Your car’s tires are one of the keys to safe driving, particularly when roads are slick, icy or snowy. Before any wintry weather descends, it’s a good idea to check your tires. We love this infographic from Fix.com – it offers tips for checking your tires for proper inflation and signs of deterioration.
We also point you to a few prior posts on our blog that talk about different aspects of tire safety:
People don’t usually think about spare tires until they need them – and if you have a flat tire, that’s a pretty bad time to learn that the spare tire you thought was in your trunk isn’t there. Drivers have been conditioned to think of spare tires as a standard feature with all new cars – but that is changing and consumers need to re-calibrate their expectations. According to AAA, more than a third of all new car models are being sold without a spare tire.
Part of the reason that auto makers give is saving weight to achieve fuel efficiency standards. It’s also space saving, particularly for hybrids and sports cars. More and more new cars are eliminating the spare tire and including inflator kits instead. Some cars are equipped with “run-flat” tires, but these tend to be available only in luxury models.
So how much can you rely on the inflator kits? According to AAA, they have limited use:
“AAA tested the most common tire inflator kits in today’s vehicles and found that the units worked well in some scenarios, but they are not a substitute for a spare tire. For an inflator kit to work effectively, a tire must be punctured in the tread surface and the object must remain in the tire. Used correctly, the kit then coats the inner wall of the tire with a sealant and a compressor re-inflates the tire. If the puncture-causing object is no longer in the tire, a sidewall is damaged or a blowout occurs, a tire inflator kit cannot remedy the situation and the vehicle will require a tow.”
Plus, AAA says that inflator kits can be a costly alternative: “With some kits costing up to $300 per use, a tire inflator kit can cost consumers up to 10 times more than a simple tire repair and has a shelf life of only four to eight years.”
Buyer beware: If you are in the market for a new vehicle, check to see if a spare tire is included. If not, a tire may be available as a purchase option.
This video demonstrates how to use a tire inflator kit on a Chevy Malibu.
This video clip contains all the essentials for tire safety in just over a minute and a half — take a look. .
Tirewise is your one-stop shop when it comes to tire safety and consumer protection. (It’s a part of safercar.gov). Here are just a few of the useful resources.
How to learn the age of your tires – Regardless of tire wear, the rubber can break down over time. Some vehicle and tire manufacturers recommend replacing tires that are six to 10 years old, regardless of treadwear. Check out the diagram on this page to see how to date your tires.
Tire Rating Lookup – You can search for recalls, investigations and complaints on tires — and also for child safety seats, for auto equipment, or for your entire car.
Check for tire recalls – NHTSA has rated more than 2,400 lines of tires, including most used on passenger cars, minivans, SUVs and light pickup trucks. Consumers can select a tire brand from the drop-down menu below.
One other important safety notice: Make sure your auto insurance is current and provides adequate coverage. If you live in New England, find one of our member local agents near you.
June 7-13 is Tire Safety Month, an event organized by the Rubber Manufacturers Association to promote safety and to raise awareness about proper maintenance and care. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 600 deaths and 33,000 injuries per year are due to under inflated tires. And in addition to being a safety hazard, tires that are improperly inflated also lower a car’s fuel efficiency. Consumer Reports offers tips on tire maintenance.
Conventional wisdom has been to use a penny to measure tire tread for safety, but Consumer Reports notes that based on driving performance in a battery of tests, using a quarter would be a safer gauge:
“It has long been the standard that tires are worn out when their tread depth reaches 1/16 inch (or 2/32 inch as found on standardized tread-depth gauges). The easiest way to measure this, if you didn’t have a gauge, was to hold a penny upside down in the tread. If the top of Lincoln’s head was visible, you needed new tires. See test results of foul weather comprises with worn-out tires.
But CR’s tests show that using a penny is too stingy and that most consumers should consider replacing their tires when the tread reaches 1/8 inch.”
Experts at the Tire Rack, an independent tire tester, suggest that measuring tire tread via the quarter method can improve braking distances up to 24 percent. See a quick tutorial for using coins to measure tire depth.
In addition to maintaining good tire pressure and tread, the age of your tires can be a safety factor – rubber breaks down over time. Many safety experts suggest replacing tires that are more than 5 years old to avoid the potential for a blowout or tread separation.