|In addition to performing regular maintenance, you must
also keep an eye out for potential problems that might affect your tires.
Regular inspections can help you prevent tire trouble, & keep you rolling
safely down the road.
When inspecting your tires, look for:
Uneven tread wear. This can include more wear on one tread
edge than the other, a rippled pattern of high & low wear, or exposed
steel wire. Uneven wear can be caused by problems such as underinflation,
misalignment & improper balancing.
If you detect uneven wear soon enough & have the
underlying cause fixed, you may be able to keep using the tire — but have it
checked by your tire dealer to be sure.
Shallow tread. Bald tires tend to skid & slide on the
pavement, & are more likely to be damaged by potholes & other road
hazards. The tread on your tire should be at least 1.16 of an inch deep. If
it isn’t, the tire must be replaced. To help you see tread problems, tires
have built-in “tread wear indicators.” These are narrow bars of smooth
rubber that run across the tread: When the tread is even with the bars, it
is worn down to the minimum level & must be replaced immediately.
You can also perform a simple test using a US penny. Put
the edge of the coin into the tread, with Lincoln going in head first. If
the top of Lincoln’s head is covered by tread, that’s good. If the top of
his head is entirely visible, it’s time to replace the tire.
Troublemakers. Check for small stones, pieces of glass,
bits of metal & other foreign objects that might be wedged into the tread,
& carefully pick them out. They can cause serious problems if they are
pushed farther into your tire as you drive.
Damaged areas. Cracks, cuts, splits, punctures, holes &
bulges in the tread or on the sides of the tire can indicate serious
problems, & the tire may need to be replaced.
Slow leaks. Tires lose some air pressure (about 2 psi)
over the course of a month or so, but if you find that you have to add air
every few days, have the tire, wheel & valve checked—& if necessary,
repair or replace the tire.
Valve caps. Those little caps on your tire’s valve stem
keep moisture & dirt out, so make sure they are on all your tires. Also,
when you have a tire replaced, have a new valve stem assembly installed at
the same time.
Driving on a damaged tire can be dangerous. If you see
something you’re not sure about during your inspection, have it examined by
your tire dealer. Any time you see damage to a tire, don’t drive on it—use a
spare if you need to go somewhere. And finally, pay attention to the “feel”
of your tires as you drive. A rough ride may indicate tire damage or
excessive wear. If you notice vibrations or other disturbances while
driving, and/or you suspect possible damage to your tire or vehicle,
immediately reduce speed, drive with caution until you can safely pull off
the road & stop, & inspect your tires. If a tire is damaged, deflate it
& replace it with your spare. If you do not see any tire damage & cannot
identify the source of the vibration,have the vehicle towed to a mechanic or
tire dealer for a thorough inspection.
To help people remember the key points in tire
maintenance, the Rubber Manufacturers Association recommends that you “play
The Big 4 stands for:
|You may not realize it, but the way you drive can have a
lot to do with how long your tires will last & how well they perform. As
you head down the road, there are a number of things to keep in mind:
Take it easy. Avoid hard cornering, rapid accelerations
& abrupt braking & stopping. They put a lot of stress on your tires.
Smooth, safe driving is better for your tires—& for you, too.
Avoid potholes & other hazards. Obviously, it’s best not
to hit potholes or objects in the road. But if you can’t avoid them,
remember that the faster you are going when you hit something, the greater
the impact on your tires—so slow down as much as you can without endangering
yourself or others.
If you can’t avoid a pothole, don’t apply the brakes when
you hit it. Instead, apply them as you approach the hole, & release them
just before striking it. This slows you down, but allows the tire to roll as
it hits, softening the impact. If you hit an object or hole, have your tires
checked by a professional. Such collisions can cause internal tire damage
that you can’t see—but which can cause problems later on. Sometimes, a tire
can be severely damaged & travel hundreds or even thousands of miles
before failing. A vibration or rough ride may be a sign of such damage—&
that it is time for a replacement.
Getting stuck—& unstuck. If you find yourself stuck in
snow, ice, mud or wet grass, don’t spin your tires rapidly, & never spin
them if a drive wheel is off the ground. Doing so can actually cause a tire
to explode & seriously injure someone, because if one drive wheel is
stuck, & the other is free to spin, all the engine’s power goes to the
free wheel. If you’re in snow, turn off the vehicle, apply the brakes &
shovel snow away from the tires & vehicle. Try s& & gravel to get more
traction. If that doesn’t work, gently rock the vehicle back & forth using
forward & reverse gears. Keep people away from your tires & the vehicle
as you rock.
The idea is to accelerate slowly; never exceed 35 mph on
your speedometer. (Note: Check your owner’s manual to be sure that rocking
is appropriate for your vehicle. Also, if you have anti-lock brakes, follow
the manual’s instructions for this procedure.)
Traction tips. In rainy or snowy weather, some drivers
might let a little air out of their tires, thinking it will give them more
traction. That’s a very bad idea. In reality, it actually reduces traction.
It also impairs your ability to control the vehicle, increases the
possibility of tire failure due to underinflation, & increases tire wear.
Watch out for overloading. Driving on an overloaded tire
is hazardous. When your car is carrying too much, the weight can create
excessive heat inside your tires—& that can cause sudden tire failure.
Never exceed the maximum load rating of your tires, which you can find on
the sidewall of the tire, in the owner’s manual or on the vehicle placard.
When you replace a tire, make sure the new one has a load-carrying capacity
equal to or greater than the tires that originally came with your vehicle.
It’s also important to treat your tires right when you’re
not using them. If you store tires, keep them in a cool, dry place, away
from sunlight, heat & ozone. Allow air to circulate around all sides to
avoid moisture damage. Keep tires away from grease, gasoline & other
substances that can deteriorate the rubber. Store them upright if you can,
but if you have to stack tires on their sides, be careful not to pile them
too high: The weight of the stack could deform & damage the bottom tires,
rendering them unusable.
If you need to get a new tire, make sure you’re getting
the right one. As a rule, all four tires should be the same size, have the
same speed rating & load index, & be the same construction type (radial
or non-radial). But there are exceptions. The vehicle manufacturer’s
recommendations or your tire dealer can help you determine which tires are
right for your car & your specific driving needs.