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
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
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
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 Having
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
The cost of keeping your tires
balanced and your vehicle properly aligned will more than pay for itself
in tire mileage, performance and comfort.
REGULAR ROTATION 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.
VISUAL INSPECTION Often,
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
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
REPAIRS 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.