If you’re heading out on the road for an extended trip, you will need to ensure that your car is road-ready. Adequate fluids; working headlamps, functioning taillights and turn signals; an emergency kit, and a fully inflated spare tire are among the checklist items for your car. Your tires need to be checked too, but even a cursory check may not reveal a serious problem, one that could result in a blowout leading to dangerous consequences.
What should you check with inspecting your tires? Several things including the following:
1. Adequate pressure
Placarding found inside the driver’s door or located on the inside of your glove box, explains the precise tire pressure needed for all four of your tires. This figure may be different from what the tire manufacturer recommends on the tire’s sidewall. Follow the car manufacturer’s guidelines as these numbers consider your car’s gross vehicle weight and load factors.
2. Visible wear
Tire wear patterns are a good indication of something is wrong with your tires. If your tires are wearing on one side, then your wheels are out of alignment. Tires with cupped dips appearing around the edge of the tread on one side or the other reveal possible problems with suspension parts. Feathering occurs when the edge of each tread rib offers a somewhat rounded border on one side and a sharp border on the other. Again, this problem is indicative of your suspension system needing to be examined. Under inflation and over-inflation can also impact tire wear.
3. Tire age
You bought tires that have tread life of 65,000 miles and with 20,000 miles to go, you should be in good shape, right? Not always. The age of your tires may be just as important because as tires age, they will dry out. Dried out tires are subject to failure, which can lead to dangerous consequences.
How old is too old? Some say six years regardless of miles. You can find out how old your tires are by looking at the sidewall. All tires manufactured from 2000 on have a tire identification number, usually eight numbers and letters. The last four figures are numbers with the last two identifying the year and the two numbers preceding the year identifying the week that the tire was made. For example, if you find the code XRGR1513 on your tires, that means your tires were made during the 15th week of 2013 which is about April 15, 2013. As of publication, your tires are more than six years old and should be replaced.
4. Tire rotation
You can rotate your tires yourself or take your car back to the place you last purchased your tires and have it done for you. Most tire retailers offer lifetime tire rotation and inspection for free when you buy replacement tires from them. Your car manufacturer – check your owner’s manual – offers instructions on how often your tires should be rotated. Typically, this is every 5-10,000 miles. If you have a full-size spare, consider including that tire in with the rotation.
Match, Not Mix
Each of your tires should match and our recommendation is that when your tires need to be replaced, you replace all four. However, you can replace just two, with the new tires going on the rear axle regardless of whether your vehicle is front-, rear- or all-wheel drive.
If you are not sure your tires are road-ready, take your car to a tire retailer for inspection. If the salesperson insists you need new tires, understand the reasons for his or her recommendation. Importantly, insist that the tires installed on your vehicle are new as some retailers are selling “new” tires that were manufactured at least a year earlier, effectively diminishing the lifespan of your tires.