A car is useless without tires, and tires can be dangerous without proper care and maintenance. Too many drivers neglect to give their tires periodic check-ups, forgetting until it’s time for a long drive or something feels “off.” But if you want to get the most out of your tires (ensuring that they reach their maximum level of mileage, safety, and wear), it’s important that you follow these tire safety tips. They’re easy to do no matter what your skill level, and with a little time, a few handy tools, and our tire safety tips, you can feel confident that your tires are performance-ready.
Tire Safety Tips
- Check the tire tread depth. See those grooves on the tire? It’s important that they’re deep enough to keep your car driving safely whether you’re sharing the road with pouring rain or a blustery blizzard. To check the tire’s tread depth, insert a penny upside down into the groove. Do this all around the tire and be sure to check all the grooves. If you can see above Lincoln’s head at any point, you have a problem. Uneven tire wear may mean that you need suspension repair or wheel alignment. Total wear means you need new tires; if the tire depth is too low, you could easily lose traction or hydroplane.
- Check the tire pressure. Of all our tire safety tips, this might be the most important because it is frequently a factor in major car accidents. When a tire is under-inflated, it can decrease your fuel economy, cause imprecise handling, wear the edges of the tire prematurely, or overheat and fail. When a tire is over-inflated, it can be difficult to drive and wear the center of the tire prematurely. It’s important that you keep your tires at a healthy medium level. Check your owner’s manual or the sticker on the driver’s door to find out the maximum permissible tire pressure (don’t use the tire sidewall), and then use a tire pressure gauge to check the current tire pressure. For best results, do this when the tires have been resting awhile. Also, be aware that tire pressure varies based on temperature; in cold weather, they lose pressure, and in warm weather, they gain it. A 10-degree temperature change can mean about 1-pound of pressure difference. If your tire pressure is too low, add air using a personal inflator or go to a gas station with an air dispenser (bring quarters to pay with). Add air in short bursts and check your gauge frequently to avoid adding too much.
- Have your tires rotated. Every six months or 6,000-8,000 miles, you need to have your tires rotated to ensure that they wear evenly and last longer. To do this, a mechanic will remove your tires and move them to a different position (sometimes front to back, sometimes diagonally, sometimes both). Some owner’s manuals will recommend a specific rotation pattern, but if you aren’t sure, your mechanic can take care of it for you. Rotating your tires improves the vehicle’s performance, helps the tires last longer, and saves you money in the long run.
- Check your tire balance and wheel alignment. To prevent tires from being worn down unevenly, check the tire balance and wheel alignment if you feel anything unusual as you drive. If you feel strange vibrations through the steering or chassis, take the car in to a mechanic to have the tire balance checked. If your car seems to “pull” to one side or the other, take it in to have the suspension inspected and the wheels aligned.
To keep your tires in tip-top condition, make a note on your calendar to perform these tire safety tips periodically. You should check the tire pressure about once a month (as well as before any long trips), check the tread depth every 1-2 months, have the tires rotated every 6-8 months, and check the balance and alignment only when your tires are showing wear or you notice a difference in the vehicle’s handling. Good luck!