Keeping your tires maintained has a lot to do with keeping you safe on the road. After all, your tires are the only equipment that comes into direct contact with the road. The condition of your tires affects everything from how stable your vehicle is, to braking performance, to your ability to stay in your lane.
Here are our tips for checking your tires regularly to make sure they are in optimal condition, and to avoid getting that dreaded flat tire.
Arizona and Tires
Here in Arizona, where the sun beats down on the roads, tires wear out more quickly than they do in cooler climates. This is especially true in the Phoenix area, where the combination of city driving, our dry climate and hot asphalt limits tire life.
Most vehicle manufacturers and tire care pros recommend replacing your tires about every six years, but some recommend replacing them every three to four years, or every 40,000 miles, in Phoenix. That’s because dry, hot conditions break down rubber, eventually causing it to crack.
Heat also increases tire pressure: for every 10 degrees, the pressure of your tires increases by 1 psi. Combine that with the rising surface temperature of the roads, and you could be in for some serious tire trouble if you aren’t maintaining your tires.
How Often to Inspect Your Tires
Ideally, you’ll check your tires monthly, but if you live somewhere with rough roads or you drive long distances, you may want to inspect your tires more frequently. Before you embark on a long road trip, always do a thorough inspection of tire condition.
Here are the things you should be inspecting and looking for:
- Air pressure
- Tread depth and wear
- Raised spots, bubbles, or soft spots
- Any obvious problems like a nail or other debris in your tire
Common Tire Problems
Too much or too little inflation causes uneven wear on your tires. Wheels that are out of alignment or out of balance can create vibration or a thumping noise when you’re driving. If you notice your car pulls to one side when you’re driving on the freeway, it may be due to alignment problems.
Other factors can also affect your tires, including suspension parts that are due for replacement, and even problems with your brakes.
Correct Air Pressure
Low tire pressure means your tires can lose their grip if you’re driving on wet roads or driving in the rain. Did you know that tire inflation also impacts the life of your tires and your gas mileage? Keeping your tires properly inflated doesn’t just keep you safe; it can actually save you money.
Note that the recommended air pressure for your vehicle’s tires (usually found in the vehicle’s owner’s manual or on the tire sticker found inside the car door jamb or glove compartment) is for cold tires, not ones that have been warmed up by driving on the road.
That means you’ll want to check your tire pressure when your vehicle is still in your garage or parking spot. Mornings are the best time to do so. Use a tire gauge that checks the pressure in psi (pounds per square inch), and follow the instructions in your owner’s manual.
Tire tread helps you maintain traction and also sheds water on wet roads. When you do your inspection, look for excessive and uneven tire wear. Tires rarely wear evenly, so be sure to check all four tires.
- If you observe wear in the center, with less wear at the edges, it’s possible your tires have been over inflated.
- If you notice wear on both edges of the tire, with less wear in the center, then your tires may have too little air pressure.
- If one tire has wear on the edge, your wheels are likely out of alignment.
- If the tread wear is erratic in pattern on one tire, that wheel may be out of balance, or you may have some problems with your vehicle’s suspension.
- If you see a raised portion of the tread or sidewall, one of the belts in the framework of the tire may have separated from the others.
You can measure tread depth using a special tool from an auto parts store, or using a quarter. Your tires need at least 4/32” of tread depth, which means that when you place a quarter upside down into the tread grooves in three spots on your tire (the outer edge, center, and inside edge), the top of Washington’s head will not be visible.
Taking Your Tires to a Pro
There are three things that you should have tire professionals do regularly to help maintain the life of your tires. These include tire rotation, tire balancing, and wheel alignment.
Rotating your tires: This involves the removal of all four of your tires, and replacing them in different positions on the vehicle. This should be done every 5,000 to 7,000 miles, since tires wear unevenly front to back.
Balancing your tires: Small weights are attached to the wheels to limit vibration. If you notice a vibration, your tires need to be rebalanced. Balancing is also an important step anytime a tire is removed from the wheel, or if you get new tires. The pros will automatically take care of this.
Aligning your wheels: The alignment of your wheels depends on your vehicle, and adheres to specific measurements. Not keeping your wheels in alignment can impact your fuel economy and vehicle handling. A car can get out of alignment if you drive over extremely bumpy surfaces, get into a crash, or if the wear of your tires is uneven. If your car seems to drift or pull to one side, or the steering wheel shakes, take it into the shop to find out if your alignment is off.
Good car maintenance is part of staying safe on the roads, and safety is what we are all about at Stop and Go Driving School. Increase your confidence, knowledge and skill behind the wheel with one of our driving courses.