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Car Tire Maintenance Tips

Updated on February 11, 2016

Worn Tires Are At Risk Of Blowouts

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Tires are pneumatic inflatable structures, made of synthetic or natural rubber, fabric, wire and carbon black. They cover the wheel's rim to protect it and enable better performance of the vehicle. The tread is the part of the tire that comes in contact with the road surface. The tread pattern is characterized by the geometrical shape of grooves, lugs, voids and sipes. Grooves run circumferentially around the tire and are needed to channel away water. Lugs are that portion of the tread design that contacts the road surface. Voids are spaces in between the lugs that allow them to flex and evacuate water.

Air Pressure Gauge

Risks Associated With Tire Wear

Low tread and worn out tires are more susceptible to punctures, which can lead to blowouts. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, flats and blowouts are amongst the most common causes of traffic accidents. A car is more likely to hydroplane with low tread tires. Hydroplaning is the condition where a layer of water builds up between the tire and the road surface. It occurs when the tread pattern cannot channel away enough water at an adequate rate, and the tire floats above the road surface on a cushion of water, and loses traction, braking, and steering, creating unsafe driving conditions. During the rainy season, worn tires need a longer stopping distance on wet roads. They fail to gain traction on snow-covered and icy roads, making it hazardous to drive. They are more likely to loose air pressure and need to be checked repeatedly. Underinflated tires impact the car fuel economy. They reduce the steering efficiency. In such circumstances, a sudden blowout can lead to imbalance and loss of control of a speeding vehicle, increasing the chances of head-on collisions and car crash.

Tire Wear Patterns

Common Tire Wear Patterns

  1. Toe wear: Underinflated tires get worn out on the inner and outer edges. This is known as the toe wear. In more extreme cases, it results from malalignment of the wheels. The center of the tire is quicker to wear than the edges if it is overinflated.
  2. Cupping wear: It is a diagonal scalloping on the tire, and suggests that the suspension may be worn, bent or compromised.
  3. Patchy wear: The tire wear does not follow any pattern, but occurs patchily. This suggests that most probably the tire is out of balance.

Tire Rotation

Tips To Protect Your Vehicle Tires From Getting Worn Out

  1. Don't overload your vehicle: A car is meant to ease your commute. Do not convert it into a truck at your convenience, when shifting an apartment. Overloaded tires undergo more heat and friction, and are far more likely to get punctured. Always keep in mind the maximum load rating printed near the center of the sidewall of your tire while loading your car.
  2. Avoid rough terrains and construction sites: SUVs (Sports Utility Vehicles) are meant to be driven on rough and uneven mountainous roads. Do not use your family car for the same purpose. Avoid hazardous roads and construction sites. Nails, metal shards, sharp pointed pieces of glass spilled all over the place and large potholes common in such areas, can all cause flats and blowouts. Try to take safe alternate routes in such situations, even if the drive requires a few more minutes. Better late than never !!
  3. Check the tire air pressure regularly: Underinflated tires with too little air are the most common cause of flats, that reduce the lifespan of your tire. They produce more friction, which in turn causes excessive heating, consequently the tires either loose their grooves or suffer a blowout. Underinflated tires also reduce the fuel efficiency of your vehicle. Overinflated tires are more prone to damage from bumpy, uneven under construction roads and potholes. Every manufacturer provides a manual with air pressure information for the tires that come standard with the car. Follow the instructions and the air pressure readings provided in your car owner's manual to reduce tire wear. If you replace the original ones, make sure you have the recommended pressure ratings for the new ones. You have an eye for your own skills. Do not try to eyeball tire air pressure levels. Use a quality air pressure gauge for more accurate readings. Check the pressure when tires are cold, that is, they have been resting for 3 hours or longer. The entire vehicle, including the tires, gets heated up during a commute, so if you check the levels immediately on stopping the vehicle, the pressure readings would be falsely raised. Extreme cold reduces air pressure within the tires, and the extreme heat causes the air inside to expand, resulting in higher readings. Check the air pressure more often during extreme climatic conditions.
  4. Keep an eye on the tire tread: Notice fading color, fraying, cracks or a distorted tire. Those with even half their tread may be risky to drive. Take a closer look at the wear bars of your tire. They are the indicator marks located in between the tread pattern of your tire. When the tires have worn down and become even with the wear bars, you know its time to get new ones. Look for uneven wear patterns and excessive wear at the center and sides of your tire. The quarter test and the penny test can be used to determine the tread depth, which if less than .125 inch/3.2 mm indicates that the tire needs to be replaced.
  5. Tire rotation: The weight of a vehicle is distributed unevenly, placing different amounts of stress on each wheel. Front tires wear more quickly than the rear ones. To avoid uneven wear pattern and tread failure, rotate your tires regularly. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends you rotate every 5000 miles. It could be a cross or a straight rotation. Care must be taken with unidirectional tires, so that correct rotation direction indicated on the sidewall with an arrow-like symbol, is maintained after the swap.
  6. Maintain speed: Every tire has a speed rating that denotes the maximum speed at which it is designed to be operated. For passenger vehicles, these ratings range from 160 to 300 km/hr. Speeds more than this can lead to tire wear.

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