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How to Properly Care for Your Tires

How to Properly Care for Your Tires

It's not difficult to neglect certain things about your vehicle, and tires are no exception. However, performing a couple of simple checks could contribute to improved fuel economy and better vehicle handling. According to tire experts, you have to check your air pressure at least once a month, because in most cases, tire damage or wear as a result of driving on improperly inflated tires.

It’s important to maintain proper tire pressure for several reasons, not just to prevent a flat tire or a blowout. From everyday driving to making emergency maneuvers, if you wish to achieve optimum vehicle handling, your tire pressure has to be at the proper inflation level. Even a tire that seems okay in terms of tire pressure, could potentially be the reason for excessive tread wear and reduced vehicle handling.

Incorrect air pressure for tires will also increase your vehicle’s rolling resistance. For instance, under-inflated tires lead to increased rolling resistance and because of that, they need more energy or fuel, to move the vehicle, which in turn, hurts the fuel economy. According to the Department of Energy, properly inflated tires improve fuel economy by roughly 3.3 percent. Over-inflated tires lead to reduced levels of handling performance since less rubber interacts with the road.

Your tires are under unnecessary stress when they’re inflated improperly and this could lead to uneven or excessive wear. As a result of that, tires’ ability to perform gets compromised and usually leads to untimely wear and the necessity to replace them sooner than anticipated.

How to Properly Check the Tire Pressure

You need to use an air pressure gauge to properly check tire pressure. You can find this tool in the automotive section of your local department store or at gas stations and auto parts stores. A lot of gas stations have one available, for you to use.

The first thing you need to do is to check the owner’s manual or the label inside the driver’s door jamb to see what is the recommended air pressure for your tires. The number, expressed there, is in “psi” (pounds per square inch). The correct tire pressure and tire combination for each vehicle are determined by the manufacturer. It can also include a list of “hot” pressure, for when tires are warm, and a “cold” pressure if you have driven just a couple of miles. There’s a chance that special tire pressure recommendations are listed, based on the passengers’ number or when the vehicle is used for towing. Bear in mind that the “psi” number seen on the tire’s sidewall represents the maximum pressure of the tire and not the proper tire inflation level.

When checking the air pressure, unscrew the cap from the valve stem and put the round end of the gauge over the stem. With some force, push down to ensure there’s a good seal so that the reading could be successful. Read the numbers and lines on the gauge’s bottom to determine what is the tire pressure. If you suspect that there’s something wrong with the reading, repeat the procedure one more time.

Inspect all tires and remove or add air, where’s needed, to level the tire pressures. To remove air, just use the non-rounded end of your gauge, and push it into the valve stem. To add air, use the air compressor, present at any gas station, which will often cost you a quarter or two. The escaping air will make a hissing sound, as the valve is being depressed. Use the gauge to check the pressure several times until the proper psi reading is reached.

Perform a simple tire inspection

Apart from inspecting the air pressure of your tire, you should also look for any sign of tire wear, including cracks in the sidewall or external objects embedded in the tire, like screws or nails. With the help of a simple “penny” test, check the tread depth. Take a penny and place it with President Lincoln's hair downward between the grooves of the tread at the top of the tire. As long as part of his head is hidden by the tread, you have the legal amount of tread on your tires. You should inspect the tread depth in different places on all tires to detect uneven tread wear if there’s any. If you see Lincoln’s full head in some areas, then it's time to purchase new tires.

Common Signs of Tire Problems

Even though there isn’t any real replacement for the tire gauge, as a tool to check the inflation levels, there are several signs that indicate a problem related to improper tire inflation. When driving down a level, straight road, see if there’s a pull to one side or the other. Although the “pulling” may be the result of an improper wheel alignment, it can also be considered as a sign of a tire problem, if an alignment service has been recently performed on the vehicle. There’s a chance, your tires may be over-inflated if the tread’s center section is smooth. Conversely, you might have an under-inflated tire, if you notice that tire tread’s outside sections or edges are rounded or worn. Last but not least, listen for any squealing sounds when turning a corner at normal speeds. While these things can be signs of other problems, they are often signs of improperly inflated tires.

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