How to maintain your car tires and avoid repairs?
Proper maintenance of your car's tires is important to ensuring the safety of your vehicle. But unfortunately, the vast majority of drivers neglect their car tires.
A car's tires play an important part in the vehicle's suspension and steering system. Every year, an estimated 200 people are killed as a result of the more than 11,000 crashes caused by improper tire maintenance. Today, there is cause for concern because of the number of deaths related to flats and tread-separated blowouts.
Although many vehicle owners take their car in for an oil change on a regular basis, the vast majority of drivers neglect their tires altogether. In fact, most drivers do not even realize there is anything wrong with their tires until they get a flat.
The lack of proper tire pressure is the number one cause of failure and tires. As an integral part of your vehicle's suspension system, the tires should be kept at a specific pressure at all times. If the pressure is too great, the tire has a tendency to bulge in the middle resulting in uneven wear. However, if the pressure is too little, then the tire is worn excessively at the edges of the tread.
Eventually, if a car is driven with low air pressure for too many miles, the wear on the edges of the tread will result in the exposure of the belt. As the belt wears down, the tread can begin to separate from the tire itself. If the car is moving at highway speeds when the tread separates, it can result in a rollover accident.
The average driver, instead of checking the actual pressure of the tire, gauges whether the tire is underinflated by visual inspection alone. The problem with this method is that the average vehicle tire will only become noticeably flat after it has lost half of its recommended air pressure. As a result, roughly 85% of vehicles on the road today, are being operated with too little air pressure.
How to Check the Air Pressure in Your Tires?
Checking air pressure in your tires is not a difficult process. In fact, it should only take a driver a few minutes at the most to check their air pressure before driving it down the road. Every car has a sticker located in the doorjamb which provides the recommended tire pressure for both front and rear tires. This recommended pressure should be checked while the tires are still cold before the car has been driven.
You can pick up a basic pressure gauge at the counter of almost any gas station, or automotive parts store. To check the tire pressure, all you need to do is to remove the tire's valve cap. Simply press the gauge onto the valve stem firmly, making sure that no air is able to escape. Once a tight fit has been made, the gauge will tell you how much pressure the tire has.
The lack of proper tire pressure is the number one cause of failure and tires
In the event that the tire has too much pressure, the excess air can be let out by simply pressing the needle on the valve stem with your fingernail. However, you must make sure to recheck the pressure every few seconds.
Since most tires are under pressure, you will most likely need to add air to the tire. If you are lucky enough to have your own air pump, simply pump up the tire, taking time to stop every few seconds to check the pressure. However, since most drivers do not own their own air pump, if your tire has low pressure, you should stop at the nearest service center to fill it up.
Once you are finished checking the pressure and one tire, make sure to replace the valve. Repeat these steps for all four tires, and do not forget to also check the pressure of the spare. If your vehicle does not have a spare, you should seriously think of purchasing one for emergency purposes.
How to Check Your Tire Tread?
Basic physics is involved with the operation of a vehicle tire. The tire itself is made of a softer rubber than the hard asphalt or concrete that is used in road construction. As a result, the more you drive a vehicle, the more wear that your tires will receive. Other things that affect tire wear include improper alignment, taking corners too quickly, and driving with incorrect tire pressure.
A tire is still usable assuming there is still at least 1/16 of an inch of tread left at its thinnest point. Depending on the amount of driving that you do on a regular basis, it is recommended that you check the tire's tread at least once per month. Moreover, whenever you check the pressure in your tires, you should also take a moment to verify that you have plenty of tread left on the tire and that the wear is even across the width of the tread.
One of the easiest ways to determine if your tire has plenty of tread left is to pull a coin out of your pocket. A common quarter can be used to determine tread depth. By pointing the top of George Washington's head towards the tire, and inserting it into any tread groove that is wide enough for it to fit, you should see at least part of his head hidden behind the tread. So long as the top of George Washington's head is hidden, you still have at least 1/8 of an inch of tread left. Make sure to repeat this process at the sides and middle of all four tires.
If you are able to see all of George Washington's head, then it is time to do the penny test. The penny test is conducted in the same manner as the quarter test, but, the main difference is that we are now checking to verify whether there is at least 1/16 of an inch of tread left. If the tip of Abraham Lincoln's head is hidden behind a tread, then you still have more than 1/16 of an inch of tread left on the tire. However, if the top of Lincoln's head is visible then it is time to replace the tire.
As you are checking the tread depth of each of the four tires on your car, it is also important to check for tread separation. You can do this by simply running your hand along the back corner of the tire's tread to feel for any rough spots. Be careful when doing this, because exposed belts can poke you and draw blood.
Tread separation can be very dangerous at highway speeds. The centrifugal force of the tire rotating, can tear the tread
Tread separation can be very dangerous at highway speeds. The centrifugal force of the tire rotating, can tear the tread faster until the entire thing separates from the sidewalls of the tire. This can happen in a matter of milliseconds, resulting in a complete loss of control of the vehicle and potentially a flip-over. It's worth spending the extra minute checking each tire once a month to ensure that this does not happen.
Above and beyond ensuring that your tire has the correct pressure and tread depth, there are other steps that you can do to prevent costly repairs related to tire damage. It is important to remember that every time you stop, the weight of the vehicle is shifted forward placing more weight on the front tires. And, every time you turn a corner, the weight of the vehicle is shifted resulting in more pressure being placed on a single tire. Regular maintenance helps to reduce the wear and tear associated with this uneven distribution of weight.
The average person turns left at an intersection at a higher rate of speed than they turn right. Since the weight of the vehicle is shifted forward and to the outside of a turn, the front right tire generally wears down faster than the front left tire. Likewise, since breaking shifts the weight of the vehicle forward, the front tires generally wear faster than the back.
Every 6000 miles, it is suggested to rotate your tires in order to maximize their life expectancy. This rotation process moves the front tires to the back of the car, and the right tires to the left. The result of regular rotation is that the wear on all four tires is spread out more evenly.
A wheel alignment is also another important factor with regard to wear and tear on a vehicle tire. Although both the front and back tires can be adjusted, the manner in which they are aligned is different from one another. With regard to the front tires, as a result of wear and tear on the suspension, over time the wheels can begin to toe inward on the horizontal plane, as well as tilt inward on the vertical plane. An alignment fixes this tilting.
If you are driving your vehicle, and you can feel it pulling to either one side or the other as you drive, then chances are it needs an alignment. Moreover, if the wheels don't straighten out on their own after turning a corner there could be other issues related to the alignment and suspension. It is important to make sure that your vehicle's suspension is properly aligned in order to prevent uneven wear and tear on the tires.
One thing that most drivers take for granted, is the balance of their tires. When a new tire is mounted, the shop will generally balance the tires and add lead weights. If the rim is steel, then these weights are tapped on with a hammer along the edge of the rim. However, the process for aluminum alloys is slightly different.
One thing that most drivers take for granted, is the balance of their tires
Over the course of driving, the lead weight on the rims can become loose and may even break off. This results in the tire losing its balance, and if it is not rectified, will result in uneven wear and tear on the tire as well as the steering. Although most of the time you will be able to feel an imbalance in the tires through the steering wheel, this is not always the case. As such, any time you have the tires removed from the vehicle such as during a rotation or a repair, make sure that it is rebalanced.
In the end, by setting aside a few minutes every single month to focus on your vehicle's tires, you can not only prolong their life but yours as well. Every year, there are more than 11,000 highway accidents that were a direct result of improper tire maintenance. These accidents could have been prevented through regular maintenance.