Tire maintenance & safety
You may be wondering when you should get new tires…they are a big investment and you don’t want to jump the gun, right? You also don’t want to push your luck with tires that are worn-out and running on borrowed time. Here are some tips:
- Run your hands along the surface of the tires. Feel for any irregularities like unevenly-worn spots or a rippled edge to the tread (also called “feathering”). These are indicators of suspension or steering issues that can contribute to tire wear or an indicator of tires that haven’t been rotated frequently enough. Feel for any tread separation or possible bulges or cracks in the tread surface. If you detect problems like that, the tire is in imminent danger of failure and needs to be replaced right away.
- Do the same sort of inspection along the tire’s sidewalls, including the inside sidewall. Feel for cracks, uneven spots or bubbles/bulges.
- Tires are meant to be driven. If a car has been sitting for a considerable period of time (i.e. a year or more) with all its weight on the tires, ultraviolet rays from the sun and weather-checking can seriously degrade the tire’s structure. Sitting too long can also cause “flat-spotting” and can keep the oil and other compounds in the tire’s molecular structure from being dispersed properly.
- For most states, the minimum tread depth for safe tires is 2/32”. You don’t need a ruler or tape measure to get this measurement – simply take a penny and insert it into the tread grooves with Lincoln’s head pointing down. If the tread covers the top of Lincoln’s head, you’re still in good shape. Take this same measurement at several points across the tire’s width, and at several points along the circumference. Bear in mind, though, that 2/32” is really a bare minimum for safety. 4/32” or even 6/32” are a better rule of thumb. For those measurements, you can use the backside of the penny…4/32” equates to the top of the Lincoln monument.
- The federal government and DOT mandate that tires have wear indicators embedded into the tread. These wear bars are at the base of the tread grooves, at a right angle. If you start to see the wear bars show through, it is definitely time to get new tires.
Also, be aware of your car’s ride and handling. Worn tires will have a negative effect on both, and if you’re attuned to such things you will definitely notice it as tires approach the end of their service life.
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