LONG ISLAND, NY – Tires have a massive impact on both the safety and performance of your vehicle and keeping them well maintained is vital. At no point is this more true on Long Island than it is right now. With winter fast approaching, our local roads are likely to see ice and snow very soon. Wet leaves, icy streets, and snowy roads all greatly reduce the amount of traction your wheels will have, making it important to ensure your car can handle the hazardous conditions.
There are several ways in which your tires affect your car’s overall performance. Inflation, tread, and alignment are all directly tied to a vehicle’s performance and fuel efficiency. Staying on top of the condition of your tires is an important part of safe driving. Neglecting them, according to The Law Offices of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP, is not only unsafe, but simply increases your risk of being injured in a car accident.
A snowy Long Island road during winter. Tires have a massive impact on both the safety and performance of your vehicle and keeping them well maintained is vital. With winter on Long Island fast approaching, there could be ice and snow on our roads very soon. Photo credit: Walter Russell.
Keeping your tires at the proper level of inflation is one of the most important aspects of regular car maintenance, as well as one of the easiest. To check your tire pressure you simply need to remove the cap from your tire’s valve, place a tire gauge on the valve while pressing firmly so that no air escapes, and read the pressure on the gauge. Recommended pressure levels can vary, so be sure to consult your owner’s manual to find the proper PSI (pounds per square inch) for your vehicle.
If your tires are under-inflated you can fill them up with an air pump which you’ll find at most gas stations; some might cost you as much as $1.00 just to use for a few minuets nowadays. Simply turn the pump on, place its hose firmly on the tire’s valve like you did when checking its pressure, and fill the tire to the recommended level. Some pumps can be preset to the desired PSI (especially the new paid ones), but if you’re using one that cannot do this be sure to check the tire’s pressure again once you feel it is properly filled; if it is still under-inflated then put the hose back on, and if it is now over-inflated you can let out the excess air by putting the hose or tire gauge on the valve slightly askew (you’ll be able to hear air escaping from the tire).
Remember to put the valve cap back on once your tires are inflated. Under-inflated tires tend to wear down unevenly along the edges and take more energy (i.e. gas) to get moving. Likewise, over-inflated tires will wear down more quickly in the middle and become more prone to blowouts, so be sure to check your pressure once a month.
Tires need tread in order to grip the road and shed water on wet surfaces. Driving with worn tires can cause your car to lose traction and subsequently skid or spin out; it also increases the time and force needed to break and come to a stop. As roads become more slippery in the fall and winter you’ll want to make certain that your car can handle the worsening conditions, so check the tread on your tires.
The most accurate way to measure tread wear is with a depth gauge or small ruler that has 1/16″ graduations; if your tread has worn down to be only 1/16″ or shallower it’s time to replace it. If you don’t have a gauge on hand you can also check your tread by placing a quarter head-down between your tire’s tread; according to AAA, if President Washington’s head is entirely uncovered then your tires have worn too far and need to be replaced. According to Consumer Reports, even tires with half their tread intact may be riskier than you think. For best results, measure your tires in three spots: the outer edge, the center, and the inner edge. Tires should wear down evenly, but if there is more tread in one area than another it could be a sign of improper inflation or misalignment.
Wheels have a set position in which they operate at optimal levels, but through regular use of a vehicle they can be forced out of their normal range and become misaligned. This problem can be further exacerbated by poor driving conditions, hitting a curb, or going over a deep pothole. As tires fall out of proper alignment they wear unevenly, the vehicle requires more fuel to operate, and it becomes more difficult to handle your car. In addition to uneven tread wear, signs of misaligned tires include uncontrollable drifting while driving or pulling toward one side even when traveling down a straight, level road. If your car is showing these sings, you should take it in to have the tires aligned ASAP.
Even if you do not notice these indications of misalignment, it is best to have your tires rotated every 5,000 to 7,000 miles. This will ensure your tires remain in the right place and consequently improve your car’s handling and fuel efficiency. In addition to making your vehicle safer and easier to drive, maintaining proper alignment will put less strain on your tires, thus preventing uneven wear and reducing the frequency with which you’ll have to replace them.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also has an exceptional list of safety tips and reasons to keep your tires in good shape in their piece “TIRE SAFETY” Everything Rides On It.
Sources: [1. Law Offices of Cohen & Jaffe, LLP ] [2. (AAA)] [3. NHTSA] [4. Consumer Reports]