Tips for Maintaining Your Tires
(Courtesy of Toyo Tires/Photos by Bruce W. Smith)
Tires are one of the most important components on a vehicle, and yet their basic maintenance is often neglected.
Advances in technology and the specialization by tire manufacturers has resulted in tires that can deliver several benefits: better ride comfort with a quieter operation, improved handling performance in the wet and dry conditions, higher speed ratings, greater puncture resistance and increased hauling capacities.
In order to take advantage of these modern design features manufactured into today’s tires, and to make sure your vehicle is operating safely, it is important to perform basic tire maintenance.
Check Tire Pressures Monthly
In a recent tire pressure survey conducted by the Rubber Manufacturer’s Association (RMA) in 31 cities across the U.S., more than half the vehicles had at least one tire that was underinflated.*
In addition to presenting a safety issue, the RMA has estimated that U.S. motorists driving on under inflated tires waste approximately 1.2 billion gallons of fuel each year.*
Tires are vessels designed to contain air. Vehicle engineers calculate the amount of air contained inside for their precise load carrying capacity specific to a vehicle. Tires may lose up to 1-psi pressure per month.
For recommended pressures, always refer to the vehicle owners’ manual; or the tire pressure placard located in an area such as the end of the driver’s door or in the door jamb.
DO NOT use the maximum load pressure listed on the sidewall of the tire, as that is only a reference of the maximum inflation pressure by the tire manufacturer and does not represent the engineered air volume required for your vehicle.
Checking your pressures is a simple process. When possible, always check your tire pressures in the morning when temperatures are cool, and before driving the vehicle.
Make sure you check every tire, and that includes your spare. Even on modern vehicles equipped with a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), it is important to follow the same maintenance procedures. If a tire loses more air than the others, have a tire professional inspect your tire and rim for a possible leak.
Check The Tread Depth
Tires wear with use. The more they wear, the more they can lose traction, especially in wet road conditions.
A simple “penny test” can determine the wear of your tires. Take a penny and insert it into the bottom of a circumferential groove (one that runs longitudinally along a tire), with the top of President Lincoln’s head facing down into the groove.
If a portion of his head disappears, you are still within safe wear limits for the tire. (Don’t cheat, make sure you do this in every groove, or the one with the least amount of visible tread.)
If you can see the top of President Lincoln’s head, that means your tires have 2/32nds of an inch or less remaining and should be replaced as soon as possible.
Another test to determine the remaining life of your tires is to use a quarter following the same technique. If a portion of President Washington’s head disappears, your tires have a safe amount of tread remaining. If his head is just exposed, that indicates you have 4/32nds of an inch remaining and you should start making plans to replace your tires soon, especially in the rainy season.
Inspect Your Tires
Tires should be inspected visually for wear, cuts, punctures or cracks. Irregular wear can occur on a tire tread as a result of a variety of factors.
Those factors include improper vehicle maintenance (such as chassis/steering alignment and worn suspension components) and improper tire maintenance (such as lack of tire rotation, under/over inflation, or being out of balance.)
While visually inspecting your tire, check for any intrusion or cut caused by a road hazard, such as a nail, screw, a sharp object or a pothole in the road surface. Tires are more prone to being penetrated by sharp objects on wet roads, as water works much like a lubricant.
You can also check for cracks on the surface of a tire. Visual cracks can form due to the combination of natural aging and exposure to sunlight. If cracks appear excessive or deep, have a tire professional inspect your tires to determine if they need replacement.
Proper Speed/Load Ratings
Tires are designed and rated to meet specific load carrying and speed requirements. It is imperative to always use a tire that is properly rated for your vehicle. Both speed and load ratings can be found on the wall of a tire and cross-referenced with your vehicle manufacturer.
Keep in mind, if a single tire has been replaced with one rated for a lower top speed, the maximum allowable speed for the vehicle cannot exceed that one tire.
For more helpful information regarding tire maintenance, safety and technical information, check out the Care & Safety section of www.toyotires.com.
The Rubber Manufacturer Association’s 10th annual National Tire Safety Week runs June 5-11, 2011. For more helpful information, check out their website at www.rma.org.
*RMA’s 2010 National Tire Pressure Survey
DID YOU KNOW
- 63 percent of motorists cite tire pressure as the most effective way to increase gas mileage—but only 19 percent of drivers properly check their tire inflation pressure.
- Only 39 percent of drivers know that the correct air pressure is found on the vehicle’s tire information sticker or owner’s manual, not the tire sidewall.
- 28 percent of drivers wrongly believe that the best time to check their tires is when they are warm after being driven for at least a few miles.
- 31 percent of drivers don’t know how to tell if their tires need replacing
- 73% of drivers do not check the pressure in the spare tire.*