Vehicle Tire Maintenance 101

When I got my first car, I have to admit that keeping it waxed and vacuumed was my idea of car maintenance.  I figured that a brand new car shouldn’t be any trouble.  Boy, was I wrong!

Even if a car is running great, it requires daily check-ups to keep it that way.  One important aspect of car maintenance is making sure that all tires are in optimum condition at all times.  While tires are not as mysterious as the workings of the transmission or the engine, it plays an equally significant role in vehicle safety and operations.  Tires are directly responsible for getting you and the vehicle on the road, and their condition also impacts the safety of all the occupants of the car.

Ideally, tires should be well-balanced and aligned, inflated with the right pressure, and have the right thickness of tread. First, let’s take treading.  The treading refers to the grooves and tracks found in the outside surface of your tires.  The treading does not only serve to create interesting and distinctive wheel patterns.  More importantly, treads provide wheels with greater traction on the road.  This is particularly true for slippery road conditions such as snow and rainfall.  Over time, constant friction with the road surfaces will eventually wear the tread thin.  Driving with bald tires is very dangerous because it compromises control.  Safety features such as anti-lock braking are also impaired when tires are already worn thin, because these features are only as good as the tires itself.  If you take a penny and insert it upside down into a tire groove, the tread should come at least as far the hairline on Abe Lincoln’s head.  Any thinner than that is an indication that your tires will need to be replaced.

Even if your tire is newly installed, it will still need to be maintained for pressure.  Vehicle tires naturally lose air over time and should be re-inflated to the right pressure.  Usually, the right pressure for your tires is indicated in the owner’s manual or on the underside of the tire itself.  Use a digital pressure sensor to check the pressure level and adjust accordingly.  Most gas stations have tire-inflating facilities that you can use for free.  When tires are under-inflated, they have more rolling resistance that drags your steering control and consumes more fuel.  Before checking tire pressure, it would be best to allow the tires to cool down first because heat and friction during car operation can cause an inaccurate reading.

Wheel balancing or wheel alignment is also necessary to ensure equal wear and tear on all four tires.  This is a relatively inexpensive procedure offered at most gas stations with garage facilities.  Be sure to have this procedure done anytime you purchase new tires or if you notice a shimmy while your car is running.

Scrimping on vehicle tires is not a wise choice.  Just like any automotive part, it is specifically designed for its function. Do not hesitate to replace them when they are too worn or damaged.

Joana Chrystal Ventura-Moises is a lady car owner who can replace her own flat tire.  She is also an expert on plumbing, especially frameless shower doors.