Each season brings its own particular conditions and challenges for safe driving. Following these important tips can help ensure you and your family's safety while on the road.
Take five minutes every month and before any long-distance trip to check the pressure and tread wear of all of your tires, including your spare.
In many areas, the repeated freezing and thawing of moisture during winter seeps through road surfaces and produces treacherous potholes in the spring. Keep these driving tips in mind as you travel:
- Hitting a pothole can throw your car's front end out of alignment. If you feel your car ?pulling? as you drive, you could have a problem. Check the tread on your tires. If you find uneven treadwear, it could be a sign of misalignment. If you hit a severe pothole, have a tire dealer check your vehicle's alignment and tire balance.
- Damage to your tire and/or the metal wheel of your vehicle can occur when you hit a pothole. Keeping your tires properly inflated helps reduce damage from potholes and other road hazards.
- The impact of potholes on tires increases dramatically depending on the speed at which your vehicle travels. This can cause hidden, internal damage that could lead to tire failure weeks, or even months, later. For these reasons, it is best to avoid potholes entirely. If that's not possible, avoid braking during pothole impact. Instead, apply your brakes before hitting a pothole and release them just prior to impact. (Braking during impact sets up the tire and wheel assembly for a ?solid hit? against the edge of the hole. Less severe damage occurs when a tire rolls over a pothole than when it skids during braking.)
Your tires can help keep you safe if you use them correctly and allow them to do the job they were designed for:
- Avoid making sudden movements with your car. Accelerate gently and make turns gradually. Go easy on the brakes when stopping. Spinning or sliding tires means your vehicle is out of control.
- If you do go into a skid and your car has an antilock braking system (ABS), apply steady pressure to the brakes and turn in the direction of the skid. Do not pump the brakes.
In many parts of the country, winter brings a new set of rules to the road. Keep in mind that:
- Should you become stuck in the snow, avoid spinning your tires. This can overheat them, causing tire failure and possible injury. The correct way to get out of snow is to gently rock your vehicle back and forth. If your vehicle has ABS brakes, follow the instructions in your owner's manual.
- If you drive a four-wheel drive vehicle, don't become overconfident when driving in snow. Four-wheel drive cannot help you stop better nor can it prevent you from skidding.
The gray, rainy days that distinguish fall in many parts of the country create a very particular kind of driving risk. Remember that:
- Stopping on wet roads can take up to four times the normal distance. If your tires are worn, they may skim over the surface of the road with little or no traction.
- In a sudden downpour, driving fast or driving on worn tires will also cause your tires to lose grip with the road.
- Rain water that mixing with oil or grime on the streets makes for exceptionally slippery conditions and can result in unexpected skidding. Slow down and pay attention to the possibility of skidding.
PROPER TIRE INFLATION
Maintaining proper air pressure is the
single most important thing drivers can do for their tires. In the space
of just one month, a tire can lose 10 pounds of air pressure.
It is important to check your air pressure regularly, to make sure your tires are neither under nor overinflated.
Under inflation is the worst enemy your tire can have. It causes increased tread wear on the outside edges (or shoulders) of the tire. It also generates excessive heat, which reduces tire durability. Finally, it reduces your fuel economy by increasing rolling resistance ? soft tires make your vehicle work harder.
Over inflation is also detrimental to the tire. Too much air pressure causes the center of the tread to bear the majority of the car's weight, which leads to faster deterioration and uneven wear. Any kind of uneven wear will shorten the lifespan of your tires.
To find the proper air pressure for your tires, look in the vehicle owner's manual, on the driver's side door jamb or in the glove box. And if you buy new tires, be sure to learn the correct pressure from your dealer. Check your pressure at least once a month, and use a good quality air gauge.
BALANCE & ALIGNMENT
your tires balanced and your vehicle properly aligned is important not
only to the longevity of the tire, but to the safety of the driver and
to the performance of the car.
Unbalanced tires cause road vibration, which leads to driver fatigue, premature tire wear (also known as cupping or dipping) and unnecessary wear to your vehicle's suspension. Tires should be balanced when they are mounted on wheels for the first time or when they are remounted after a repair. They should be rebalanced at the first sign of a vibration or shimmy, and should be balanced at least once a year, regardless.
A vehicle is said to be properly aligned when all suspension and steering components are sound and when tire and wheel assemblies are running straight and true. Proper alignment is necessary for even tread wear and precise steering. Uneven front or rear tire wear, or changes in your vehicle's handling or steering can indicate misalignment.
The cost of keeping your tires balanced and your vehicle properly aligned will more than pay for itself in tire mileage, performance and comfort.
The weight of a vehicle is not evenly distributed to all four tires. Therefore, regular rotation is necessary to maintain even
tread wear and get the most out of your tires.
There are several methods of rotation. For all-season tires and most vehicles on the road, tires from the rear axle are moved to the drive axle and crossed to opposite sides of the vehicle. The tires from the drive axle are moved to the rear, but remain on the same sides. This is known as the ?modified X? pattern.
Tires with ?directional? design are rotated differently. In this case, all tires remain on the same side of the vehicle and are rotated straight forward and straight back. For four-wheel drive vehicles, it is recommended to switch all four tires, both from side-to-side and in axle position.
Check your owner's manual for the manufacturer's rotation recommendations. If no rotation period is specified, tires should be adjusted every 6,000-8,000 miles. Four-wheel drive vehicles may require rotation as soon as every 4,000 miles. The first rotation of your tires is the most important, and remember to adjust inflation pressures to the vehicle manufacturer's recommendations after every rotation.
discovering potential problems for your tires is as simple as giving
them a good visual once-over. The next time you check your air pressure,
scan your treads for any sharp objects that may have punctured your
tires. Even if the puncture is not deep enough to flatten the tires
immediately, the cracking and pitting caused by smaller punctures can
eventually worsen and lead to problems down the road.
Check the wear patterns on your treads as well. Excessive shoulder wear can indicate under inflation, while wear to the center of the tread can mean over inflation.
Many tires have tread wear indicator bars molded into the tread. When the tread is worn down to where you can see a solid bar of rubber across the width of the tread, it is time to replace your tire. Another method for checking tread depth is to place a penny in the tread groove with Lincoln's head upside down and facing you. If you can see the top of Lincoln's head, you are ready for new tires.
It is crucial to know when it is okay to
have a tire repaired and when a tire should be replaced. If a tire
loses its air pressure, it must be removed from the wheel for a complete
internal inspection to be sure it is not damaged. Tires that are run
even a short distance while flat are often damaged beyond repair.
Most punctures, nail holes or cuts up to 1/4 inch can be repaired by trained technicians as long as the damage is confined to the tread. DO NOT repair tires with tread punctures larger than 1/4 inch, or any sidewall puncture. Also, never repair tires which are worn below 1/16 inch of tread depth. Most tire repairs should be handled by trained professionals. Your best bet is to keep a good spare tire in your trunk. Be sure that the spare is inflated to the proper pressure and looks to be in good shape.