The first week of June marked National Tire Safety Week, an effort by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to raise awareness about the importance of tires receiving proper maintenance in order to prevent auto accidents.
The NHTSA estimates that 11,000 tire-related vehicle accidents occur every year in the U.S., and at least 200 people die in those crashes. However, with routine care, many serious tire problems – flat tires, blowouts and tread separations to name a few – can be avoided.
Checking Tire Pressure
As vacation season heats up, motorists should inspect their tires carefully before hitting the roads, especially in hot weather. High temperatures can cause tires to become overinflated as they travel on hot asphalt, which makes them vulnerable to damage if they hit potholes or other obstacles.
Overinflated tires also have less traction, which can compromise safety when it comes to stopping distance and performance in poor road conditions or emergencies. Tires in Georgia and other Sun Belt states are also subject to premature aging due to the warmer climates.
Underinflated tires are equally unsafe, and a visual check will not necessarily tell you that a tire is too low. Newer vehicles are equipped with Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS), which will alert drivers when their tires have become significantly underinflated, but they do not signal for over-inflation.
The NHTSA urges motorists to check their tire pressure monthly, including the spare tire. Check the tires when they are “cold,” which means when they have been at rest for at least three hours.
Checking Tire Tread
It is also important to make sure that tires are not too worn down by examining the tread. Industry recommendations suggest replacing tires when they are worn to 2/32 of an inch. To make it easier for consumers to do the math, tires are designed with indicators – raised areas that run in between a tire’s tread. If that indicator is flush with the rest of the tire’s tread, it’s time to replace the tires.
Another way to check the tread is through the “penny test.” Place a penny inside your tire’s tread groove with Lincoln’s head facing you and upside down. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head, your tire is worn to the 2/32 mark and needs replacement.
Tires also need proper rotation, balancing and alignment to maximize safety. These performance checks will prevent vehicles from shaking, vibrating, or veering left or right when driving on straight stretches of road. Beyond the safety aspect, proper rotation, balancing and alignment can help tires last longer by as much as 4,700 miles, according to NHTSA.
Motorists should also check that their tires are the right size based on the recommendations in their owner’s manual or Tire and Loading Information label on the driver’s side door.
Checking for Recalls
Over the years, there have been numerous recalls of tires believed to be defective. You can check whether your tires have been recalled by registering them with the manufacturer or signing up for NHTSA’s tire recall alerts. You can also file tire complaints through the agency.