Because Proper Tire Care Can Save You MoneyAnd Your Life

It has long been known by most of us that proper tire inflation can save on fuel costs. Many people, however, do not realize that proper tire inflation not only prolongs the life of the tire, thus saving on replacement costs, but also impacts on the wear and tear experienced by various parts of the steering assembly itself. Additionally, proper tire inflation simply makes driving safer and easier by reducing the amount of corrections and control required from the driver. Safety is also impacted when proper tire inflation is combined with regular inspections and other appropriate tire care steps because there is less chance of unexpected tire failure in dangerous highway driving and other traffic situations.

Had I been inspecting the tires on my Buick a bit more carefully on a certain hot Summer day in 1997, for example, I probably would not have found myself trying to change a tire on the 18 mile long bridge over the Atchafalaya river and swamp in Louisiana as 18-wheelers thundered by just inches away. So, all year round, increased safety and fuel economy can rest on something as simple as regularly inspecting your tires visually and maintaining proper tire inflation pressure. It is also a good idea to make note somewhere of when tires are purchased, including both date AND mileage. Many of us tend to let such bits of info slide into the background as we drive at top speed with our loved ones on tires which may be nearing the end of their effective, safe lives. Due to weather changes and road conditions in various areas, additional checks, maintenance, and operations may be called for. Winter presents unique challenges in some areas and in almost all areas from time to time.

Cars may become stuck in snow, roads may become icy, and vehicles may slip and slide at exactly the worst time possible. Winter is NOT a time that you want a tire to fail, so the usual inspections and maintenance become even more important. Properly inflated tires can help maintain traction as well as aiding in regaining control in skids and slides. If stuck in snow, by the way, try to avoid spinning your tires. This can cause overheating of the tire and may possibly contribute to a future failure of the tire.

After Winter has done its damage to drivers in many parts of the country, a new phenomenon may appear in abundance. Many new potholes happen due to a cycle of freezing and thawing of water under the roadway. Potholes can be tire killers at any time of the year, but, because of this cycle, there seems to be more of them after Winter has passed. Often, the damage a pothole inflicts on a tire is invisible, although the damage to the steering may become immediately evident due to the "pulling" of the vehicle to one side or the other, or vibration which wasn't present before.

Obviously, avoiding potholes completely is the best way to protect your tires against damage. However, as we all know, this is not always possible. Here is a tip on how to hit a pothole with minimum damage to your tires. First and foremost, do NOT brake during the impact itself! This creates a solid impact at a given point and will produce the most damage.

Instead, brake as much as it is safely possible up to just before impact and release the brakes in time to roll across the pothole. This will result in a rolling contact which produces less damage in most cases. When deciding on proper inflation pressures, your car manufacturer will usually provide the recommended pressures in the owner's manual and also on a data plate commonly located on the door frame, in the glove compartment, or under the hood. However, aftermarket tires purchased later may require different inflation pressures.

In this case, it is good to check with the tire dealer on what would be the best inflation pressures. Let's think back to that damage the pothole may have done to your steering. It may also have affected the balance of your tires. All of this can affect the life and performance of your tires, and this sort of damage is happening in smaller ways every time you drive your car. Therefore, don't forget to have tires rebalanced and alignment checked if you begin to feel vibration or notice pulling or unusual or uneven tire wear. You also should have tires rebalanced whenever you have your brakes worked on and any other time that it is necessary to unmount and remount your tires.

Last, but not least, a word on tire rotation. Obviously, not all tires are going to experience the same wear at the same time. For this reason, it is usually considered a good idea to periodically rotate tires.

Your best bet in most instances is to simply go with the car manufacturer's recommendations, but a rule of thumb might be to rotate tires every 6,000 miles on most cars, and every 4,000 miles on cars with 4-wheel drive. SAFETY TIP: Avoid tire patch kits that just push an adhesive cord into the puncture. The puncture may have created an opportunity for air to get beneath the tread.

The tread could then blow off while you are driving the car, or, as in come cases, it may blow off when the tire is being aired. Injuries have occurred in some of these events. Do not EVER try to patch a puncture in the sidewall.

In these days of high fuel costs, and with the possibility of even higher costs in the future, this is a simple way to improve fuel economy. When you consider that you can also prolong the safe and effective life of your tires as well, you will not only be putting more money in your own pocket but will be helping reduce the power needed to produce more new tires and help reduce America's dependence on foreign oil as well.

Donovan Baldwin is a Texas writer. He is a University of West Florida alumnus, a member of Mensa, and is retired from the U. S. Army. Learn more about fuel economy and related subjects at

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