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Checking Your Tires for Proper Pressure and Wear

The only things separating a vehicle from the road are its four tires. Therefore, it is important to give tires some attention by regularly checking for correct pressure and wear. Not only does this practice contribute to safer traveling, it also makes journeys more cost-effective. Follow the steps below to keep tires properly inflated and identify when replacement is warranted.

Under-inflated tires compromise vehicle handling and fuel economy, may overheat and fail when traveling at high speeds, and can wear prematurely at tread edges. Tires that are over-inflated create a rough ride and contribute to premature wear at the center of tread. Correct tire pressure contributes to optimum handling, maximizes fuel economy, and makes tires last longer.

Read the vehicle owner manual or tire information label located in the driver side door jamb or glove box of the vehicle to identify the correct inflation pressure. Check the pressure of each tire including the spare tire on a monthly basis. Seepage causes tires to lose approximately one pound of pressure each month. For every ten degrees of temperature change, tire pressure fluctuates by approximately one pound. Always check pressure when tires are cold and inflate all tires to the correct levels at the same time.

Sufficient tread depth contributes to safe driving, particularly when roads are wet or covered with snow. Insert a quarter upside-down into the groove of each tire to check the depth of tread. If you are able to see above the head of President Washington, it is time for new tires. A worn tire that has little tread has an increased likelihood of losing traction in snow or hydroplaning on a wet road surface, causing loss of steering control and braking power.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that under-inflated tires contribute to more than 33,000 injuries and 600 fatalities annually. In addition, more than one billion gallons of gasoline are wasted each year due to tires that are underinflated, according to estimates from the U.S. Department of Energy. Tire tread wear that is excessive or uneven may indicate that wheel alignment is needed or the suspension system requires repair.

To make traveling safer and more comfortable, reduce the risk of a crash, and extend their lifetimes, keep tires properly inflated and ensure that tread is deep enough to handle all road conditions. Inspection takes only a few minutes each month. This simple practice makes the vehicle safer, reduces ownership expenses, and saves lives.

*Photo Courtesy of Kevin Brody via Creative Commons License