Your tires may be the most crucial part of your vehicle, and knowing how to take care of them is imperative to your family’s safety. Your tires affect your car’s handling, ride quality, and braking performance. Keeping your tires inflated with the correct air pressure, maintaining your car’s alignment, and checking the tread depth are all important things you can do to maintain your tires. Let’s take a closer look at how to care for your tires. 

Signs and Symptoms of Tire Wear

Inspecting your tires protects your investment and keep you and your family safe as you go about trips to the grocery store or trips across the state. Road conditions play a significant part in tire wear, so depending on how well your local roads are maintained, you may need to inspect your tires at least once a week. If you encounter lots of debris and potholes in the road, drive long distances, or live in a cold climate, you will need to inspect your tires more often.

When you are checking your tires, you will want to look for specific signs of problems that need to be addressed. For instance:

  • Underinflation: When there isn’t enough air in your tires, the tread’s outside edges will show more signs of wear than the center tread. 
  • Overinflation: When there is too much air in your tires, the center tread will show wear instead of the outer edges. 
  • Erratic tread wear: Also known as cupping, erratic tread wear is caused by the tires being out of balance or needing to have suspension components replaced. 
  • Treadwear at the edge of the tire: If underinflation isn’t the direct cause of wear on the outer edges of your tires, this issue could be caused by the vehicle being out of alignment.
  • The tread or sidewall with raised portions: This can be a sign that an internal belt has separated in the tire.

If you notice a few or more of these signs in your current tires, you may need to consider buying new tires. Beyond these visual inspections, you may notice signs that something is wrong with the tires as you drive. If you are experiencing a thumping noise or unusual vibrations, make sure to check them out. These signs can alert you to possible problems with your tires, such as a flat spot in the tread, a separated belt, or an out of balance wheel. If your vehicle is pulling to one side or the other as you drive, this is a sign your car may be out of alignment and requires immediate service to eliminate tire wear.  

Inspecting Your Tire Tread

Tires need to have even wear on their tread to ensure that they continue to achieve optimum performance while you are driving. When your tires are wearing evenly, they can shed water on wet roads and maintain traction regardless of road conditions. It’s a good practice to check the tread depth of your tires every month.

Measuring your tread depth is reasonably straightforward as you can purchase a tire depth gauge at almost any automotive parts store. Though using a tread depth gauge is the most accurate way to determine your tread depth, you can also use the quarter and penny test when in a pinch. When measuring, you will want to take three measurements from the inside edge, center, and outside edge of your tire’s tread.

If you choose to use the quarter and penny test, you will take the quarter and place it between the tread groove with Washington’s head facing down. If his head isn’t visible, your tires have up to 4/32 of an inch of tread height and are perfectly fine. If you can see the top or further down on his head, you will need to begin the process of shopping for new tires.

The penny test is very similar to the quarter test, with Lincoln’s head being the measuring point. If you can see his head, your tread is below the legal limit of 2/32 of an inch and will need to be replaced soon. Tires with such wear will already show or will quickly begin to show visible wear indicators. These indicators are thin, bald strips that run across two or more of the tread segments from side to side.

The difference between 4/32 and 2/32 of an inch may seem insignificant, but it’s more than you may think. If you find yourself in need of stopping quickly on a wet road, the 4/32 of an inch tire tread may take up to 122 feet off of your total stopping distance. This distance measures upwards of six car lengths, and could save your life.

Tire Pressure

In some cases, you can tell if your tires require air or if they have too much air by sight alone, but to be precise, you will need to have a tire pressure gauge. You can find this type of gauge at almost any automotive parts store, and it is very straightforward to use. To check your tire’s pressure, you will need to unscrew the valve stem cover and firmly press the gauge to the valve stem to take the measurement.

Every vehicle has a different air pressure recommendation, typically found on a plate located on the inside of the driver’s door or in your vehicle’s owner’s manual. Most newer vehicles continuously monitor tire pressure and alert you to overinflation or underinflation. These systems can malfunction, though, making a manual test the most reliable way of keeping your air pressure where it needs to be. It is also prudent to check your tires’ air pressure as the seasons change due to temperature changes.

Tires are an investment worth taking care of because they, in turn, will take care of you. Your vehicle’s tires are its lifeline, as they keep it connected to the road ahead. Maintenance routines such as tire rotation, tire balancing, and wheel alignment will also help you get the most out of your tires as they wear. Your tires are a vital part of what keeps you moving, so keep them in tip-top shape. Make sure to get your tires checked out Huffines Kia Mckinney to make sure they’re in tip-top shape.

Image via Flickr by Dean Hochman


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