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Tire Care Tips


Statistics

“…there are an estimated 23,464 tow-away crashes caused per year by blowouts or flat tires…When these cases are broken down by passenger cars versus light trucks, blowouts cause more than three times the number of crashes in light trucks…than in passenger cars... Blowouts cause a much higher proportion of rollover crashes (4.81 percent) than non-rollover crashes (0.28 percent); and the rate in light trucks (6.88 percent) is more than three times the rate in passenger cars (1.87 percent).” – NHTSA

Overview

Paying closer attention to your tire maintenance, whether you drive a car, van, or larger truck, can save money and reduce the chance of crashes or injuries.  Aside from preventing a crash and its resulting damages or injuries, one of the best benefits is increased fuel economy.  Unfortunately, there are many crashes each year from tire “blowouts” which happen when underinflated tires overheat and burst.  Thankfully, improved product design helps minimize the blowout threat, but running at high speeds on underinflated tires is still a big concern. Collisions may even occur when stopping to change a flat tire.

Introduction

Have you ever heard the expression “where the rubber meets the road”?  This usually refers to something that is important and is critical to getting a job done.  Tires are one part of your vehicle that are absolutely critical to proper, safe driving.  

Whether a scooter or monster truck, a sedan or ‘semi’, tires must be properly maintained to provide control/steering and are key to proper suspension and distribution of weight. Additionally, if your tires are improperly inflated and/or out of alignment it will increase your fuel consumption and may contribute to a loss of steering control and braking during emergency maneuvers.

Tread/Sidewall Condition

Check the tread grooves of your tires to make sure that they’re free of foreign objects.

If the tread is not wearing evenly, has bald spots, or the treads are very shallow, have your tires inspected by a professional mechanic.  Irregular wear patterns may indicate several possible problems.

Check the sidewalls to make sure there are no gouges, cuts, bulges or other irregularities.

Vehicle Loading and Overloading

Loading your vehicle beyond recommended limits will create excessive wear on your tires and can affect vehicle control/handling.

Overloading your vehicle creates excessive heat inside your tires. Excessive heat can cause tire failure that could result in vehicle damage and/or serious injury or even death.

Rotation, Alignment and Balancing

Tires should be rotated periodically to encourage even wear patterns.  Tires that are never rotated could develop odd wear patterns affecting steering and control.

A bad jolt from hitting a curb or pothole can affect tire/wheel alignment and damage your tires by wearing out treads unevenly.  Proper alignment also contributes to fuel economy.

When new tires are purchased, they should be balanced to properly compensate for the weight of the tire and wheel after the tire has been mounted.  Out-of-balance wheels have one area of the wheel that is heavier than the other areas and can lead to off-center wear patterns, vibration (bounce or wobble), stress on suspension parts and poor control.

Tire Pressure

Underinflation has the effect of simulating an overloaded vehicle and can affect vehicle control, lead to excessive tire heating (blowouts) and wear out your tires prematurely.

Make sure you check your tire pressure regularly and keep it at the level recommended by the vehicle manufacturer. If your company allows or requires you to check the air pressure, be sure to use the right gauge for your type of tire/vehicle – a car-tire gauge is not designed for heavy trucks.

It is virtually impossible to spot a tire that’s 5 psi under its ideal inflation level; however, under-inflation of 5 psi can reduce a performance tire's tread life by 25%

Realize that your tires can lose pressure on their own – even while sitting still.  Some tires can lose 1-PSI per month, and an additional 1-PSI for every drop of ten degrees (Fahrenheit) in outside air temperature.

Most people can’t judge proper inflation levels by simply looking at the tire or by “thumping it“

  

Tire at 32 psi
(100% recommended pressure)
Tire at 16 psi
(50% recommended pressure)

If you don’t know the correct tire pressure for your tires, most vehicles have the proper “cold inflation pressure” for your tires is listed on the vehicle placard on the door post, fuel door, glove box or in the owners' manual. "Cold inflation pressure" refers to the pressure in a tire that has not been driven for at least three hours. As tires warm during driving, it is normal for pressure to build up.

The tire pressure listed on your sidewalls is the maximum pressure and is not intended to serve as notification of the correct pressure.

You can improve your gas mileage by around 3.3% by keeping your tires inflated to the proper pressure. Under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.4 percent for every 1 psi drop in pressure of all four tires. A study published by the Federal government at fueleconomy.gov suggests that proper inflation can equate to a fuel cost savings of up to eleven cents per gallon (based on fuel costs of $3.51 per gallon)

Tire Replacements or Tire “Mixing”

When you are ready to replace tires, professional mechanics should recommend the proper replacement(s).  Why?  Tires are specifically designed to match certain types of vehicles and specific speed and loading ranges.  This is especially true for vehicles with a “high center of gravity” (those that can roll over easily - 15-passenger vans, SUVs, etc.).  Although there may be several tires that would “fit” your vehicle, some may not be suitable for the type of driving that your vehicle will be handling.  Not only does the new tire need to match the vehicle, it should also match the other tires that are being kept on the vehicle (mismatched tires can contribute to loss of control, interfere with anti-lock braking systems and reduce overall braking efficiency.)  

How Your Driving Affects Tire Wear

Tires will wear out faster when subjected to high speeds as well as hard cornering, rapid starts, and sudden stops.  If you drive “aggressively” you will likely wear out your tires faster and waste fuel.

Summary

Tire pressure, rotation, alignment, and overall condition need to be monitored.  When tires are not inspected and maintained properly, they can increase your risk of becoming involved in a collision (by blowout, inadequate steering control or poor braking efficiency).  This is true for your family car as well as your company vehicle regardless of its size, use, design or number of wheels.  Taking good care of your tires can provide more consistent control of steering and braking.  Proper tire care can decrease your odds of breakdowns and can lead to better fuel economy.