A vehicle's tires play a crucial role in a car's safety. As the only parts of the car that physically touch the ground, they are one of the key factors affecting a vehicle's handling and braking, and overall highway safety. What steps can you take to ensure that your tires stay in optimal condition? Performing regular checks is quick and easy, and a worthwhile investment of time in your and your family's safety.
Visually inspect your tires on a regular basis. If you note any of the following early warning signs, have a professional inspection performed, check and correct items that may be causing the condition, or replace your tires.
Cracking or cuts in the sidewalls.
The problem of underinflation
Surveys have shown that as many as half the cars on the road may be riding on one or more underinflated tires. Part of the problem is that tires lose air through the rubber and at interfaces with the wheel and valve, sometimes so slowly that many people don't realize it has happened. Seasonal temperature changes may also cause the tire pressure to drop.
Because the sidewall flexes more at lower tire pressures, underinflation compromises the driving control that a tire is designed to provide. Even a small pressure lossâ€"such as 4 psiâ€"can affect a car's handling, making it harder to control. It can also make the ride softer and the car wallow. In addition, underinflated tires lower a vehicle's fuel economy, which can cost you more money at the pump.
A sidewall that flexes too much can also cause heat to build up excessively, which can shorten a tire's life and possibly lead to a tread separation or blowout.
For additional information on the effects of underinflated tires see our report on tire safety.
Don't judge the pressure by eyeballing a tire. Modern radial tires bulge slightly, making them look a little underinflated, even when they're not.
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