Maintaining Your Vehicle's Tires

tiresProperly maintaining your tires is part of being a smart consumer.  Simple maintenance means saving money on gas and a smoother, safer ride for you and your family.

Why a safer ride?  Because tires affect how your vehicle steers, how it brakes, and how it hugs the road.  Your tires need to have the correct air pressure, tread depth, balance and alignment to be safe and cost-effective; so give your tires a visual inspection once every month.

Here are some things to look for:

Nails – Nails and other sharp objects that embed in your tires can cause air leaks, which can lead to blowouts and other dangerous driving situations.

Tread wear on one edge – The wheels could be out of alignment.  Have your alignment checked by professionals periodically, and especially when you feel your car “pulling” to one side.  This pulling could mean the tires don’t have equal air pressure, and tire rotation can correct this problem.  Refer to your owner’s manual for rotation recommendations, but it is usually about every 5,000 to 8,000 miles.

Erratic tread wear – If you have random spots of tread wear on your tires, the wheels may be out of balance, or the shock absorbers or ball joints may need to be replaced.  Seek the help of a professional.  The sooner you fix it, the less money you may have to spend in the long run.

“Wear bars” – These bars look like narrow strips of rubber across the tread, and they appear at various points around the tire.  As the tread wears down, it impairs the tire's ability to grip the road.  No tread equals no traction.  In fact, when your tires’ treads are worn down to 1/16”, you should replace them.  An easy test: place a penny into a tread groove.  If you can see Lincoln’s head, you should buy a new tire.

Over-inflation – Too much air lets only the middle section touch the road, which creates wear in the center and not on the edges.  An over-inflated tire can cause vehicle-handling issues and uneven wear in the center of the tire tread.

Under-inflation – Too little air causes the tires’ sides to sag, creating wear on the edges, not in the center.  Under-inflated tires use more gas and create a lot of heat and stress on the tires, causing them to fail.

You can make sure your tires are inflated properly by checking the air pressure with a tire gauge.  When you check the inflation pressure, always do so before you drive around.  Never check, increase or reduce inflation pressure when your tires are hot from driving.

How to check your tire pressure:

  • For best results, use a heavy-duty tire gauge as found at a gas station or auto body shop.
  • Remove the valve cap from your tire.
  • Place the tire gauge over the tire’s valve stem and press firmly so that you hear no escaping air.
  • Look at the gauge to see how much air is in the tire.  The right amount is shown in your owner’s manual on the vehicle door edge, door post, glove compartment door or fuel door.
  • Adjust the air pressure if needed.  When adding air, push the air hose into the valve firmly, until the air stops escaping.
  • Check the pressure every few seconds with the gauge.  If the tire’s pressure is greater than it should be, use the nipple on the tire gauge to press the center of the tire valve stem and release some air.
  • Replace the valve cap, and don’t forget to check your spare tire.