Home > Safety First > Check the Tires on your Cars and SUVs

Check the Tires on your Cars and SUVs

Checking the tires on your cars/suvs are very important!  Not only can it improve your gas mileage, it can improve the safety and performance of your vehicle.  Think of your tires like a pair of shoes.  There are two tennis players with the same strength and athletic ability.  The only difference is their pair of shoes.  One is wearing a brand new sneakers and the other is wearing the same pair except that the treads are all worn out.  Who would perform better?  To make another extreme point, not all tires are created equal.  Some are better than others in the same category and some just don’t fit the season.  A serious tennis player would never play in a pair of running shoes and certainly a marathon runner would never run in high heels.  Tires are as important to our daily lives as are shoes.

Efforts in car maintenance has focused on oil changes every 3 to 5000 miles along with major services that come every 15 to  30,000 miles.  When was the last time you had a tire rotation?  When was the last time you checked your tire pressure?  When was the last time you checked your treads?  Tires have taken a back seat in car safety where in fact it should be the first and foremost in all people’s minds.  The performance and more importantly safety of your car/suv is only as good as your tires.

Michelin created an ad which hit the nail on the head.

Checking your tires are not only for your safety but your family’s lives are at stake.  It is very important to know the state of your tires.

The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration previously had a campaign in 2001 promoting tire safety.

(Click on the picture to download PDF of the NHTSA Tire Safety Checklist.)

The NHTSA performed a tire pressure study in October 2001.  Some of the key findings show that almost one out of every ten cars are being driven on at least one “bald” tire.  Bald tires are between 1.5 and 1.8 times more likely to be underinflated than are tires with deeper tread.  Nearly 20 percent of the gas stations providing customers with tire pressure gauges on their air pumps are gauges that over-report the pressure present in a tire by at least 4 psi.  A NHTSA research survey in August of 2001 also found that 27 percent of passenger cars on U.S. roadways are driven with one or more substantially under-inflated tires.

Having proper tires will not only help prevent accidents but also equip the driver to react better against other drivers who might pose a danger.

Not all tires are created equal.  One shoe does not fit all and not all tires perform the same.  Consumers should be even more picky about what tires they buy.  There are excellent rated tires that are inexpensive.  There are also expensive tires that are underperforming.  A great place to research tires is Tire Rack.

With the downturn of the economy in recent years, people are more likely to put less emphasis on tire safety.  As a matter of fact the opposite should occur.  Checking your tires on a frequent basis will maximize the life of a tire by doing something as little as four things:

First, check the tire pressure.  Tire pressure should be checked when the tires have not been recently been driven on.  Take your car to the nearest gas station and add air if needed.

Second, check for uneven wear which may indicate your car needing a wheel alignment.  Although this is challenging, you can turn the wheel all the way to the right or left.  This will expose your treads and you can check whether your tires have uneven wear or needs to be changed.  A way to determine whether your wheel is correctly aligned is to straighten out your wheel and your car should drive straight.  Also if your car is pulling to one side or the other, then a wheel alignment is most likely needed.  One can use a penny to determine whether the tire has enough tread.  Insert a penny between the treads and portion of Lincoln’s head should always covered by the tread.  If not, it is time to buy new tires.

Third is rotating your tires every 5~6000 miles.  (Rotation of tires are not expensive and should not take more than 30 minutes nor should it costs more than $25 for the everyday passenger car.  This can be performed at your local gas station.)

Lastly, walk around your car and check the appearance of your tires making sure there are no visible irregularities or foreign objects in them.

Before you take home your baby from the hospital for the first time, before you give your kid and his friends a ride to home or school, before you go on a long drive for a family trip, please check the tires on your vehicle and be safe.

(Happy Baby USA is not affiliated in any way with Tire Rack and Michelin.)

References and additional readings:

1. National Highways Traffic Safety Administration http://www.nhtsa.gov/cars/problems/equipment/tires/

2.  Tire rack – a.  Tire Research & b.  Measuring tire tread:

a.  http://www.tirerack.com/tires/reviews/MenuServlet?search=surveyComments

b.  http://www.tirerack.com/tires/tiretech/techpage.jsp?techid=51

  1. March 31, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    You make a great point about checking tire pressure when the tires are cool. First thing in the morning, before you’ve driven on them, is a good time to check. It’s really important to do this during the winter as well because your tires can lose 1 PSI for every 10 degrees F colder it gets outside.

    The penny test is a classic one for measuring tread depth but if you don’t have one a quarter works too. If you can see the top of Washington’s head your tires are worn (4/32″) but not yet bald. It’s if you can see the “States of” part of United States of America that they’re likely down to 2/32″ and need to be replaced ASAP.

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