Car Care

Get a Grip on Safety and Performance: the Value of Tire Pressure and Tread Maintenance

The only thing between you and the road – aside from the body of your vehicle – are your tires. These four rounds of rubber help the car grip the road in hazardous weather conditions and keep your vehicle rolling on sunny days. It is hard to forget the critical tire issues experienced by so many SUV drivers in the 1990s, which led to accidents and loss of life.

Maintaining tires means that you are also looking out for your safety and that of your passengers. After all, you do not want to break hard only to realize your tires will not follow through because the tread is gone or the pressure is too low.

Valuable Incentives for Maintaining Tires

Proper air pressure ensures that the tires will be more responsive, handle well and maintain tight traction when it is most needed. Along with optimizing performance, the correct tire pressure will also help you economize on fuel.

The right pressure will also make the car feel more comfortable to those riding in the vehicle. You also do not want to end up at the repair shop with a large bill because you let a small issue that you let get out of hand.

Pressure Responds to Extremes

With each changing season, it is critical that the tire pressure be checked regularly. Extreme hot and cold weather can both cause contraction of the air within the tires, which can drastically alter the pressure without you even realizing it.

Tires that are either under-inflated or over-inflated can cause problems. A tire with too little pressure can adversely affect the interior structure of a tire, which eventually leads to complete tire failure if proper pressure was not restored. Another problem related to a lack of air pressure is that the internal heat in the tire will build up, increasing rolling resistance – also known as drag on the road – and reducing fuel economy. A vehicle can also lose some of its steering and cornering capabilities.

Issues can also come from over-inflating tires. As with anything that has too much air in it, the tire becomes tight and inflexible. This tightness actually causes less of the tire to be on the road, leading to less of a grip on the pavement and reduced traction control. The tires can become more vulnerable to debris and uneven roadways, raising the probability for irregular tread wear. Those inside the vehicle experience more road noise and the comfort level of the ride is decreased because more bumps can be felt from the over-inflated tires. If you are thinking about filling up your tires beyond the normal pressure, the only time it may be beneficial is if you plan on entering a track event, road race, or autocross competition. Otherwise, maintain normal air pressure.

Don’t Dread the Tread

Taking care of air pressure also goes a long way in protecting the tire’s regular tread wear as well as extending its life. It is good to look at the tread on a regular basis, checking for uneven wear, blemishes, or possible leaks. Very little tread will be dangerous in rain and snow because you will not have the traction to get a good grip on the road.

In most states, the law states that tires are considered worn out when they have 2/32” of remaining tread left. If you live in areas where snow is common, do not let the tread get below 6/32” of tread. Many have used coins to help determine how much tread they have left. For example, if part of Lincoln’s head from a penny is covered by the tread, you have more than 2/32” left and if you can see the top of the Lincoln Memorial on the back of the penny, then you have 6/32” left. If you use a quarter and part of Washington’s head is covered by the tread, this means that there is more than 4/32” of tread left. The coins should be placed in various areas of the tread around the tire to identify any uneven wearing.

Nowadays, most tires now have wear bars on them, where serves as a visual sign that tells the vehicle owner that these requirements are no longer being met. Some winter snow tires have two wear bars on them out of concern for safety and lack of traction control. Generally, a good rule of thumb is that tires need to be replaced every three to five years regardless of the number of miles that the vehicle has gone.

Tracking Tire Traits

Smaller vehicles should be examined at least once a month, but anyone that has a long commute or drives a truck or larger vehicle should look over all the tires more frequently. Kicking and thumping your tires, by the way, does not suffice as a proper maintenance check. Some of you may be lucky enough to invest in a Tire Pressure Monitoring System, which does the work for you and sends you an alert when it senses a change in tire pressure and temperature.

Keep a log of every time you replace a tire on your vehicle or rotate them so that you can track when they need to be changed or moved again. It is a good idea to also record the reason why you changed it, so you can gauge the performance level of the particular brand or tire that you selected.

You can save time and energy doing this by utilizing a service that will send you maintenance reminders about your tire pressure and tread alerts as well as information about any possible recalls on tires that you own.

Substantial Time and Money Savings

Considered to be one of the more expensive aspects of taking care of a vehicle, tires also seem to be the most neglected. As a driver, you may be among the majority that takes them for granted.

By taking better care of your tires, you can save both time and money. Tires are not cheap and the cost can go up if you factor in downtime while you are without a vehicle, additional repairs, and service fees, so it pays to make sure they last as long as possible by paying attention to air pressure and tread wear.