They are there beneath you and your family every day you drive your car. They spin over and over again, mile after mile, transporting you and your loved ones to the events of the day. From the commute to work and dropping the kids off at school to a quick trip to the supermarket and a weekend vacation road trip, the tires on your family car are an important component in your life and they do their job reliably even though they are often forgotten and/or neglected. What many of us forget is that those four tires keep us safe during our daily journeys and if they fail, you can be left stranded or, worse yet, be thrown into an accident, putting the health and safety of your family at risk. However, with a little planning and a small amount of monthly maintenance, you can monitor your tires and make certain they are in peak condition to keep your travels free of unfortunate events.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) states that studies of tire safety show that maintaining proper tire pressure, observing tire and vehicle load limits (i.e., not carrying more weight in your vehicle than your tires or vehicle can safely handle), avoiding road hazards, and inspecting tires for cuts, slashes, and irregularities are some of the most important things you can do to help avoid tire failure that can result in tread separation, blowout, and flat tires. Properly maintaining your tires is a necessary practice to make sure your tires are able to do their job in steering, stopping, providing traction, and load carrying. NHTSA adds that such actions, combined with proper care and maintenance practices, can also:
It is recommended to acquaint yourself with your vehicle's recommended tire pressure and your vehicle's load limits. Information on the tires that came with your vehicle and your vehicle's load limits can be found both in your owner's manual and tire information placards and certification labels that are permanently attached to the vehicle door edge, door post, glove-box door, or inside of the trunk lid. This information will include:
Tire inflation pressure is the level of air that exists in the tire that enables it to carry a load and perform properly. Tire inflation pressure is a number, measured in pounds per square inch (psi), that indicates the amount of air pressure a tire requires to be properly inflated. Tire pressures for your vehicle are referred to as the "recommended cold inflation pressure". A "cold" tire does not refer to the outside air temperature but means a tire that has not been driven on for at least three hours. Driving on a tire, even for a small distance, causes heat, which warms the air inside the tire and increases the air pressure within them. NHTSA notes that you should check the "cold" tire pressure in each of your vehicle's tires at least once a month because 1) tires naturally lose air over time; 2) they can lose air suddenly if you drive over a pothole or other object or strike a curb when parking; and 3) it is not possible to determine an under-inflated radial tire by visual inspection.
NHTSA recommends the following steps for maintaining the proper pressure in your tires:
Step 1: Locate the recommended tire pressure on the vehicle's tire information placard, certification label, or in the owner's manual.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) has simplified the process of remembering specific tire care points by developing the tire maintenance checklist P.A.R.T. or:
Pressure—Under inflation results in accidents, irregular tire wear, loss of control, and unnecessary tire stress. A tire can lose up to one-half of its inflation pressure and not appear to be flat! Check tire pressure at least once each month and before long trips.
Alignment—A bad jolt from hitting a curb or pothole can throw your car's front end out of alignment and damage your tires. Have a tire dealer check the alignment periodically to ensure that your car is properly aligned.
Rotation—Regularly rotating your vehicle's tires will help you achieve more uniform wear. Unless your vehicle's owner's manual has a specific recommendation, the guideline for tire rotation is approximately every 5,000 miles. Check with the retailer you purchased your tires from—many include free tire rotation for the life of the tire as part of your purchase price.
Tread—Advanced and/or unusual wear can reduce the ability of the tire tread to grip the road in adverse conditions such as rain or snow. Visually check your tires for uneven wear. Look for high and low areas or unusually smooth areas. Also check for signs of damage. When tread is worn down to 2/32 of an inch, tires must be replaced. All tires have "wear bars," which are small raised bars of rubber in the groove that indicate when tires are worn out. If your tread is worn down to the wear bars, it's time for a new tire. A penny is a convenient way to check tire tread. Simply take a penny and put Lincoln's head into one of the grooves of the tire tread. If part of his head is covered by the tread, you're driving with the legal amount of tread. If you can see all of Lincoln's head, it is time to replace the tire.
Good driving habits are also vital in helping keep your tires in good condition. Such habits include:
So by investing just a few minutes each month in a quick visual inspection and pressure check, combined with regular tire rotation and basic smart driving practices, your tires will be maintained in their optimal condition, providing you with a safe and reliable means of transporting your family through life!
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