Tire manufacturers and retailers nationwide are constantly working to educate motorists about proper tire care and maintenance. The Rubber Manufacturers Association does their part by providing tire retailers, auto dealers and automotive repair shops with free “Be Tire Smart, Play Your PART” brochures and other materials. The RMA also sponsors National Tire Safety Week, using that opportunity to promote tire care through advertising, promotions, free tire pressure checks and conducting media outreach.
Playing your “PART” when it comes to tire care focuses on the four key tire factors for motorists to monitor and maintain: Pressure, Alignment, Rotation, and Tread.
For starters, proper tire inflation pressure is vitally important; in fact, a number of studies have proven that under-inflated tires can lead to tire failure. But what is the proper amount of tire inflation? To find the answer, you should be able to find a vehicle manufacturer’s label affixed inside the glove box door, on the edge of the vehicle door, inside the “B” pillar door post, or even the fuel-filler door. It is also listed in the owner’s manual. The label will look something like this:
The following are some recommended tips to ensure that your tires are properly inflated:
– Check the pressure in all four tires every month, and it’s always a good idea to check your tires before embarking on a long trip
– It’s important to remember that your tires should be cool before you check the inflation pressure. Driving even one mile to the nearest service station will heat up your tires and cause an increase in inflation pressure, giving you an inaccurate reading. So check and record your tire pressure before you drive to get air so that you add the correct amount of inflation pressure when you get to the air pump.
– Don’t forget to check the air in your spare tire, and keep in mind that many of today’s more popular spare tires require higher inflation pressure.
– Every few days take a walk around your vehicle and visually inspect your tires for objects, such as glass or nails, embedded in the tread. Pay special attention to the sidewalls and make sure there are no bulges, gouges or cuts.
Nothing will wear away tread faster than poor wheel alignment and your tire dealer will be happy to perform the necessary wheel alignment to help you maximize your tire’s tread life. Wheel alignment is usually just needed on front wheels, but it’s recommended that front-wheel-drive vehicles, and vehicles with independent rear suspension, have all four wheels aligned. Your owner’s manual provides manufacturer’s recommendations for frequency of alignment, but pay attention to your vehicle’s ride characteristics. If you notice unusual left or right pulling or drifting that’s a clear indication that an alignment may be necessary. Finally, keep in mind that unbalanced tires also contribute to irregular tread wear and/or tire vibration, so have your tire retailer check tire balance periodically.
Regular tire rotation can go a long way to prevent irregular tire wear. Your tire dealer, the tire manufacturer, or your vehicle owner’s manual will have suggestions for the appropriate rotation pattern for your vehicle, as well as a recommended tire rotation timetable. Generally, it’s a good idea to rotate tires every 5,000-8,000 miles.
Before you rotate your tires make sure you’ve attended to any alignment or out-of-balance conditions as mentioned previously, and make sure your tires are at proper inflation levels after rotation.
Last, but certainly not least, closely monitoring tread wear will provide you with a clear indication of when your tires must be replaced. Not only does worn tread affect traction, but more importantly, your vehicle is more susceptible to hydroplaning on wet roads with reduced tread. A quick and easy way to measure your tread will only cost a penny. Simply place a penny into a tread groove and as long as Abe Lincoln’s head is inside the tread, you’ve got the proper amount of tread. But if you see the top of Honest Abe’s head, it’s time to pay a visit to your tire retailer. Also, today’s modern tires feature tread “wear bars,” narrow strips of smooth rubber that will appear across the tread when worn down to 2/32 of an inch, another indication, once visible, that tire replacement is on the agenda.
Keep an eye on your tires and they’ll take care of you. Get into the habit whenever you gas up to visually inspect your tires for signs of uneven wear, low pressure, and visit your tire dealer at the first sign of trouble.