Your car’s tires are among the most expensive vehicle-maintenance items you’ll have to cover. Tires are also among the most important safety features.
Most of us would never dream of getting behind the wheel without buckling our seat belts. And in many cases, people make car buying decisions based on the availability of front- and side-impact airbags.
So why wouldn’t you take every precaution necessary to ensure that your tires – the very things that keep you on the road – are in tip-top condition? Tires are what make for a ‘connected car,’ and we mean that in the traditional sense! Traction, performance in poor weather, gas mileage, and being able to stop on a dime are all dependent on good tires.
Here’s a list of 5 facts you didn’t know about your vehicle’s tires. Knowing them and adhering to them could be the difference between arriving at your destination safe and sound, or spending the night waiting for a tow truck.
1) Under-inflation causes most tire blow-outs.
Tires are tough and can take a lot of abuse, but when you drive on a tire that has too little air in it, there could be serious and potentially life-threatening implications. When your tires are under-inflated, the sidewalls become weak. Tire sidewalls are designed to bear weight based on a certain measure of air pressure. The sidewall structure changes when air pressure is less than what’s recommended, thus changing how much weight it can bear. Many cars have tire-pressure monitoring systems, so keep an eye on the air pressure and fill up when needed. Do not ignore your TPMS (Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems) sensors! Most full size spare tires are also equipped with these sensors. When was the last time you checked that pressure?
2) Tires can be over inflated.
Think of your tires as big, strong, rubber balloons. If you pump too much air into them, they run the risk of popping. When a tire pops, it’s a bit like a mini explosion. This can be especially dangerous when driving at higher speeds. Over-inflation can also cause premature wear on your tires. As far as tire inflation in relation to suspension wear goes it will not particularly affect the properties of the suspension, but may make for an uncomfortable ride. When filling up your tires, stick to the recommended air pressure found on the sticker on the inside of your driver-side door or in your vehicle owner’s manual.
3) Appearances can be deceiving.
Sometimes it’s impossible to tell, just by looking at a tire, if it has too much air or too little air. A local auto service station will be able to accurately and efficiently fill under inflated tires as well as check the tire pressure of your spare tire while they’re at it. Whether you choose the route of DIFM or DIY it is always smart to be prepared with your own air gauge. Both analog and digital gauges will do the trick, but if compared digital gauges are often more accurate. Staying on top of your vehicle’s tire pressure is the easiest way to maintain your tires.
4) How a tire wears may indicate a larger issue.
If you see that your car’s front tires are wearing unevenly, this could indicate that the suspension is out of alignment. If your suspension is out of alignment it is smart to get them adjusted as soon as you can. That is not something you want to be traveling a long distance on! To save yourself money you might otherwise spend on replacing tires that have worn unevenly, have your alignment checked once every 12 months or every 15k miles (whichever comes first). Alignment can also be checked during tire installation, a suspension repair and whenever you are concerned with alignment issues. These services can all be done at your local auto repair service center.
5) Mini-spares should only be used to get you from point A to point B.
Never leave a mini-spare on your car any longer than is absolutely necessary; they’re not built for long-distance travel. Most importantly, it’s unsafe to drive on a mini-spare any faster than 50 miles per hour. If you do, you run the risk of having the spare blow out or losing control of your car, since the safe motion of your car is greatly dependent on all four tires having matching tread widths. Again it is worth noting that staying on top of your spare’s air pressure is a smart habit to get into in case of emergency use.
Want more info on tires?
- What to look for when shopping for new tires
- How much should it cost to replace a tire?
- All about tires and more reasons why you should care
Be on the safe side and check the air pressure of your tires at least once per month. Before heading out on a road trip, always give your tires a once-over. If one of them looks significantly lower than the rest, this is clear indication that you’ve got a slow leak that should be taken care of immediately. Always refer to your owner’s manual for the proper air pressure guidelines, and never inflate a tire past the maximum capacity indicated on the sidewall of the tire itself. And drive safely!
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