Your tires are the only part of your vehicle that have direct contact with the road. And arguably the most important part of your vehicle (yes, even more than the engine!) Tires affect your vehicle handling, ride, braking, and safety. For the best performance and longest life, tires must have the correct air pressure, tread depth, balance, and the wheels of the vehicle must be properly aligned.
Checking your tires on a regular basis (to find a small problem, before it becomes a big problem, such as a nail in your tire) is an important step in protecting your safety and your automotive investment. Ideally, tire inspections should be performed monthly. And if you drive over a pothole / debris in the road or drive long distances regularly, then you should inspect your tires more often. Poor tire maintenance can lead to premature tire wear, a flat tire, or even a blowout...leaving you stranded on the side of the road.
Tire Problems to Look for During a Visual Inspection
- Over inflation: Too much air pressure can cause mostly the tire’s middle section to contact the road. This creates wear primarily in the center of the tread, with less wear at the tire’s edges.
- Under inflation: Too little air pressure can cause mostly the tire’s outer edges to contact the road. This creates wear primarily on both edges of the tire tread, with less wear in the center.
- Tread wear on one edge of the tire: This typically occurs when the wheels are out of alignment.
- Erratic tread wear: This may mean the wheel is out of balance, or that the shock absorbers or other suspension components need to be replaced.
- Raised portion of the tread or sidewall: This condition may indicate that one of the belts in the tire has separated from those next to it.
Tire Problems to Look for While Driving
- Unusual vibration or thumping noise: A vibration or thumping noises can indicate an out-of-balance tire, a tire that has gone flat, or a tire with a separated belt.
- A pull to one side: While driving at a steady speed, pulling to one side may indicate an underinflated or damaged tire on the side of the car to which the vehicle pulls. If this is not the case, a brake problem or poor wheel alignment may be causing the pull.
Tires depend on good tread depth to maintain traction and to shed water on wet roads. The tread should be checked at least once a month for excessive and uneven wear. The most accurate tread depth measurements are made with a simple tread depth gauge available at any parts store. Or you can use the traditional penny tests. Insert a penny into your tires tread. If you can see above the top of Lincoln’s head your tires have less than 2/32” of tread, which is below the legal minimum and cause for immediate replacement. Tires worn to this level will also have visible wear indicators (or thin bald strips) running from side to side across two or more tread segments.
Keeping your tires properly inflated is one of the easiest ways to help maintain good gas mileage and extend the life of your tires. Check your car’s tire pressure at least once a month with a quality gauge. Keep in mind that recommended tire pressure is for cold tires (meaning you should check your tire pressure BEFORE you drive anywhere such as 1st thing in the morning; or after your car has been sitting in your garage or driveway for a few hours after getting home).
There are several tire maintenance procedures that automotive repair professionals should do because they require special tools and knowledge. However, understanding these procedures will help you feel more confident in dealing with a repair provider.
- Tire Rotation: Tires on the front and the rear of vehicles operate at different loads and perform different steering and braking functions, resulting in unequal wear patterns. To gain maximum life and performance from your tires, it is essential to rotate your vehicle’s tires. Refer to your vehicle’s owner’s manual for mileage recommendations. Usually tire rotation is performed between 5,000 and 7,000 miles.
- Tire Balancing: Properly balanced tires help minimize uneven wear and extend their life. When tires are balanced, small weights are attached to the wheels to limit vibration of the tire and wheels as they turn. Newly installed tires should be balanced, and thereafter whenever a vibration is noticed. Balancing is also called for whenever a tire is removed from the wheel, for example to repair a puncture.
- Wheel Alignment: Wheel alignment is the measurement of the position of the wheels compared to specifications that the vehicle manufacturers recommend. Each vehicle has specific wheel alignment settings. If any alignment measurement falls outside the specified range, uneven tire wear can result, vehicle handling may be effected, and fuel economy can be diminished.
Spending a few minutes with your tires every month can help protect your family, improve your vehicle’s performance, and lengthen the life of your tires.
Big City Cars is located at 4910 Lima Road. Or give us a call today at (260) 212-1111. We look forward to helping you get into a quality preowned vehicle that fits your lifestyle & budget.