Tire care is an important part of car maintenance and something you should get into the habit doing at least once a month. It only takes a few minutes and could save you from having problems when you’re out on the road. Here’s what you need to do to be sure your tires are ready to roll.
Tire care starts with your eyes
Take a good look at each tire to see if there are any visible signs of damage. These include tears, bulges, bumps or wayward nails stuck into the tread. Even what looks like minor damage can cause major issues. Taking care of potential problems as soon as you see them can help avoid the need for flat tire roadside assistance later.
Make sure you check the whole surface of each tire including both the tread and the sidewall. Even if the tire isn’t flat, any damage is reason to consult a tire care expert for a thorough inspection. They can tell you if a replacement is necessary or if a repair can take care of the problem instead. Make checking your tires a regular part of your car maintenance schedule.
Check the air pressure
Properly inflated tires will not only keep you safer, they’ll extend the life of your tires and help your car get better fuel efficiency. Always check tire pressure when the tires are cool, not after you’ve been driving for miles and they’ve had a chance to get warm. Use the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure as your guideline. It can be found on an information sticker located inside the driver’s door for easy reference.
Many cars have a tire pressure monitoring system that includes a dashboard indicator when your tire pressure is low. If this light comes on, don’t delay. Check your tire pressure as soon as possible to avoid damaging your tire and add air until the right pressure is reached. If the light seems to come on frequently, have your tires inspected to see if you have a slow leak.
Keep a close eye on tire pressure when the outside temperature shifts. As a rule, when the temperature drops 10 degrees your car’s tires can lose between one-half and one pound of air pressure. Add or reduce the air in your tires to stay at the manufacturer’s recommendation.
Check the tire tread.
The fancy pattern of rubber on each tire is the tread and it’s specially designed to keep the tires firmly in contact with the road. It whisks away water and snow and flexes to make sure you have the best traction possible. When that tread wears down, traction suffers. You’ll notice the problem when your car tends to slip in poor road conditions.
It’s hard to tell at a glance if your tire treads are worn down, so there’s an age-old trick for making sure the tread is still good. All you need is a quarter. If you put a quarter in the tread and it touches Washington’s head, then you have 4/32 inch of tread left and your tire should be replaced, according to Barbara Ward, a traffic safety specialist at AAA Northeast. Do this simple car maintenance test in multiple spots on each tire. Poor alignment or incorrect inflation can cause the tread to wear unevenly. Checking in a few spots helps make sure you’re getting an accurate idea of overall tread wear and helps avoid a call to flat tire roadside assistance if your tire fails.
Keep up car maintenance.
Part of taking care of your tires is maintaining overall car maintenance. Have your vehicle’s alignment checked periodically. You may not even realize your alignment is out of whack, but all those potholes and bumps in the road take their toll. Proper alignment helps avoid excessive or uneven tire wear, so you can keep your tires longer.
Although you can’t see it, there are clues you may notice when driving a vehicle with bad alignment. If the steering wheel pulls in one direction or if it vibrates, that’s an indication that your alignment is off. A professional can check your alignment and make the necessary adjustments to your car’s suspension system to keep everything in order.
The key to effective tire care is to pay attention to them rather than waiting for that annual inspection. Check them every month as a part of regular car maintenance and take care of any problems promptly to extend the life of your tires and stay safe on the road.
What’s your preferred method of tire care? Let us know in the comments!
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This post was originally published in January 2018 and has been updated.