We all know it’s important to maintain our cars, to get the oil changed, to get them in for regular maintenance, and to see a mechanic when something just doesn’t quite sound or feel right.Despite that, many people tend to ignore maintaining their tires, at least until someone tells them it’s time to have tires changed.
In teaching my teenaged son and his friends some tips and tricks about driving, and maintaining their cars, I was surprised to learn they could all come up with the basics of oil changes and maintenance, mainly because they could all recount commercials or ads they had seen. Not a one though came up with the idea for tire maintenance.
Understanding the role of your tires and the impact of not maintaining them may help you, and them, understand why this is one of the most important aspects of vehicle maintenance.
Why are tires so important
Tires are quite simply the most critical consideration when it comes to safe driving. They are the only point of contact between you and the road. And unlike mechanical aspects of the car designed to warn you in advance when something is wrong, a tire has no such warning device which means it can go without notice, anywhere and at any one of a number of dangerous speeds.
What do I need to know
In a nutshell, you want to be aware of tire wear – most tires today are actually equipped with wear bars so you can tell when a tire is getting close to the end of its life and act accordingly but you also want to check for things that may be embedded in tires, cracks, or other things that can signal a tire is in trouble.
You also want to be aware of tire pressure. A tire that is under or over inflated can result in poor grip, improper wear, and can impact your fuel consumption.
Tire pressure is something that is all too often ignored so a few tips and tricks are handy to have. Tire experts such as Michelin and Napa have some great tips and advice for what to check and how to check your tires properly.
- Check tire pressure and inspect tires before a long trip. If you do need to add air or something is wrong with a tire, you want to know before you hit the road. Otherwise you may find yourself calling for a tow or scrambling to find assistance in a remote location.
- Check your tires’ pressure when they are cool – after the vehicle has been sitting for at least three hours or before you have driven more than two or three city miles. You also want to do this check with the car sitting on a flat surface so the pressure is even throughout.
- It’s worth investing in your own pressure gauge, or asking your mechanic if they’ll do a check every time you get an oil change. Though there are often pressure gauges available at gas stations, these are not always accurate and can result in deceptive reads.
If you aren’t sure about your tire’s wear, and you don’t own a depth gauge or can’t get to a mechanic, use this simple trick: “If you do not have a tread depth gauge, insert a penny into the groove of the tread with Lincoln’s head face down. If you see the top of Lincoln’s head, replace the tire.”
Taking care of your tires, having them checked and performing regular maintenance can go a long way in making sure you, and your family, get to their destination safely. It’s important though to plan for the unexpected and to expect that at one time or another, things may happen. That means it is equally important to plan ahead for tow services or vehicle support plans, so that when drivers in your family are stuck, they know what to do.
Companies which offer towing services can provide you with free estimates on basic services so you can compare prices and response times in advance, and so you and your young drivers know what to expect, and who to call, in case something does go wrong.
Truly being prepared to drive is a combination of driving skill, vehicle maintenance knowledge, and just in case planning.