Tire safety, not exactly the most thrilling of topics to discuss. However if you read through the material below, you will see that just a few moments of your time could make all the difference in the world. To begin, allow me to ask you a question. When was the last time you thought about your tires, or at least gave them a glance over for safety? Was it right before you headed out with the family for a long car ride or a road-trip? Was it when the mechanic looked at them during your last oil change? Or was it when you were on the side of the road with a tire blowout? Let us be honest with ourselves, unless we are mechanics or race car drivers by trade, most people do not give their vehicles tires a second of thought or notice. Nevertheless if you in good conscience and honestly think about it, we absolutely should.
A recent study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, has shown that tire failure is the cause of nearly 11,000 car accidents per year. That number to me is a bit staggering because this is absolutely something that we all can be watchful for and prevent. You may be saying to yourself, “hey I am not a mechanic, what would I know to look for?” Have no fear, I am not a mechanic either. However as you will see below, it does not take a mechanic to be observant for these signs. So please take a few moments and read the four tire warning signs and prevention tips below. Any one of these pointers could help you prevent a car accident before you set out onto the open road.
Cracks, bulges and gouges
Any kind of cracks, bulges or gouges that you can physically see on your tires, are absolutely the most obvious and easiest indicators to be watchful for. Here is what you need to do, I want you to walk around your vehicle and physically inspect your tires. First, look to see if they have an almost dried out and cracked look to them. Second, check to see if your tires look beat up and have gouges in them like they lost a fight to a wild animal. Lastly, look to see if your tires have any kind of bulges like an air bubble. Should any of them show any one of these signs, you need to take your vehicle to your trusted mechanic and have them look your tires over. Any one of these signs is an indication that your tire or tires are physically stressed and could fail on you at any moment.
Have you ever head the expressions “bald tires” or “bologna skins”? These expressions are often used when discussing tire tread. Is the amount of tread on a tire really that important to my overall vehicle safety? Absolutely and here is why. Tread is the grip that your vehicle will have on the road. The more tread your tires have, the greater the grip and stability your vehicle will have especially in harsh weather conditions like rain, snow and ice. If you are driving around on tires that are low on tread, you vehicle could potentially slip and slide off the road. Simple driving maneuvers like stopping and turning around curves at higher speeds could easily result in an accident. So with all that being said, how can you check on your tire tread? The Abe Lincoln penny test is a quick and easy test method.
Simply take a penny and stick it head down into your vehicles tread. If you can see all of Abe’s head like in the illustration above, then your tread is low. On the flip side, if you can not see all of Abe's head, then your tread is still good.
The second method to test for tread wear are the wear bars inside the groves of the tires. If you can see the colorful wear bars in the groves of your tires, then your tread is low. Please keep in mind that not all tires have wear bars. So with that in mind, I would stick to the Abe Lincoln penny method.
Checking your air pressure is another simple method to make sure that your tires are running safely. Most modern cars and trucks even check your air pressure for you and will send you alerts to your e-mail or mobile phones. My truck is a 2010 model and is equipped with OnStar. Besides being able to manually check my air pressure on the dash of my truck, OnStar sends me monthly diagnostic e-mails which shows me the air pressure in all of my tires. However if you do not have a vehicle which can do all of that, you can easily pick up a digital tire pressure gauge like the one shown below. Checking your air pressure is as simple as unscrewing your stem valve cap and pushing the digital gauge onto the air stem. The digital gauge will read your pressure and you will know if your tires are running too low or too high. Keep in mind that your tires will deflate at a rate of about one pound per square inch or PSI per month. So checking your air pressure monthly is a great tip.
Should you find that your tires are running low on air pressure, I highly recommend keeping a portable air compressor like the one shown below, in the trunk of your vehicle. These portable compressor models plug right in your cars cigarette lighter making them easy as can be to use.
Last but not least, air temperature is another factor to take into consideration with regards to your vehicles air pressure. The colder the temperature outside, the more your air pressure will drop. The hotter the temperature outside, the more your tires will wear out if they are under inflated. If you are unsure of how much air pressure to maintain, look on the tire wall just above the rim. You should see some writing that indicates how much PSI should be kept and maintained at all times.
Vibration or any kind of a thumping feeling while you are driving down the road is another indicator to be mindful for. A thumping feeling could indicate that your air pressure is low or that your tire is running flat. A vibration feeling could also indicate that your pressure is low, then again, it is also a sign that your tires may be out of balance. Either way, these two distinct feelings are definite indicators that you need to have your vehicle looked at and maintained.
Digital Tire Pressure Gauge
Portable Tire Air Compressor
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(price as of Nov 16, 2015)