Automotive technologies have made our lives on the road so much easier. Between the hands-free systems for our cell phones to blind spot monitors, to voice guided GPS systems, there is no doubt that these innovations have made our driving experience more convenient not to mention safer. Even with all those innovations, there are some things that we still need to do the old fashioned way. One of those is tire safety. Tires are one of the least monitored parts of a vehicle. You remember to get your oil changed, but most likely don’t check your tire tread or air pressure as often as you should. With summer time weekend escapes likely increasing your time on the road, we thought it was a good time to discuss the most common types of tire failure and what you can do to keep your tires up to par.
Tire inspection should be done on a monthly basis, checking the air pressure, tread depth, and overall condition of the tire.
Most Common Types of Tire Failure
- Run-Soft Failure is a slow and steady under inflation of tires. This under inflation causes the temperatures inside the tire to rise, melting the polyester cords in the bead of the tire. This is dangerous because it has the potential to causes a blowout of the sidewall of the tire.
- Highway-Speed Failure is exceeding the operating speed limit of the tire. Consistently doing this can cause belt separation within the tire. This is dangerous because it can cause cracks in the tread resulting in the entire tread ripping off the tire.
- Fatigue Failure is often correlated with to chemical aging of the tire. Oxidation occurs to the tire over its lifetime regardless of the amount of time it spends on the road. This means that even if the tire is rarely used and maintains a good amount of tread, it can still need replacement after a few years due to oxidation.
What You Can Do To Stay Safe
Checking Tire Wear
As you drive, the soft compound rubber on the tires will begin to fade away. It is crucial to check your tires to make sure that you have the optimal amount of rubber contacting the road and giving you the safest driving experience. There are a couple of things you should keep in mind.
- To check the tread of a tire, simply take a quarter and insert it upside down into the tire tread. If you can see the top of Washington’s head, your tire tread is becoming too low and it may be time to replace your tires.
- You will also want to do a visual inspection of the tires. Look for any tears in the sidewalls or any bald spots in the tread itself. If you notice the center of the tire is becoming more worn than the outsides, this could be due to over inflation of the tire. If the outside edges of the tread are becoming more worn, this could be due to under inflation. If you notice that one edge of the tire is more worn than another, the wheel alignment is off on the vehicle and should be checked immediately.
Checking Tire Pressure
Although all cars produced after 2008 come from the factory with Tire Pressure Monitoring Sensors (TPMS), these don’t eliminate the need to check your air pressure. TPMS sensors are designed to check for severely under inflated tires, and won’t alert you if your tire pressure is just below optimal. Even slightly under inflated tires can hurt your gas mileage and lead to prematurely worn tires.
- To check the tire pressure, you will need a tire pressure gauge. You should check your tire pressure in the mornings before driving, as this is when the tire is coolest and will give the most accurate reading. You can check for your vehicle’s optimal tire pressure by checking the owner’s manual or the tire pressure label on the driver’s door jamb of the vehicle. Do not go by the pressure rating on the tire itself. If your tire pressure is lower than recommended, inflate the tire until it reaches optimal pressure. If you overinflate the tire, let some air out until the desired pressure is achieved.
Further Tips for Tire Maintenance and Safety
In order to maintain safe tires, here are some steps that you should follow:
- Rotate your tires every 6,000 to 8,000 miles.
- Check your tire pressure once per month.
- When checking your tire pressure, don’t forget to check your spare.
- Avoid buying used tires. When replacing tires, replace all 4 tires at once.
- Replace tires that are older than 5 years, regardless of the amount of tread remaining on them.
As your insurance Advocate, we are concerned about your safety. We want to encourage you to make checking your tires regularly a habit. This will not only help to keep you safer, but others on the road as well.