Car Care Tips
Summer Driving Tips
The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) recommends taking five minutes every month and before every long drive to check your tires, including the spare. Through its Be Tire Smart – Play Your PART campaign, RMA offers consumer-friendly tips that demonstrate the correct way to check tire pressure and tread wear, and information about driving factors that can affect tire pressure, alignment and rotation. For many Americans, the summer season is driving season. These tire safety tips are designed to help drivers make sure that they’re ready for safe, enjoyable road trips this summer.
- Make sure you check your tire pressure regularly – at least once per month and before every long trip -- including the spare and keep it at the level recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.
- The correct cold inflation pressure for your tires is listed on the vehicle label on the door post, fuel door, glove box or in the owners' manual. "Cold inflation pressure" refers to the pressure in a tire that has not been driven for at least three hours. As tires warm during driving, it is normal for pressure to build up. Never "bleed" or reduce air pressure when tires are hot.
- The tire pressure listed on your sidewalls is the maximum pressure and is not intended to serve as notification of the correct pressure.
- Under inflation creates excessive stresses and heat and may lead to tire failure. It is also important to guard against overinflation, which can cause uneven wear plus handling and stopping problems.
Vehicle Loading and Overloading
- Before you fill the trunk and the roof rack with your stuff, check out the vehicle manufacturers recommendations for loading your vehicle. You may not realize it, but you and your passengers count towards the total recommended vehicle weight.
- The vehicle manufacturers loading recommendation can be found on the vehicle information placard on the door post or in the vehicle owners’ manual.
- Overloading your vehicle creates excessive heat inside your tires. Excessive heat can cause tire failure that could result in vehicle damage and/or serious injury or even death.
- And don’t forget, if you’re going to be driving long distances with a loaded vehicle or you haven’t had your car checked in a while, have the alignment and rotation checked. Tires and wheels that are out of balance or misaligned can cause uneven wear or vehicle problems. Have your car checked by an automotive service professional before you leave.
- Check the tread grooves of your tires to make sure that they’re free of foreign objects. This makes it easier for your tires to grip the road and increases your ability to safely maneuver your car.
- Also check the sidewalls to make sure there are no gouges, cuts, bulges or other irregularities.
- You may have irregular tread wear if there are high and low areas or unusually smooth areas. Built-in treadwear indicators, or “wear bars,” which look like narrow strips of smooth rubber across the tread will appear on the tire when the tread is worn down to one-sixteenth of an inch. When you see these “wear bars,” the tire is worn out and should be replaced.
Fall Driving Tips
As temperatures drop this season, it's time to Be Tire Smart!
Special attention should be paid to the tread on your tires. The gray, rainy days that mark fall in many parts of the country create a particular driving risk. Without sufficient tread depth, your vehicle can’t properly grip the road. Under wet weather conditions, insufficient tread depth can cause a vehicle can hydroplane -- skim over the surface of the road with little or no traction, which can lead to a crash. So check your tread. All you need is a Lincoln penny.
Insert Abe's head into the tread in a couple of spots on each tire. If you can see the entire top of his head, your tread is less that one-sixteenth of an inch deep - below the level where you can count on it in slippery conditions. It should be replaced.
While you're administering the Abe test to your tires, take a good look at them. Any signs of uneven tread wear? That could mean a number of different problems - under inflation, tires out of balance, or wheels out of alignment. If you can tell that your tread is wearing unevenly on some of your tires, ask your dealer to take a look. He can correct a problem before it causes trouble. If you don't rotate your tires every 5,000 miles or so, you should get into the habit. The forces exerted on tires differ, depending on the tire's position on the car, and wear patterns may differ. Front wheels work harder because they do the turning and most of the braking. And rear wheels can be unevenly loaded.
Tires have "wear bars" built into them. These are indicators that appear when you have worn your tread down to the limit. Don't neglect the signals your tires are sending you. Be Tire Smart - Play Your Part!
And as always - once a month for sure - check your tire air pressure with an accurate tire gauge. You can't tell if a tire needs air just by looking. It could be 50 percent under inflated and still look fine. The most serious consequence of riding on an underinflated tire is heat buildup caused by the increased flexing of a tire that isn't as firm as it should be. Driving on underinflated or overloaded tires at high speeds over long distances - for instance, driving on the highway - can lead to tire failure.
Winter Driving Tips
Winter driving conditions can be quite dangerous, which means if you need to be outside, you should prepare yourself and your vehicle wisely. Remember that in winter weather, stopping is often the hard part, and it's the tires that do the stopping. So take proper care of them. They are a critical part of the three-member team - your car, your tires, and you - that can get you through the winter safely if you follow the rules.
First, think about your tires. Are they rated as all-season tires? That means they have a tread designed to give you better traction in the wet and in the snow. If not, a double dose of caution is called for. You might think about investing in winter tires (formerly called dedicated snow tires) if you live in a snowy area. Remember, it is important to see your tire dealer for proper installation of winter tires on your vehicle.
Are they properly inflated? The answer may well be "no," because as the temperature outside drops, the air inside a tire contracts and the pressure drops - one or two pounds for every ten- degree drop. Contrary to common belief, underinflation does not give tires better traction in the snow. It only makes them more vulnerable to damage. Winter or summer, your tire's worst enemy is underinflation. Of course, you should check your tires when the weather turns cold, and bring them up to correct pressure.
Second, remember that no matter what kind of vehicle you drive, you still are driving on only four tires, just like everyone else. Four-wheel drive may help you go better in the snow, but it won't help you stop better, or keep you from skidding. Don't let your four-by-four make you overconfident!
Third, let your tires do the job they are designed for. They can keep you out of trouble if you use them correctly:
- Avoid sudden movements of the car. Accelerate gently. Turn gradually. Easy on the brakes when stopping. Those are ways to let the tread on your tires maintain good traction. Spinning or sliding tire means your vehicle is out of control.
- If you do go into a skid, and your car has an anti-lock braking system (ABS), apply steady pressure to the brakes and turn in the direction of the skid. Don't pump the brakes.
- If you get stuck in the snow, spinning your tires too fast can overheat them to the point where they will explode and cause injury. Rocking your vehicle gently back and forth is the correct way to get out of a problem. If your vehicle has ABS brakes, follow the instructions in the owner's manual.
Spring Driving Tips
April showers bring May flowers and…wet driving conditions. Now that the long winter is over, millions of Americans will take to the roads again for holiday road trips and long weekend getaways. The Rubber Manufacturers Association reminds you to check your tires (and the spare) at least once a month and before every long trip.
As you prepare to hit the road again this spring, consider the following advice to make sure your tires are ready for the trip and that you arrive safely at your destination:
- Good brakes and years of driving experience aren’t enough to ensure that you will be able to stop quickly in wet weather. In fact, stopping on a wet road can take up to four times the normal distance on a dry road. During wet weather conditions, drive slowly and keep in mind that stopping distances will be longer.
- Check the pressure of your tires once a month, and before every long trip, to ensure that when you do need to stop, your tires can do everything they’re supposed to do to help you. The correct inflation pressure for your tires is specified by the vehicle manufacturer and is shown on the vehicle door edge, door post, glove box door or fuel door. It is also listed in the owner’s manual. The maximum inflation pressure listed on the tire is not the recommended pressure.
- Rain water that mixes with oil or grime on the streets can cause slippery conditions that may result in unexpected skidding. Slow down and pay attention to the possibility of skidding.
- Make sure you have the alignment and balance of your tires checked regularly so that if you do skid, your vehicle is properly equipped to help you stop safely.
- Rotating your tires can sometimes help correct irregular tire wear. Before rotating your tires, always refer to your car’s owner's manual for rotation recommendations. If no rotation period is specified, tires should be rotated approximately every 5,000 miles.
- In a sudden downpour, driving fast or driving on worn tires can cause your tires to hydroplane - this means that your tires “surf” along on a film of water just like a water skier.
- Slow down in sudden downpours and make sure you check the tread on your tires once per month and before every long trip. Your tires should have at least 2/32 inch of tread depth.
In many areas of the country, the snow and ice of winter have left roads in bad shape. The repeated freezing and thawing of moisture seeps through road surfaces and causes potholes. Keep these driving tips in mind this spring as you travel:
- Hitting potholes can throw your car’s front end out of alignment. If you feel your car “pulling” during driving, that’s a clue that you could have a problem. Check the tread on your tires: uneven tread wear can be a sign of misalignment. If you hit a severe pothole, have a tire dealer check your vehicles’ alignment and tire balance.
- When you hit a pothole you can damage your tire and/or the metal wheel of your vehicle. Keeping your tires properly inflated will help reduce damage from potholes and other road hazards.
- The impact of potholes on tires increases dramatically with speed and can cause hidden, internal damage that could lead to tire failure weeks, or even months, later. It’s best to avoid potholes entirely, but if that’s not possible, don’t brake during the pothole impact. Instead, apply brakes before hitting a pothole and release them just prior to impact. Braking during the 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 is rolling than when it is skidding over a hole during braking.