Living in Colorado, plenty of people are starting their springtime ritual: The Changing of the Tires. If you’re in a similar terrain, you know the drill: late fall marks when you switch from regular tires to snow tires, and late spring is when you reverse the process, switching from snow tires back to your regular “summer” tires. That’s usually a good time to consider replacing any tires that are looking bare or low on tread.
Not sure if you need new tires? You can easily check your tread depth with a penny: insert it into your tire’s tread groove with Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you. If you can see all of his head, your tread depth is less than 2/32 inch and it’s time to replace your tire.
What people don’t think about with all this shuffling of tires and replacing those that have poor treads or damaged sidewalls is the quiet, faithful spare tire. Some cars it’s tucked in the trunk under a panel, some it’s actually attached underneath the vehicle, and with others it’s stuck on the back tailgate. In all cases, however, it’s one of the most important safety elements in your car. Get a flat tire and then find out that your spare is flat or has no tread left on it and instead of letting you drive to the local garage and get things fixed, you’re stranded and potentially at the mercy of whatever garage is around the corner. If any.
That’s why when I proposed to Discount Tire that we remind people of the importance of your spare tire when checking that your car’s ready for spring driving and summer road trips the reaction was “that’s a great idea!” Since I’m a hands-on sort of guy, I decided that I’d go ahead and get a replacement spare tire for my own car, a Toyota Highlander. Being an SUV with big wheels, the tires are pretty expensive, but one great thing about Discount Tire is that they not only have super low prices, but also guarantee to match lower prices if you do bump into a better deal.
There’s a certain intimidation factor involved in this sort of thing, however, so let me step you through the entire process, starting with my tire itself. To start, if you have a car with a 3/4 size spare, you’ll probably want to pull it out so you can jot down the size of the tire. If you have a full size spare (certainly my preference) then all five tires on your car are going to be the same size and you can just note the size of one of the tires in use.
On my Toyota, here’s the size marked on the side of the tire:
It’s a bit dirty, but it’s a P245/55R19. What does that mean? Well, the “P” denotes that it’s a passenger vehicle tire which encompasses cars, SUVs, vans and light duty trucks (a “T” denotes a temporary spare, for those of you with a 3/4 size spare tire), the “245” is the section width (the widest point of its outer sidewall to the widest point of its inner sidewall) in millimeters, the “55” means that the height is equal to 55% of the tire’s width, the “R” refers to it being a radial tire, and the “19” means it’s a 19-inch wheel. Got it?
Really all that matters is that you have it written down, because the first step on this project to upgrade your spare tire is to actually go to the Discount Tire Web site and enter the specifics of your car, as shown:
In the case of the Toyota Highlander Hybrid, there are two wheel sizes – 17″ and 19″ – so knowing that I have P245/44R19 helps me identify that mine has the larger 19″ wheels. Handy!
A click on ‘Find Tires and Wheels‘ and let’s see what they have…
Oops, right, I need to indicate what I’m looking for before I can see specific tires. Note that the system has identified 245/55-19 as the dimensions and size of my tires. That matches what I copied off the tire, so we’re in great shape to proceed!
I’m going to click on ‘Tires on Promotion‘ because who doesn’t like a bargain? and it shows a lot of choices, including this very nice Yokohama, a tire I’ve had on my car before with very good results:
A 60,000 mile warranty and the top customer reviews for my vehicle? Sounds like an excellent choice, I’d say.
I click on ‘Get Total Price’ because there are a couple of add-ons when you buy a tire, fees for balancing, mounting the tire on your wheel, disposal of the old tire, etc. Adds about 20% to the cost of the tire. I also have to make sure that I’m specifying that I only want one tire – just the spare this time, thanks! – and then I can go ahead and schedule when to come in and have them switch out the tire on the spare wheel:
Super easy, actually, and with a spare, it’s even easier because you can leave it with them and pick it up later in the day when it’s done, which is exactly what I did!
When I pulled up to the local Discount Tire in Boulder, Colorado, the salesman was happy to pull the spare off my SUV (a complicated process involving opening up panels in the back cargo area and unwinding the tire from its well underneath the back cargo area):
I left the wheel and went on with my day’s activities and a few hours later they called and told me the new tire was on the wheel and it was ready for me to pick up.
When I returned they even put it back in place on my vehicle:
That’s it, super easy, and now I can drive everywhere, secure in the knowledge that if I do get a flat tire on one of my many road trips I not only have a spare in good condition, but that it’s got a great tire on it and can be safely driven on for hundreds or thousands of miles before I need to deal with the flat. And Discount Tire made it all a breeze.
Now, how’s your spare tire?
Not sure? Check it out. And seriously consider investing in a brand new, good quality tire for your spare. Because it’s when you don’t have a functional spare that you’ll most regret ignoring this easy upgrade. Start here: DiscountTire.com
Disclosure: Discount Tire sponsored this post and covered the cost of my spare tire. The links in this article are also affiliate links: you pay exactly the same price for your tires, but I get a small commission to help feed the kids. Thanks!