It can be easy to forget the four patches of rubber called your tires. Your tires are the only part of the card that has direct contact with the road. Properly maintaining your tires not only affects your vehicle handling, but it also affects your overall driving, braking, and safety. Optimize your vehicle’s performance by having the correct air pressure, tread depth, balance, and alignment. Learn how to properly care for your tires and what to look for when inspecting your tires.
Signs of Tire Wear
Poor tire maintenance can lead to premature tire wear, a flat, and even a blowout. When checking your tires, there are a few key things to look at. Too much air pressure causes the tire’s middle section to have the most contact with the road creating premature wear in the center of the tread and less on the edges. Conversely, too little air pressure will cause more contact with the road creating wear on the edges of the tread and less in the center. If your tires wear on one edge of the tire, your wheels are out of alignment. When you see erratic tread wear, called cupping, it is either that the wheel is out of balance or the shock absorbers need to be replaced. If you have a raised portion of the tread, one of the belts in the tire carcass has separated from those next to it.
While driving if you hear an unusual vibration or a thumping noise, that could indicate an out-of-balance tire. It could also be one with tread that has a flat spot, or a tire with a separate belt. Also if your pulling to one side while driving, you could have an underinflated or damaged tire on the side of the car which your vehicle pulls.
Checking your tires on a regular basis protects your safety and your automotive investment. Ideally, tires should be checked at least once a month. If you live in a cold climate, drive over potholes and debris in the road, or drive long distances regularly, you should check your tires more often. The more often these inspections are performed, the easier it will be to find a small problem. Small issues can be fixed before it becomes a more expensive and time-consuming issue.
The most accurate tread depth measurements are made with a simple tread depth gauge available at any parts store. You can use the traditional quarter test. If you insert a quarter into the tread groove with the top of Washington’s head face down and the top of his head is not visible, your tires have at least 4/32″ of tread and are fine to continue use. If you can see the top of Washington’s head, it is time to start looking for new tires. You can also use a penny in the same way. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, your tires have less than 2/32″ of tread, which is less than the legal minimum and calls for immediate replacement. Measurements should be taken at the outer edge, the center, and the inside edge.
Keeping your tires properly inflated is one of the easiest ways to help maintain good gas mileage and extend the life of your tires. Check your tire pressure once a month with a gauge that measures pounds-per-square-inch (psi). The recommended tire pressure can be found in the vehicles owners manual or on the decal on the driver’s door. Recommended tire pressures are for cold tires, so check them at ambient temperatures before the vehicle has been driven. Checking tire pressure on a vehicle that has warm tires can result in a reading 5 psi higher than the recommended pressure.
Several tire maintenance procedures require the knowledge and tools of automotive professionals. However, it is still important to have a general understanding of the procedures. Tires on the front and the rear of vehicles operate at different loads and perform different steering and braking functions. This results in unequal wear patterns. Gain maximum life and performance by rotating them every 5,000 to 7,000 miles depending on your vehicle’s owner’s manual. Properly balanced tires help minimize uneven wear and extend their life. When tires are balanced, small weights are attached to the wheels to limit vibration of the tire and wheels as they turn. Balance newly installed tires, whenever you notice vibration, and whenever a tire is removed from the wheel.
For wheel alignment, each vehicle has specific wheel alignment settings. Improper alignment can cause uneven tire wear, poor vehicle handling, and diminished fuel economy. Check and adjust wheel alignment when new tires are installed, and when unusual steering characteristics are observed. A vehicle’s wheels are properly aligned when the car will drive down the road in a straight line without drifting or pulling to either side.
Spend a few minutes each month and check your tires. If you notice any problems, remember the Auto Clinic of Stuart. We will help you extend the life of your tires and optimize your vehicle’s performance.