What's the Big Deal about Tires?

What's the Big Deal about Tires?

"Yes, my car has tires. So what? They're black, round, and on the bottom of my car!"

The above about sums up what the majority of consumers understand about automobile tires. Many car owners think of tires only when they create trouble, such as flats, vibrations, and other problems. So, what is the big deal about tires? To put it bluntly, your life is riding on them. Tires are one of the most important components on your car. No matter how much time and money went into engineering the ride, handling, and safety of your automobile, it all means nothing without good tires. A problem with your tires affects all these things. To sum it up, at sixty five miles per hour in heavy traffic, your tires are the last thing between you and the hard surface of the road. Here are a few straightforward, easy to understand, safety tips that every car owner can use to assure your tires are in a safe condition when pulling out your driveway.

Inflation: Check the air pressure regularly. Tires tend to lose air pressure over a period of time so check them once a month or before a long trip.  Buy a good digital gauge that reads pressure in PSI (pounds per square inch). Friction causes heat to build up in tires when driving. For an accurate reading, check the pressure only after the car has been sitting for a few hours. For proper inflation pressure, check your owner's manual or the sticker located on the driver's doorjamb. Don't forget the spare! If your car comes equipped with a space saver spare, check the sidewall of the tire for proper inflation pressure.

Tread Depth: Place a penny edgewise into the tread groove of the tire with Lincoln's head upside down. If you can see the whole head, replace the tire. The channels, or grooves, between the tread blocks are designed to drain water from the area of the roadway the tire is in contact with. As the tire wears, the grooves become shallower and less effective in draining water. This may cause a condition known as hydroplaning. When water is not removed from the tire contact area of the roadway, your car actually rides on a layer of water. This condition results in a complete loss of control and may cause a serious accident. Tire tread depth is measured in 1/32 of an inch increment. Many states have a minimum legal tread depth of 3/32. Buy a good tread depth gauge at your local auto parts store. Check the tread for wear regularly. Measure the outside circumferential groove, the middle groove, and the inside groove at three different places on the tread and average the measurements. This will give you an accurate picture of the tread wear.

Rotation: The most cost effective way to prevent premature tire wear is to rotate on a regular basis. Rotating is simply moving a tire from one position on a vehicle to another. Rotation patterns vary from vehicle to vehicle. Check your owner's manual for the proper pattern for your car. Rotation should be on intervals of five to seven thousand miles. If your engine oil change intervals are every three thousand miles an easy rule of thumb to remember is rotate your tires every other oil change.

Any tire showing signs of damage, such as cracks, cuts, or bulges should be replaced immediately. Tires more than five years old should be replaced regardless of tread wear. Properly maintained tires provide a smooth, quiet ride, crisp handling, and transport for thousands of miles of safe, worry-free service.