Not maintaining your tires can not only lead to poor vehicle performance and reduced fuel efficiency, it can create dangerous conditions that could lead to accidents, injury or death. According to the National Highway Transportation Administration, properly maintained tires improve the steering, stopping, traction, and load-carrying capability of your vehicle.
The best way to maintain your tires is to check them regularly:
Check your tire pressure
Don’t have a tire pressure gage? Buy one, they’re cheap. At least a month, check all four tires – and the spare - to make sure they meet your vehicle manufacturer’s specified pressure or psi (lbs of pressure per square inch). Not sure what your vehicle’s manufacturer recommends? You can find the information on a small placard on the door frame of the driver’s door, on the vehicle’s fuel filler door or the owner’s manual.
Over- or under-inflated tires wear more quickly, lead to poor fuel consumption and can present safety hazard. Even one tire out of four being under-pressurized can cause poor fuel economy. It’s also a good idea to check tire air pressure before leaving on any extended road trip.
Check your tread depth
Every few months, grab a penny and get ready to stick it in your tire tread. Put the penny in upside down, so you are looking at Honest Abe and the top of his head is inside the tire. If you can see the top of his head, the tire depth is becoming dangerously low.
Newer tires have a feature that eliminates the need to turn to Abe. As the tread wears, a series of flat rubber bars that run perpendicular to the tread will begin to appear. When you can see these bars it’s time for new tires.
Rotate your tires
Every six months or 6,000 miles, whichever comes first. Your car’s tires will wear differently according to their position on the vehicle. The front tires, for instance, tend to wear more quickly since more of their tread surface comes in contact with the road when making turns. Ask your regular service shop or mechanic to rotate your tires or do it yourself, but make sure that you follow the manufacturer’s specifications.
Some vehicles, especially sports cars, feature different sized tires or wheels for the front and the back of the vehicle, so make sure you know when and how your tires in particular should be rotated.
Whenever you’re driving, try to avoid running over foreign objects or debris in the roadway. Small nails and screws are the most common cause of damage, but nearly any solid object your tire strikes at speed has the potential to cause damage. When parking or driving, also avoid striking or rolling curbs, sidewalks or concrete parking bumpers, which can cause uneven pressure and potential damage.