May 18-24 is National Tire Safety Week! When drivers think of the most important safety features in their car, they may think of seat belts and airbags, but safety truly starts where the rubber meets the road. That’s why we put together this list of 10 helpful tips to keep you safe when you’re out on the road.
Packing too much weight into your vehicle can create excessive heat inside your tires which can stress or damage them. This can drastically shorten the life of your tire and possibly lead to a blowout. Make sure you are following the manufacturer’s load recommendation which can be found in the vehicle information placard inside your driver’s side door post or in your owner’s manual.
Rotating your tires can go a long way in ensuring that your tires wear evenly which can help them last longer and prevent blowouts. A typical tire rotation involves moving the front tires to the rear of your vehicle and vice versa. In most cases, this is recommended for every 5,000-7,500 miles. However, there are some exceptions. Make sure you check your owner’s manual to make sure you are following the recommended guidelines for your vehicle.
This tip does not just refer to the mileage on your tires, but when they were made. It is required by law that manufacturers include a data code on the lower sidewall of every tire they make. The last four digits on that code indicate when the tire was made. For example, if the last four digits are 2516, that tire was manufactured in the 25th week of 2016.
If you can’t seem to find that code, it is likely on the inboard side of your tire. While this might make it difficult to check, it is still important to know as some manufacturers recommend replacing tires every 6 years – even if the treads look brand new! Consumer Reports recommends changing them every 10 years no matter what.
In 45-degree (F) temperatures and lower, all-season tires can start to stiffen and lose their grip. Winter tires will remain flexible in these conditions which can deliver a 25-50% increase in traction over all-season tires. That could be just the margin you need to prevent a serious accident, especially in slippery conditions.
If your tires could talk, what do you think they would say? As it turns out, your tires can say quite a lot about your vehicle based on their wear patterns. If your treads are significantly more worn out in the center than on the sides, you are likely overinflating your tires. If your treads are more worn on the outsides, it signals that your tires have been underinflated. If you notice your tires are wearing out faster on one side or the other, or if the tire wear is sporadic, something may be wrong with your alignment or suspension.
Any time that your tires show signs of uneven wear, it simply means that your tire is not distributing weight evenly on the road which can lead to increased wear, shorter tire life, loss of traction, and poor gas mileage.
Check your sidewalls often for any bumps, cuts, bulges, cracks, or other abnormalities. These are often a sign of weakness in the tire created by a bump into a curb, pothole, or other roadside hazards. If you see any sign of damage, you need to replace the tire as heat and friction from driving could lead to a blowout while you’re on the road.
It’s easy for drivers to inspect the tires that are on their vehicles and forget to check on their spare. Make sure you check your spare each month to make sure it is a safe option if you need to use it. It can be very dangerous to use a spare that is unsafe for the road.
In the U.S. and many other parts of the world, tires are considered to be worn out when their tread depth is worn down to 2/32″. U.S. law requires manufacturers to include easily-visible indicator bars that run from one side of a tread-design to the other. For added grip in slippery conditions, Tire Rack recommends that drivers replace their tires at 4/32″ of remaining tread.
In a best-case scenario, a flat tire can be an inconvenience. At worst, it can be dangerous. That’s why it helps to know the signs that a flat tire could be coming before it happens. If you notice low pressure that continues despite attempts to inflate your tire, damage to the sidewalls, bulges in your tire, or excessive vibration while driving, you should consult a mechanic or tire shop.
Proper tire inflation provides better grip, longer tire life, and even better gas mileage. Both underinflating and overinflating your tire can lead to a loss of traction or total failure of the tire. Be sure to follow manufacturer recommendations which you can find on the sticker on the inside of your driver-side door jamb or in your owner’s manual to make sure you’re inflating your tires to the correct psi.
We recommend checking your tire pressure at least once each month as well as before and after long trips. Keep in mind that a number of factors can contribute to a change in tire pressure, including temperature!