Tire Maintenance Can Keep You On the Road

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Tires are vital to your safety. This article offers sound tips on how to stay ahead of the condition of your tires.

Submitted: January 05, 2016

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Submitted: January 05, 2016



“The only thing between you and the highway” is a well-worn marketing phrase used to emphasize the importance of tire safety.  Not all drivers appreciate the need for periodic tire inspections. What level of disregard for one’s own safety and that of the driving community would prompt anyone to drive on compromised tires?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that tires be replaced when they reach 2/32 of an inch of tread remaining. Tires are manufactured with tread wear indicators to match that standard.

Some time ago NHTSA published “Tire-Related Factors in the Pre-Crash Phase”. In that paper, it was found that vehicles with 0- 2/32 tread depth remaining were 3 times more likely to experience tire problems in the pre-crash phase of an accident compared to vehicles in the 3-4/32 group.

 So where do hapless car owners go wrong and how can they avoid the need to limp into a repair facility with a tire that isn’t much more reliable than a balloon?

Know your tires

Make a note of the odometer reading when you last replaced your tires. Keep in mind how your tires were rated. The sales person or auto repair facility will know how long your tires are expected to last. This rating assumes that you will maintain the proper pressure and rotate them every eight to ten thousand miles.

Be aware of any repairs to your tires and where on your car that tire is mounted. If you did not replace all four tires at once, keep track of the older tires so they get replaced next. If one tire needs to be replaced, match the new tire to the one on the other side while consulting the decal on the driver’s door pillar to confirm that it is the size that was engineered for your car.

Use TPMS wisely

If your car is a 2008 model year or newer you have a Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS). The good thing about TPMS is that it tells you when you have a low tire. The bad thing about it is that it could trick you into a false sense of security about your tires. Pressure is only one piece of the tire maintenance puzzle. My fear is that just as some people only check their oil after seeing a flashing red light, there may be those who will ignore their tires as long as the TPMS light is not illuminated.

When you see the tire cross section and exclamation point always respond, but don’t think that it takes the place of periodic tire inspections. Tires can be very unsafe and still hold air as the tire pictured here demonstrates.

What to check for

  • Overall wear - paying attention to the tire wear indicators on the inside and outside of the tread
  • Signs of age - including cracks and dry rot, noting  that 5 years or older is a concern
  • Damage - bulges, gouges, trauma to the wheels, punctures
  • Low pressure – confirm the recommended psi, look for the source of the air loss
  • Condition of the spare – psi is marked on the sidewall
  • Existence of a jack – consult owner’s manual for location of undercar lifting points

Tires really are the only thing between you and the highway. By performing periodic tire inspections, you can ensure that they don’t leave you stranded on the side of the road.

Sources: E-H Choi, Tire-Related Factors in the Pre-Crash Phase, nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov  /Pubs/811617.pd

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