Tire tips for a smooth ride

Apr 29, 2014 4 minute read

When it comes to vehicles, the vast majority of people are mindful to take the necessary precautionary measures required to ensure their own personal safety. Abiding by the law, people would never think twice about fastening their seat belts. Unfortunately one simple, but major safety check point is frequently being neglected – checking your tires.

Did you know only one out of seven drivers correctly checks their tire pressure?

Often people will visually examine their tires to determine if air should be replaced. However, the physical appearance of your tires can be very deceptive and should never be taken as the sole indicator of your tire pressure. In fact, a tire can be as much as 20% under inflated before it is even noticeable to the naked eye. Instead, a tire gauge will provide you with a much more reliable reading. Keep one in your glove box at all times for greater ease and convenience. Also, for a more accurate reading, it is best to check your tires after your car has been relatively inactive. Driving for long periods can heat up your tires, giving a less precise reading.

Another common misconception is that unless you have a leak in your tire, the pressure should not change. Under normal conditions, your tires can lose 1 psi per month. In winter, you lose an additional 1 psi for every 5ºC temperature drop. This means that from the months of July to November, you could potentially lose between 10 to 15 psi. The air pressure of your tires should be checked at least once a month on all tires, including your spare.

Remember, not all cars are built alike. Depending on the size of your car, in addition to the weight of its contents, you will require differing levels of air pressure. It is important to refer to your car manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure. This information should be located in your owner’s manual or along the car door jamb. You can also use the numbers on your tires themselves as another point of reference.

Under inflating your tires can not only put strain on the tires and the car itself, it can also put a strain on your finances. Tires with low air pressure can lead to higher fuels costs. Fuel consumption increases by one per cent for every five per cent of under-inflation.

While checking your tire pressure, it is also a good idea to examine your tires for general wear. Observe the tread wear bars – these are the small ridges that exist between your treads. As tires naturally wear, these bars will gradually become level with the rest of the tread, but you can also measure them to determine if your tires should be replaced. Tires are considered to be a safety hazard once they are worn down to 1/16″ of their tread depth.

Be sure to note uneven tread wear. Irregular wear can indicate a need for a tire rotation, a wheel misalignment or a possible problem with your suspension.

Although, frequent inspection of tread is a very important safety precaution in understanding when you should buy new tires, as a general rule of thumb, most tires can last anywhere between 6 to 10 years, depending on frequency and duration of use.

To help ensure the longevity of your tires it is important to exercise proper care when cleaning them. Pressure washers, once considered costly, have become increasingly more affordable to own privately, but should  be used with caution. While pressure washers can certainly blast away dirt and grime with ease, they may end up doing more damage than good.

Based on studies performed by DEKRA, a safety organization in Germany, it only takes five seconds of highly pressurized water aimed directly at the tire sidewall to damage or weaken it.  With high-frequency pulsations ranging from zero to 1500 or more psi, it makes sense that these repetitive, sudden bursts of force could cause damage to the sidewall cords in your tires.

If you insist on using a pressure washer, be mindful of keeping a fair distance between the nozzle and the tire itself.  Alternatively, modern, touchless car washes offer both a safe and convenient solution for keeping your car and wheels looking like new.

More than for purely aesthetic purposes, taking proper care in cleaning your tires, in addition to monitoring their wear and air pressure, is absolutely vital for one very important reason – tire blowouts.

Tire blowouts most frequently occur during the summer months, when the combination of hot outside temperatures and fast speeds add just enough strain to push an already neglected tire beyond recoverability.

When tires are underinflated, the additional weight of the car puts stress on the internal parts of the tire, which were not designed to withstand such strain. Eventually the metal inside the tire will overheat and snap, blasting through the tire from the inside out.

Harder to avoid then good tire maintenance, hitting a pothole at the wrong angle is another sure fire way of destroying a tire. Sometimes the impact can pinch the area between the wheel and rim or the wheel and the obstacle. Other times, a jagged edge can rip through the entire tire.

In either of these scenarios, if one of your tires blows or rapidly begins to deflate while you are driving, the most important thing to remember is to try to remain calm. Never overreact or oversteer. Instead, slow down, attempt to keep the car in control and get off the road or onto a shoulder if possible.

Overall, the best way you can avoid any of these tire issues is by making tire safety precautions a part of your regular routine. If you have any questions or concerns about what is covered under your existing auto insurance policy, please call your BrokerLink broker today.