My last two blogs have been all about tire pressure: how to check it and why. So, what’s next? You have to be able to tell when you need new tires. Ignore your tires, and at best, you’ll end up stranded somewhere with a flat, and at worst, you’ll end up in the hospital after one of your tires has blown.
Did you know that the N.H.T.S.A. (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) estimates that nearly 400 fatalities every year are caused by tire failures? Tires are designed to provide similar performance throughout their life, but at some point, that performance level drops and they need to be replaced. Nothing lasts forever. Here’s how you know if you’ve come to the end of the road, tire-wise:
Shake it, Shake it, Shake it, Girl
A little bit of vibration when you’re driving is unavoidable, but if you’re braking and feeling like you can skip the gym because your arms are getting a workout, you’ve got a problem. Or how about when you’re driving down the highway and you can’t even reach to adjust the rearview because your steering wheel wants to pull you off the road? That’s a problem; it could be that your alignment is off or your tires are unbalanced, but it could be other things as well, and guess what? Most of those things are hurting your tires and wearing them out before their time. Get the problem fixed!
Check It Before You Wreck It
If I’ve said this once, I’ve said it a hundred times. Check your tires and see how they’re wearing in general. If the alignment is off, they aren’t wearing evenly, and you need to find out how bad they’ve gotten. Here’s a quick and easy way to test your tire tread:
Find a penny (the Abe Lincoln version), and stick it between the treads on your tires head down, if old Abe’s head is still peeking out at you, you need new tires. You can also go out and buy a gauge to measure the tread depth, but in a pinch, put your pennies to work. Abe is a bare-minimum test, girls, so don’t push your limits here. The treads on your tires are what keep your car safely on the road and out of the trunk of the car in front of you. Use the “Abe Lincoln Rule” mentioned above to check the depth of your tire tread, but be sure to check in several places and see how evenly your tires are wearing. When you’ve reached that 1/16 mark, you’ve reached the end, ladies. Start shopping.
Tread Wear Bars Are Not For Drinking
That brings us to treads and what you should be looking out for. All tires sold in the US (and lots of other countries) have what are called “tread wear bars.” You probably won’t see these little helpers when the tires are new, but as the tires begin to wear down they appear, like little bridges that run perpendicular to the direction of the treads on the tires. When you start seeing 1 or 2 of these, consult Abe, but it may be time to check with a professional as well and see about getting some new tires.
Cracks and Grooves aren’t Groovy
All your tire problems don’t go back to the tread, although it may seem that way. Keep an eye on the sidewalls of your tires as well (luckily, this isn’t too hard to do). If you start seeing cracks or grooves in the sidewalls, get them checked out. Cracks could lead to a leak in the tire or even a blow out. This is not the blowout you pay your stylist for, sisters, this is you swerving like a madwoman to get control of your car when your tire blows out. Got it? Flat tires are bad, blow outs are worse.
The Battle of the Bulge is a Losing Battle
Sometimes when a tire begins to wear out, it might get a bulge or a blister. If you see this, get some new tires pronto! Here’s my favorite bulge/blister analogy: If you went to the doctor and they noticed a bulge in a blood vessel, otherwise known as an aneurysm, what would happen? You’d get your behind thrown in an ambulance and rushed to the hospital before you blew an artery, right? Same thing with tires. Don’t play around with bulges and blisters—get them checked out and your tires replaced.
I know I keep saying and saying it—your tires are one of the most important safety features on your car—but it’s worth repeating. Keep an eye on them, notice how they are wearing and where. If you suspect a problem, but you’re not sure, there’s no shame in asking. Check our RNR website to find an RNR location near you and drive on in. We’ll check out your problem and give you our best advice—that’s what we’re here for. If you need a new set of tires and the thought of the bill chokes you a little, don’t sweat it. We’ve got a plan for you, and we’ll get you back on the road—safely.