Most people get nervous when it’s time to get a new set of tires. You know tires aren’t cheap, but just how much can they cost? And it doesn’t stop here: there are additional service costs, tire disposal fees, installation costs, and road hazard warranty, all of which can make a significant dent in your wallet.
The average cost of tires and installation for economy and sedan cars ranges from $50 to about $75. For sports cars and SUVs, the price jumps significantly to somewhere between $100 and $300 a piece and can even go higher sometimes.
I’ll take you through the process of tire change, balancing, and installation in the next segment of this article. This will help you better understand what goes into a tire change and why professionals charge so much for the service.
The Basics of Tire Pricing
The price for new tires and installation has changed over the years. Tires have become more complicated, and the automotive industry regulations are changing rapidly. The discontinuation of lead wheel weights, the adoption of improved tire pressure monitoring systems, and the craving for larger stylish rims have made the process even more complicated and pricey.
You can’t install economy or sedan car tires on a sports vehicle, nor can you install SUV tires in a pick-up truck. Based on a car’s rim size, suspension system, and volume, you’ll have to look for specifically sized tires. Moreover, manufacturers recommend specific tire sizes and types, and you should stick to their recommendations if you want to avoid causing severe damage to your car. Remember, each tire size and type has its price tag.
Your best bet in estimating how much the tires and installation will cost would be to contact your mechanic with your exact tire size and type for a price estimate. But what entails the entire tire installation service? And how much does each process cost?
How to Determine Tire Size
Once you’ve determined that it’s time for new tires, you’ll want to know the correct tire size for your car. You can check your car’s door jamb for tire size information in the car’s manual. Ensuring your tire replacements match the manufacturer’s instructions requires your understanding of how tire size works. The string of numbers you rarely pay attention to on your tires contains tire size information.
Assume the string of numbers and letters on your tire walls is P 225/70R16 91S. Each of these numbers and letters stand for the following:
- P: Vehicle type – P stands for passenger vehicle, LT for light trucks, etc.
- 225: Tire width – Measurement in millimeters from one sidewall to the other.
- 70: Aspect ratio – Manufacturers calculate the tire’s aspect ratio as a percentage by dividing the tire’s height off the wheel by its width. In short, it tells you how tall the tire profile is. 70 means 70%.
- R: Construction – designates the form of internal construction responsible for tire stability. R stands for radial. Others include D and B for Diagonal and Bias Ply, respectively, but Radial construction is the most common in the US.
- 16: Rim diameter – Diameter (in inches) of the rim onto which you can mount the tire. In this case, the rim has a diameter of 16 inches (406.4 mm). Wheel diameters range between 13 inches (330.2 mm) to 24 inches (609.6 mm).
- 91: Load index – Tells you how much load, in pounds, a fully inflated tire will support. The number corresponds to a given load capacity rather than a precise amount of load.
- S: Speed rating – corresponds to a given speed capability. S-rated tires can speed up to 112 mph (180 kph), R to 106mph (171 kph), and so on.
If you want to change your tire size and type, consult an expert for advice. As you’ve already seen, different tire options have varying load capacities and require different rim widths and diameters.
Of course, I don’t want to delve deeper into the science of tires, so I’ll only focus on the cost aspect: different tire sizes and types will be priced differently.
Average Price of Tires
Below is a table giving cost estimates of the different tire types and sizes:
|Wheel size||All-Season (Average Price)||All-Terrain (Average Price)|
|Small (12”-15”)||$50-$150 a piece||_|
|Medium (16”-20”)||$100-$250) a piece||$150-$250|
|Large (18”-26”)||$150-$400 a piece||$200-$1000|
What Does a Professional Tire Installation Service Entail?
Regular tire mounting cost is no different across various automotive repair shops.
A professional tire installation service entails professional mounting, installation, and wheel balancing. Proper wheel balancing guarantees optimum tire life and your car’s safety. Incorrectly balanced tires cause unpleasant vibrations and make your tires and suspension wear prematurely.
You may also like to check: How Much Does Walmart Charge for Tire Installation?
Tire Replacement and Installation
Tire and Wheel Removal
When you take your car into an auto repair shop, the mechanic starts by unscrewing the wheels from your car. At this point, the mechanic can quickly inspect your brake and suspension systems, but this shouldn’t replace full brakes and suspension system inspections.
The technician should also inspect the condition of the wheel studs and lug nuts to ensure that the wheel is secured safely and firmly. You shouldn’t pay for this; it’s part of the installation.
Tire Removal From the Wheel
Once the technician removes the wheel, the next step should be to remove the tire from the wheel (rim). Specialized equipment is needed. The process isn’t for the hands of your regular home mechanic.
First, the technician removes balancing weights and the valve system to deflate the tires. Next, the mounting machine presses the tire out of the wheel, and the mechanic pulls and pries at the tire to carefully detach it from the rim.
The mechanic inspects the wheel for potential damage and cleans it of dirt and debris. Defects to the wheel may affect how well it bonds with the tire and how it will balance when mounted back to the car. The mechanic should also thoroughly clean bead areas where the tire touches the rim.
Tire Pressure Monitoring System (Tpms) Inspection and/or Renewal
Newer car models feature a tire pressure monitoring system to keep tabs on air pressure in the tires. The technician should inspect and service the TPMS sensors with new seals for smooth operation. Check whether the TPMS serving cost is included in the installation fee. If not, the TPMS service kit should cost $5-$10 per wheel.
Sometimes the sensors will be faulty and will need replacing. In most cases, TPMS sensor replacement cost isn’t included in the installation fee. TPMS pressure sensors’ cost ranges from $50-$250, depending on your car model.
Mounting the New Tire to the Wheel
The technician will then use a tire mounting machine to press the tire bead over the rim, replace the valves, inflate the tire, and check for leaks. The technician should be careful not to damage the TPMS sensors.
Imbalanced wheels impact your driving experience by causing excessive vibrations, accelerating tire wear, and causing possible damage to the undertrain or suspension system.
The next (and one of the most important steps) is wheel balancing. The technician will use a tire assembly balancing machine to spin the assembly at high speed to detect heavy spots. The machine will pause the spin at the exact spot where weights are needed to balance the wheel. The mechanic will repeat the process until the whole tire assembly is balanced.
Again you should check whether the wheel balancing cost is included in the installation fee. Some repair shops offer a complete package, which is higher than the standard wheel installation cost, and some don’t. Depending on your location and car, you can expect to pay between $40 and $75 for balancing all four wheels.
Mounting the Wheel Back to the Car
The technician will then mount each wheel assembly back to the car and torque the lug nuts to the correct tightness. This process is naturally included in the service fee, and you shouldn’t be expected to pay anything extra. While still on the service bay lift, you can request wheel alignment.
The technician may also recommend an alignment. Wheel alignment, also known as breaking or tracking, is standard automobile maintenance that involves adjusting the vehicle’s wheel angles back to the automaker’s specifications. Wheels’ alignment angle refers to the wheel’s angle to each other and the vehicle’s body.
Misaligned wheels cause unnecessary wear to the steering, brakes, tires, and suspension. Aligning your wheels will improve the vehicle’s stability, maximize tire life, and improve car handling performance.
It would be best to have your wheels aligned every 6000 miles (10,000 km) or when you start feeling changes in the driving experience or ability to handle the car.
If you lost track of your alignment schedule, make sure you align your wheels if you experience the following:
- Your car pulling to the right or left while driving
- Unequal tread and tire wear
- If your car’s steering gets off-center even when you’re driving straight
If wheel alignment isn’t part of the installation package, you can request for the same or if the mechanic sees it fit.
The cost of front-end alignment, which typically involves the two front wheels only, can cost anywhere from $50 to $75. All-wheel alignment costs more, typically from $100 to $150. You can expect to dig your pockets deeper if you own a luxury car.
This Youtube video explains the difference between wheel balancing, rotation, and alignment.
Lower the Vehicle From the Service Bay Lift
After rechecking everything, the mechanic will lower your car from the lift. Once on the ground, the technician can use a torque wrench to recheck the lug nuts’ tightness to ensure the wheels are stable and firmly fixed as they should be.
Moreover, the tire pressure should be set to correct levels as recommended by the manufacturer on the tires’ placard.
Mileage and Road Hazard Warranties
Tire retailers offer a road-hazard warranty to cover you with prorated discounts if your tire is damaged. The warranty comes for a small fee, which might or might not be included in the installation cost.
On the other hand, tire manufacturers offer mileage warranties to guarantee that you won’t have to replace the tires before a specific mileage. Typical mile range is 20,000-80,000 miles.
In return, you must align your wheels regularly and perform rotational maintenance so that the tires don’t wear out prematurely. High-mileage warranty will cost more but will be beneficial if you drive a lot. However, not all tire makers offer mileage warranties, so you’ll want to ask about this when choosing the make of your tire replacement.
Worn-Out Tire Disposal
Tires are hazardous waste, and disposing of your worn-out tires will cost you anywhere from $2 to $6. The cost varies depending on whether you dump them off at a recycling facility or pay a tire dealer to dump them for you. You can also generously donate them to someone who needs them.
Signs That You Need to Change Your Tires
Your busy schedules shouldn’t stop you from checking your tires thoroughly for wear and damage. But how would you know they need replacing?
- Weathering: Common indicators of tire weathering include cracks between the treads and on the side wall.
- Bulging: Building occurs when you hit a pothole hard or could be caused by production defects, leading to air getting in between the inner and outer layers of the tire material.
- Tread Depth: You should replace your tires if their treads are worn to 2/32 inches (1.6mm). A treat depth gauge would be better in this case. I don’t like the ‘science’ of using a coin. It’s more of trial and error. However, you can’t get it wrong with the tread depth gauge.
You can try this Steelman Digital Tire Tread Gauge available on Amazon.com. It reads tread depths from 0-25mm or 0-1 inch.
A lot goes into maintaining a car, and taking care of your tires is an essential part of the process. They are the components that carry the vehicle and are thus prone to wear and damage.
Replacing tires costs money, as does maintaining your car’s suspension system. The cost of replacing and installing new tires will depend on your car’s tire size and type. And, of course, your car model matters too.
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