National Tire Safety Week may still be a few months away, but now is an excellent time to check your tires. This annual event raises public awareness of tire maintenance and safety and encourages you to include a tire check in your regular car maintenance routine.
Consumer Reports adds that these checks should be performed monthly and often before long trips. Temperature build-up within the tires during long drives at high speeds can make problems worse.
Rear tires should be checked at least as often as front tires, as they carry most of the vehicle’s weight and are more likely to experience problems. Visually inspect the entire tread and sidewall for signs of uneven or excessive wear, bulges, or foreign objects lodged in the tread.
A flat spot in the middle of the tread could indicate underinflation. Check for bulges that may indicate overinflation. Be sure to check the sides of the tire too. If you are unsure of what to check next, you should continue reading this article.
Check Tire Pressure
Please remember that the air pressure is the lifeblood of a tire, like blood flowing through veins, and should be checked monthly, not just seasonally. Ensuring proper air pressure provides a long service life for your tires by supporting them as needed to avoid flexing beyond their capabilities or, worse, blowing out from underinflation. Underinflated tires are also less fuel-efficient and can wear out faster.
The correct pressure level can usually be found on a sticker on the driver’s doorjamb of your car. Consult your owner’s manual for additional information. Check the pressure when tires are cold, three hours after they have not been used; with winter tires mainly, check them before they go into the cold months. If you have a spare tire, check its pressure regularly too.
Please do not rely on the car’s TPMS to alert you when your tires need air; it is not meant to be a maintenance reminder. It detects when there is an issue and needs urgent attention. Most blowouts are detected by the system only after about 25% of the tire’s pressure has been lost.
Check Tread Depth and Worn Spots
The perfect tool to determine whether your tires have enough tread left to last a few more months is a penny. Flip the penny upside down, with the business side facing down, and place it in a groove on your tire. Look at the back of President Lincoln’s head; if you can see all of it, you are safe for about another month.
The penny will help you determine whether the wear on your tires is even. Uneven wear can signify that your alignment is off or driving too fast. Get new tires right away if any significant grooves have been worn down until the date is halfway between Lincoln’s ear and his forehead.
Failing to gauge how much tread you have left is not only dangerous because of a loss of steering ability. It is illegal because of unsafe driving conditions. As a rule of thumb, tires are meant to be changed when they are down to 2/32 of an inch. It is recommended that if you are in doubt about how much tread you have left, you should go ahead and replace your tires.
How often you check your tread will depend on your driving habits. If you drive mostly in the morning, you may only need to check your tread once every few months. However, if you drive after work or on the weekends, you may need to check your tread once every few weeks.
The main thing to remember is that neglecting to check your tread can cost you more than money. It can cost you your life.