As the main point of contact between your vehicle and the road, your tires are an incredibly crucial part of overall vehicle operation and passenger safety. The changing seasons bring cooler weather, which not only makes the road more hazardous but affects your tires, as well. Cold temperatures cause your tires to contract and lose pressure, causing tire distortion, poor vehicle handling, or even dangerous blow-outs. Before fall storms turn your commute into a muddy, slippery mess, take the time to make sure your tires are properly maintained.
Every vehicle has a recommended tire pressure that is determined by the weight and design of the vehicle, as well as the manufacturer recommended tire dimensions. This figure is measured in PSI, or pounds per square inch. To find out the proper tire pressure for your vehicle, check your operational manual or look for a sticker located in the doorjamb of the driver’s side.
Using your vehicle increases the tire’s internal temperature, and you should never change the pressure in a hot tire. Allow your vehicle to sit for at least three hours before checking tire pressure to ensure the tires have cooled down.
To check the pressure, remove the valve stem cap, then use firm pressure to push the gauge head evenly on the valve stem. When the gauge contacts the valve stem, you will hear a hissing noise. When this sound stops, you know it has made secure enough contact for an accurate reading. Remove the tire gauge and examine the pressure. Compare this reading with the recommended PSI. Repeat these steps for all four tires.
If there is a difference between the recommended PSI and the current PSI of your tires, you will need to add air to the tires. Every three units PSI below manufacturer recommendation results in a one percent increase in fuel consumption and a ten percent increase in tread wear. As your tires lose more pressure, fuel consumption and tread wear will further increase, making your vehicle more likely to lose traction, especially on wet, leaf-covered roads.
The tread of your tires must be thick enough to grip the road, even in the worst conditions. To check the tread depth, locate a spot on your tire that shows tread wear and place a penny face-down into this groove. If the tread covers part of Lincoln’s head, that means your tread is in good condition. If you can see the top of his head, that indicates you need new tires.
Tire Condition and Age
Along with tire pressure and tread depth, it is a good idea to check your tires for any damage, including punctures, bulges, cuts, or cracks on the tread or sidewalls. Give your mechanic a call if you find anything suspicious so they can examine it more closely.
Even if your tread is in good shape, your tires should be used no more than ten years after the manufacture date. Check the DOT stamping found on the sidewall to determine the age of your tires. This four-digit number is a date code, with the first two digits representing the week and the last two representing the year. For example, 3516 indicates the tire was manufactured during the 35th week of 2016.
Take your vehicle to your mechanic regularly for a tire rotation, roughly every 6,000 miles. This ensures even weight distribution and maximizes the lifespan of your tires. Proper alignment is important, as misalignment causes quick wearing down of tires, the development of distortion, poor handling, such as drifting or slanting toward one side, and dangerous blow-outs.
If you are concerned about the safety of your tires or would like an automotive professional to perform these inspections for you, schedule an appointment with us today by checking out our website or giving us a call at 541-482-8162.