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Read the fine print in the warranty when buying tires

Dear Car Fix: What do warranties on new tires mean? Is it worth it?

-- C.L., Lancaster

Dear C.L.: Finding a tire with a warranty is a smart choice. Make sure to save the paperwork as well. Each manufacturer's tire warranty may vary, so for simplicity here is the standard limited warranty on all Michelin tires:

All Michelin tires have a limited warranty, which covers defects in workmanship and materials for the life of the original usable tread, or for six years from date of purchase, whichever occurs first. Most tire manufacturers follow this warranty.

The 30-day Satisfaction Guarantee is where each brand is different:

This is available on all Michelin passenger and light truck replacement tires. If you're not 100 percent satisfied, bring the tires and original sales receipt back to the place of purchase within 30 days for a new set of tires.

Three-year Flat Tire Changing Assistance: A qualified service professional will change your flat or provide towing at no charge. In case of a flat tire, call the toll-free number and a qualified professional will change the tire or provide towing up to 150 miles for free. Available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year in the United States and Canada.

Michelin offers tires like the Defender that have a six-year/90,000-miles warranty while others have their own program. Manufacturers usually don't offer a Road Hazard Warranty, which an installer may offer. Remember to read the warranties carefully when you plan to make a claim. What the big print offers, the small print takes away.


Dear Car Fix: Can you tell me how to properly inflate tires for the best tire wear, best fuel mileage and to protect the alloy rims as well?

-- D.S., Lakeshore

Dear DS: Here's a quick Tires 101 class. Tires are a critical part of any vehicle. No matter what vehicle you drive, there's just four things touching the ground. That's four tires with a contact patch about the size of your fist. That means that only about that much of the rubber of the tire touches the ground. So we need to check tire pressure once a month, and that includes the spare tire.

How do you do that? Never use that number on the sidewall, that's the wrong number. You want to use the number on the door placard (sticker), which is in your driver's door, your gas door, your glove box or in your owner's manual. You want to use a digital tire pressure gauge or a stick gauge to get your tire pressure. It's easy to do. Once you've got that correct information, you take the valve stem cover off and check your tire pressure.

The key is when to check your tire pressure. To get the right tire pressure, check the tires when they are cold (meaning you haven't driven anywhere on them in a few hours -- the morning is easiest to remember). That's when you want to add air to achieve the correct tire pressure. Now once you've done that, you want to also investigate the tire tread. Take a quarter and place the head of Washington right into the tread (it used to be a penny but they are smaller due to the cost of copper). If you can see the top of Washington's hairdo or head, it's time to get new tires. If part of the tire is worn unevenly, this could be a sign that you haven't rotated your tires as stated in your owner's manual or you have a suspension or alignment problem and should see your favorite tire shop or ASE-certified technician.

A properly inflated tire will give you the most tire life, best handling, braking and fuel economy. The Car Care Council says you can save 2-3 mpg with properly inflated tires.

As for the alloy wheels which are more common on cars these days, be sure to use a wheel cleaner that states that it's for "alloy" wheels as these types of wheels have a clear coat or protective coating that will come off with the wrong product. It can be expensive to have that reapplied, so ask at any auto parts store and they can guide you to the right products. Many of these newer products will remove that black brake dust and are easy to spray on and hose off.

One last note: When the cost of crude oil rises, the cost of tires will as well. Sadly, when oil prices drop, tires do not. So many manufacturers are using alternatives to keep prices in check. One company is using sunflower oil with amazing results in handling, both in the wet and dry. Your best bet is to invest in a good digital tire pressure gauge, if you can't find one; I sell them on my website, It's the best $10 you'll invest, not just because of gas prices and tire prices but because it's about your and your family's safety.