Even the most sophisticated braking systems won't work if the tires aren't gripping the road. Maintaining your tires and replacing them when necessary is vital to safety.

The trouble is that a lot people don't think about tires this way. That's understandable. Tires are boring to the average car owner. As a result, there are far too many of us out there that don't know how to determine whether they need a new set of tires, or which tires to buy when it's time for replacement.

Take a look at these four useful and simple tips regarding tire replacement. They'll help you save money and stay safe on the road.

1. Determine if it's time for replacement

To determine whether you even need new tires, do some simple checks on your current set. First, take a penny and place the edge into the groove of each tire. Insert the edge of the penny into the tread upside down, with the top of good ol' Honest Abe's noggin going in first. If the top of Lincoln's head is covered by tread, that means you still have an acceptable and safe amount of tread. Do this test at various points around the perimeter of the tire. If the top of Lincoln's head is visible at any point around the tire, it's time to go tire shopping. You can see an example of how to do this test here.

Check to make sure the edges of the tires don't show excessive wear, and that the tire pressure is correct. Your owner's manual should have the recommended tire pressure, and most gas stations have an air compressor with a tire gauge in the event that you need to fill them.

2. Don't replace all four tires unless unless absolutely necessary

The front tires of a car will often wear out faster than the rear tires. This is especially true if you don't often rotate the tires during your vehicle's life. If your local tire shop insists that you need a new set, inquire about the condition of the rear tires before agreeing to the whole thing. Replacing four tires costs twice as much, and your rear pair could still have thousands of miles of life left.

If you do buy two tires instead of four, it's better to put the new tires on the back, rotating the older ones to the front position. The newer tires will help the car remain stable if you need to swerve out of an emergency situation. Do not buy one tire at a time. If a single tire is damaged, always get another new one for the other side of the car.

3. Big brands are not always the best value

Most people can name two or three tire brands from advertisements and marketing campaigns. The big brands typically produce quality tires, but there are many lesser-known brands that are just as good. The lesser-known brands can save over 50 percent compared with the name brands, and can deliver the same tire life and level of comfort.

You can get recommendations on different brands from a site like Tire Rack.

4. Get an alignment

Getting an alignment every time you install new tires is crucial to extending the life of the tires. When your wheels are properly aligned, the tires will wear evenly as they were designed to do. If you install new tires and you wheels are out of alignment, the uneven wear can cause you to need a new set of tires prematurely.

Stan Markuze is the founder of PartMyRide, an online marketplace for original used auto parts.

DIY Garage: Tire Change