Tires are the Rodney Dangerfield of cars. Even though they’re the only component of a vehicle that actually touches the pavement, tires “get no respect.” Fact is, tires are the black hole of cars: round, rubbery nondescript objects that are expected to perform forever.
Today’s tires are scientific marvels, holding up under extreme heat and freezing conditions, cruising over pavement, rocks, dirt, water, snow, mud, gravel and all sorts of road hazards. Tires influence the braking, steering, comfort, handling, fuel efficiency and overall safety of every vehicle. In fact, they work so well they’ve practically become an afterthought for most drivers…until there’s a flat.
The last thing any driver wants is a flat tire. Even though tires are built to be resistant to road hazards, a nasty nail in the road still sometimes wins. If the flat occurs while driving, it can be a scary situation – especially if it results in an accident – so it’s good to know insurance companies, like Mercury, provide roadside assistance and the financial backing to help put your vehicle back together.
While there’s no sure-fire way to prevent a flat, proper tire maintenance is important and can actually save you money at the gas pump.
Here are some time-tested tire tips:
- Tire Pressure – You’ve heard it a million times: keep your tires properly inflated. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the leading cause of tire failure is under-inflation. Under-inflated tires also affect handling and gas consumption, so check your owner’s manual (or on the inside of the driver’s door) for the correct tire pressure. Then, once a month and always before a long trip, when the tires are cold (at least three to four hours after the vehicle has been driven) check your tire pressure with a tire gauge.
- Tread Wear – Tires have to be replaced for safety reasons if the tread is down to 1/16th of an inch. How do you know if your tread is worn this low? Place a penny into a tread groove and if part of Lincoln’s head is covered by the tread, you’re good. If you can see all of Abe’s head – including the beard – the tread’s worn and you need a new tire.
- Uneven Wear – Always check your tires for signs of uneven wear. If you see high and low areas or unusually smooth areas on your tires, have them inspected by a tire dealer to see what’s causing the problem.
- Tire Alignment – Misaligned tires can cause unnecessary tread wear and quickly ruin a tire, affecting the steering and lowering gas mileage. Alignment should be checked once a year and/or after a vehicle has been involved in a collision, been driven on rough roads with a lot of large potholes, or you’ve hit the curb a few times when parking.
- Overloading – Carrying too much weight in your vehicle can cause many problems, including excessive wear, reduced tire life and structural damage, and is the second leading cause of tire failure. So before loading up for a road trip, check the maximum passenger and cargo load for your vehicle and tires. This information can be found on the same label as the recommended tire pressures.
Be good to your tires and your tires will be good to you by reducing the risk of a breakdown due to a flat – or an accident – and helping to keep auto insurance costs affordable.