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Don’t tread on them: proper tire care

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When we’re considering the more important parts of our cars, of course we think about the engine, the transmission, headlights, and even the wiper blades.  We take strides to maintain these parts with oil changes, inspections, and fluid addition, but too often we forget about one of the more important parts of the car, until something goes wrong; the tires.  We don’t think about the importance of our tires, unfortunately, until we’re confronted with a flat.  We make ourselves familiar with other maintenance procedures, but do we know how to properly keep up with our tires to make them function better and longer?

Would tire maintenance be more important to people if they were informed that proper tire care can help prevent accidents?  A recent study showed that eight percent of accidents are caused by poor tire maintenance, whether underinflated or lacking the proper depth of tread for safe driving.  While eight percent may not seem like a huge number, it does mean that eight of every one hundred accidents could have easily been prevented with better tire care.  Tire maintenance is actually pretty simple to keep up with and can easily prevent dangerous driving situations.   Check out these top tips to keep you safe.

  1. Tire Pressure – Many newer cars have tire pressure monitoring systems, but a lot of these systems don’t work the way they should. The best way to test your tire pressure is to do it manually.  Check your manual to see what the ideal tire pressure for your car should be, and try to maintain that pressure at all times.  Pressure gauges are pretty inexpensive from most auto supply stores, and many of the air pumps at gas stations have a built it pressure gauge for your convenience.  It is recommended that the tire’s air pressure be checked once a month to ensure proper inflation.
  2. Regular Rotation – Vehicles that are front wheel drive will have tires that wear differently than those that are rear wheel drive, but guess what? They both have the same tire rotation demands to keep them functioning at 100%.  Mechanics say that the tires should be rotated every six to eight thousand miles.  There are several schools of thought regarding which way the tires should be placed during rotation, but your mechanic will know what’s best.  If you’re choosing to rotate yourself, consult a handy internet video or article and your owner’s manual to best switch the tires.  Proper rotation allows the tires to wear more evenly and will keep you from making costly replacements sooner than needed.
  3. Balance and Alignment – Have you ever felt your car pull when you’re not gripping the wheel tightly enough? That’s the alignment being out of whack, and not only is it affecting your tires, but your gas mileage as well.   Proper alignment means your car handles better, and that you’re not as likely to cause an accident.  Balancing is another issue facing tires, as an out of balance tire can cause seriously uneven wear patterns, causing you to replace them sooner than necessary.  Having a balance and alignment performed if your tires look a little uneven, or if you know you’ve struck something is just as important as making sure the pressure is on point.
  4. Don’t Drive on a Flat – Use your spare, that’s what it is there for. We’ve all had those moments where we have to trek a little bit further on a flattened tire to get to a safe pull off spot, but those situations can’t be helped.  Don’t drive any further than necessary on a flat tire, as it can damage not only the wheel, but other serious parts of your car, including the brake line.  Pull over as soon as you’re able, and replace the tire with a spare.  If you don’t feel you’re capable of this action, call someone to help or join a roadside assistance program, never drive on the flat for an extended period of time.
  5. Watch Your Surroundings – Part of proper tire maintenance is how you’re driving. If you’re constantly running over things you shouldn’t, making no effort to avoid pot holes, and crossing the rumble strips on the highway, you’re doing more harm than good.  None of these things are good for your tires, so pay so close attention.  Not only are the aforementioned scenarios bad for your tires, but so is excessive speed.  If the tires get too hot, it can lead to a blowout, and those situations never end well.  Observe your surroundings and keep your speed in the legal range, and your tires should last to their full potential.

Whether you’re a novice driver or a seasoned road warrior, your car isn’t going to get very far on bad tires.  Considering the expense of new tires, it should be considered top priority for many drivers to make sure they’re keeping a close eye on them, but more often than not, it isn’t.  A quick five to ten-minute inspection once a month can ensure that your tires are getting every single mile that you’ve paid for.  Tread lightly, and take good care of your tires.

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