Tires are one of the many components of a car that take a lot of abuse. Spinning at thousands of revolutions per minute over the years, going over potholes and bumpy roads, and constantly being worn down by friction, it is only natural that the state of this integral automotive component be taken seriously, as it can mean the difference between being involved in an accident on the road and arriving safely at your destination. Here at Huffines Chevrolet Plano, we care about the safety of you and your loved ones, and have compiled a simple guide with tips to help you care for your vehicle’s tires.
Check Your Tire Pressure
First and foremost, the most basic — and easiest — thing you can do in tire maintenance is to check the pressure of your vehicle’s tires. Driving with underinflated tires can affect braking and handling, especially in wet driving conditions, resulting in potential accidents. Driving around with low air pressure may also result in premature failure. Underinflated tired also exhibit higher rolling resistance, meaning that it takes more effort to move your vehicle, resulting in excess fuel consumption. By keeping them properly inflated, you will save lots of money over the course of a year.
It is recommended that you check your tire pressure once a month and every time you plan on driving on a long trip. Try to check the pressure when your tires are “cold,” that is, when they have not been driven on for at least three hours — and don’t forget to check your spare, too!
You can find your tires’ proper tire inflation pressure — measured in kilopascals (kPA) or pounds per square inch (PSI) — on the Tire and Loading Information Label, which is located on the driver’s side door edge, or you can look for the numbers in the owner’s manual.
Pro tip: You could always buy a small pressure gauge at your local auto parts store, as the pressure gauges at gas stations may give you an incorrect reading because of improper calibration.
A simple visual inspection can prevent unnecessary problems down the road. While you check your tire pressure, look for under and overinflation, and also tire tread wear issues. Underinflated tires result in wear along the edges of the tread, while overinflation causes wear in the center. Tire wear on one side of the tread means your wheels need to be aligned. Erratic tread wear could signify that your wheel is out of balance.
Make sure to keep an eye on the tread’s depth. Tires have built-in indicators, which are raised sections that you can find between the tire’s tread. If you see that the tread is level with the tread indicator, this means you need to replace your tires. You can also use the coin test to help you determine if your tire is due for replacement.
It is also possible to gather information on the status of your tires while driving. If you notice an unusual vibration or thumping noise, this may mean your tire is not properly balanced or that you have a bald spot resulting from sudden breaking. Also, if your vehicle pulls to one side, this may sometimes mean that one of your tires is under-inflated or damaged.
As always, you should also have a professional check your tires once a year.
Balance and Align
To help maximize the life of your tires and keep you safe while driving, it is imperative that you have your tires balanced and your wheels aligned. Tire balancing will prevent shaking and vibration, which you might feel in your hands while holding the steering wheel. Balancing is achieved by attaching small weights to the wheel to limit vibration while the tires rotate, and should be done when a new tire is installed or if it has been taken off the wheel for repair.
Wheel alignment helps prolong the lifespan of your tires by promoting even wear, as well as prevents your vehicle from veering to one side of the road. Make sure to have the alignment checked anytime new wheels are installed.
The primary function of a tire rotation is the promotion of even tire wear. Over time, every tire on your vehicle will get a chance to be placed on a different wheel, resulting in even usage. For some vehicles, however, only front-to-back tire rotation can be done. In the case of vehicles that have different front and rear tire sizes, rotation is not allowed. Make sure to always consult your owner’s manual if you have any doubts.
A good way to remember to rotate your tires is to have this done with every oil change, or every 5,000 to 8,000 miles.
Inspect the tires for aging. Tires become damaged not only from the aforementioned factors, but also from the way the vehicle is stored and environmental conditions, such as exposure to sunlight and warm climates. Tire aging is evident in the physical change of the tire’s rubber and other components. Make sure to visually check for cracks or have a professional inspect the tires’ quality.
Avoid driving at high speeds, as your tires have a greater chance of being damaged from heat build-up or any road hazards. High-speed driving also can result in air loss and potential tire explosion.
Finally, do not overload your vehicle past its maximum load capacity, as this may cause your tires to build up heat and rupture.
Sometimes we forget and overlook the importance of taking care of our car’s tires, but going that extra step in caring for their condition will ensure safe travels for you, your passengers, and fellow drivers alike, as well as better fuel efficiency and longevity of the tires’ lifespan, resulting in considerable savings.
If you notice something unusual with your vehicle’s performance or find that you need help with your tires, you can always schedule a checkup and maintenance with our service department at Huffines Chevrolet Plano, and our certified, expert technicians will be more than happy to assist you.
Image via Flickr by moohaha