Q: How often should I rotate my tires?
A: Every 5,000 to 10,000 miles is the general recommendation for tire rotation. Consistent tire rotation is an important maintenance step that will significantly prolong the life of your tires. Along with rotation, it is necessary to first see that the tires are properly inflated. A tread inspection will help determine the best tire positioning to promote even wear. Tire rotation pattern is also partly determined by the type of vehicle, such as a front wheel drive or a 4-wheel drive. Different manufacturers have specific recommendations for a particular vehicle or tire, so it is advisable to refer to your owner's manual tire rotation guidelines to ensure proper tread wear.

Q: When should I have other services performed on my car or light truck?
A: The maintenance section of your vehicle owner's manual is always your best resource in determining what regular services you require and when you should have them done. Routine maintenance usually includes an oil change every 3,000 miles, at which time other checks can be made including radiator, transmission, brakes, battery and air conditioning system.

Q: When do I need to have my wheel alignment checked?
A: In addition to the regular maintenance, as recommended by your manufacturer, you may need to have wheel alignment inspected if you notice your vehicle pulling to one side. If you see rapid tread wear on a specific area of your tires, this may also indicate a wheel alignment problem. It is also a good idea to have the wheel alignment checked if you have had an accident or hit something.

Q: Is time between service appointments as important as mileage when it comes to oil changes?
A: As with most services, your vehicle manufacturer manual should be your ultimate authority. A number of factors can impact your need for oil changes including engine type, oil used, vehicle age, and the type of driving you do. Regardless of the number of miles on your vehicle, it is important to not go too long between oil changes, as oil does degrade over time. The general rule of thumb is every 3 months or 3,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Q: What is the difference between wheel balancing and wheel alignment?
A: Wheel balancing and wheel alignment are often confused, but the two are different and necessary procedures. Both are usually inspected when the vehicle begins to exhibit symptoms of trouble. Heavy vibration usually signals a wheel balance issue. Problems with wheel alignment are usually indicated by rapid or uneven tread wear, or by the vehicle pulling to one side of the road. If your vehicle is showing any of these signs, wheel alignment or wheel balance could be the problem. You should have an inspection as soon as possible to prevent further tire damage.

Q: What can I do to prepare for winter driving?
A: Winter driving is a cause for concern for many reasons. While inclement weather produces dangerous road conditions, cold temperatures effect vehicle operation and performance. Some simple ideas to prepare for winter driving include:

* Get a through vehicle inspection to check brakes, fluid levels, wipers, etc
* Have your battery checked and travel with jumper cables
* Check tires for proper tread depth and inflation
* Consider installation of winter tires if your area has frequent snow and ice
* Travel with blankets, a flashlight, hand warmers, etc. in case of emergencies
* Throw a bag of cat litter in the trunk for extra weight, and use it for traction if you needed

Q: What is the difference between winter tires and all season tires?

A: Winter tires are designed to stay soft and pliable at low temperatures, so they will conform to icy road surfaces, and provide good grip. All-season tires are developed to provide traction in wet and snowy conditions. Reinforced sidewalls keep tire shoulders on the road, while the tread pattern provides better grip when turning on wet roads.

Q: How do under inflated tires affect gas mileage?
A: Tires that are not properly inflated are subject to increased rolling resistance. This causes the engine to work harder, and subsequently use more fuel. According to fueleconomy.gov, properly inflated tires can improve gas mileage by up to 3.3 percent.

Q: Is it safe to repair a tire or should it be replaced?
A: Depending on the nature of the damage and the age of your tires, repair can be a perfectly safe alternative to expensive tire replacement. The angle and location of the puncture will determine if a repair will be sufficient to restore the tire. Punctures that occur between the treads and at straighter angles are typically the easiest to plug.

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