A vehicle’s performance is only as good as the maintenance of its moving parts. Tires are no exception. New, used, or worn, these 4+ players in motion have a role. How they are kept and maintained will affect motion, efficiency, and safety. Keep them in check and keep cruising.
Well cared for tires go a long way toward a happy ending. Stay on the road and get to your destination by keeping your tires inflated, inspected, and routinely rotated, and keep the suspension aligned.
Check your tire air pressure regularly. A handheld pressure gauge is easy to use with some practice and should be in everyone’s glovebox. It’s been shown that tires inflated at the right psi can improve gas mileage by 0.6%, and as much as 3%. Imagine that tank of gas getting you that much further!
Caution: don’t max out on air. Hit that sweet spot by aiming for the recommended psi printed on a sticker in the driver’s side door jam and in the owner’s manual, NOT the number printed on the inside of the tire. You are neither Tom Brady nor Vin Diesel. Play it safe.
There’s another number to keep in mind: load capacity. Your vehicle, trailer, etc. can only handle so much girth. Traveling with too heavy a load will force the tires to heat up and possibly explode.
Check It Out
Take the time to check the condition of your tires, by visually inspecting them regularly.
Is the tread wearing down? Try to be sensitive to what is on the road.
Did you drive through a pile of debris, near a construction site, or into a pothole? Listen for unusual clunking sounds while the wheels are turning, which could indicate that there is either something in the tread or something embedded.
Pebbles and nails which have found their way into the tire tread can be removed. A nail which has impacted the tire will need to be removed and a patch placed over the hole. A weak leak can be temporarily patched, but a strong leak requires more work and possibly a new tire.
Don’t Disturb This Groove
What your vehicle has been through on any given journey directly affects the tires. Getting your tires rotated will extend their life. Evening out the wear on the tread will make for a smoother ride. Adequate tread will also help when driving on slick roads with rain, ice, or snow. A suggestion: take it to the [speed] limit only. Tires will burn through more quickly when a vehicle has been driven at consistently higher speeds.
Take the president’s test: you will need a quarter and a penny. A quarter inserted upside down into your tire’s tread should cover less than Washington’s head. Any more and you’ll need that penny. A penny inserted upside down should still reveal Lincoln’s head. If not, it is time to replace this tire.
The way in which your tires connect with the vehicle’s suspension, and the road, requires balance. A shaky steering column or your vehicle coasting left or right are signs of the alignment being off. Collisions, repeatedly traversing bumpy terrains and/or metals (such as a railroad tracks and plates) will affect the suspension. You could be one arm wrestle with the steering column away from losing control of the vehicle. Have an assessment done, and repairs made, as soon as possible.