment at Sears Auto Centers from budget to high-end performance tires. Tires can be expensive, but a budget tire is better than a bald tire – and much safer too!

Mileage warranty on tires gives you the life expectancy of that tire under ideal conditions. A tire rated at 50,000 miles means it should last that many miles with the right conditions and driving style before they need replaced. However, how many of us drive in ideal conditions? The majority of people drive in what the industry calls “severe” driving conditions which is a lot of stop and go traffic, city driving, etc.

One big thing I learned about all-weather tires is that they are only “all-weather” for half of their life. If you have an all-weather tire rated at 50,000 miles, the all-weather portion is only for the first 25,000 miles. Factor this in when deciding which tires to buy. As the tread wears normally on tires it reduces the ability for that tire to handle rain and snow.

Also, if your car just sits a long time and does not get actual mileage put on it the tires can be damaged by dry rot or flat spotting.

tire numbers with arrows

Now as for all those numbers and notations on the sides of tires, they can be a bit confusing to the layperson.

The DOT numbers are required by the Department of Transportation and indicate what company made the tire, what location, and the date. If there is a recall of tires this is how they are indicated. The pictures does not show these.

The yellow arrows indicate the Uniform Tire Quality Grading. Unfortunately this is not as “uniform” as what I would like. Each manufacturer sets their own baseline for all of these gradings which means all rated “A” on traction do not actually have the same baseline. Treadwear will be a number indicating life expectancy. Traction and temperature ratings will be a letter, again check with tire salesman to find out what grading system that manufacturer uses.

The red arrow is the number most people are familiar with somewhat. This is the size of your tire. In the pic above it shows 225/45R17. The 225 is the tread width in mm, the 45 is the aspect ratio of the sidewall, the R is for radial (which is most common these days), and the 17 is the rim size.

The purple arrow is the load and speed rating. Most people do not worry about this number unless you are buying full-size trucks.

The green arrow indicates the season designation. In this picture M+S means Mud and Snow. You will commonly see A/S for All Season tires.

When you buy new tires try to stay with the specifications recommended by the manufacturer. You can find these recommendations in the owner’s manual and on a sticker on the driver’s door jamb. Your tire salesman will also be able to help you with this.

Rules of the Road Warrior Presented by Sears Auto Center #SACRoadWarriors #ad

As you can see I learned a lot on my visit to Sears Auto Center. I know I was there as a blogger, but I also asked a random customer about her experience with them and she promptly told me that this was the only place she took her cars for service. When I asked her why she said because her mom always bought everything at Sears and she was raised with that so when it came to cars it just made sense to go to Sears too. Her car was just being finished when I spoke to her and she has always pleased with their work and would recommend it to friends.

Sears has also provided me with a gift card to giveaway. You can use this at your local Sears Auto Center or Sears store on whatever you need! You can learn more about Rules of the Road Warrior by following the hashtag #SACRoadWarriors, follow @SearsAuto on Twitter, like the Sears Auto Facebook page, and even follow Sears Auto on Instagram.

Sears Gift Card

The Giveaway: $50 Sears Gift Card

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Rules: You may only enter the stated number of times per method listed above. No entering on behalf of others, using extra identities or others identities, no automated program entries, etc. If I catch you cheating you will be banned from this and all of my future giveaways! This giveaway is only open to those in the USA, ages 18+. All entries must be received by 11:59 pm Central Time on November 30, 2014. I will pick a winner and email them and they have 48 hours to claim the prize. If no response, I will pick a new winner.

Good luck!