Safe driv­ing tips: How to get the most out of your tires

The Calvert Recorder - Southern Maryland Automotive Trends - - Auto Trends -

A tire’s tread depth sig­nif­i­cantly af­fects driv­ing safety. In fact, to en­sure a ve­hi­cle drives safely, the Na­tional High­way Traf­fic and Safety Ad­min­is­tra­tion rec­om­mends a tire be re­placed once its tread depth reaches 2/32nds of an inch. Win­ter tires should be re­placed even sooner.

Worn tires cause more than just headaches for driv­ers. Less tread means longer brak­ing dis­tances and more dif­fi­culty han­dling a car. This is es­pe­cially true in slip­pery con­di­tions be­cause the tires are not able to ef­fec­tively clear wa­ter from un­der­neath caus­ing the ve­hi­cle to hy­droplane.

The con­tact area between the tire and the road is dra­mat­i­cally re­duced when tires wear out and when driv­ing speed in­creases. While driv­ing 50 mph in 1/8 inch of wa­ter, the con­tact patch between the tire and road is only 16 per­cent com­pared to the con­tact patch of a sta­tion­ary ve­hi­cle.

“Un­for­tu­nately, many driv­ers don’t reg­u­larly check the depth of tread on their tires. Peo­ple check tread depths when fit­ting the tires, but then bliss­fully for­get about them for the en­tire sea­son,” said Matti Morri, tech­ni­cal cus­tomer ser­vice man­ager for Nokian Tyres.

Mon­i­tor­ing the con­di­tion of tires through­out their lives helps driv­ers main­tain safety on the road. So, what steps should you take to en­sure you get the most out of your tires?

Mon­i­tor, ro­tate your tires

Tires wear un­evenly, es­pe­cially on front wheel drive ve­hi­cles where the front tires wear down much quicker than the rear tires. For this rea­son, you should mon­i­tor the tread depth through­out the sea­son and ro­tate tires from front to back, pro­vid­ing the tire size is the same on both axles.

If a set of tires are in­stalled in the spring and used heav­ily un­til the start of autumn with­out be­ing ro­tated, it is com­pletely pos­si­ble for the front tires to be worn down while the rear tires still have up to 70 per­cent of tread left.

Ro­tat­ing helps to min­i­mize the per­for­mance and grip dif­fer­ences between the front and rear of the car for more pre­dictable han­dling.

How to mea­sure tread depth

A U.S. penny is a handy tool for mea­sur­ing the main grooves in the cen­ter of a tire’s tread. In­sert the pen- ny into the main groove so that the edge of the coin touches the tread and Lin­coln’s head is up­side down. If the top of Lin­coln’s head re­mains vis­i­ble from the groove, the tires are fully worn.

Some new tires on the mar­ket have in­no­va­tive tread wear in­di­ca­tors to alert driv­ers when their tires need re­plac­ing. In fact, all new mod­els from Nokian Tyres come fit­ted with a Driv­ing Safety Indi­ca­tor (DSI) that in­di­cates how much tread is re­main­ing, as well as a rain­drop or snowflake sym­bol that ap­pears once the tire has worn down to the point where the ve­hi­cle could han­dle un­safely on wet roads.

Min­i­mize tread wear through proper in­fla­tion

To help ex­tend tread life, max­i­mize fuel econ­omy and op­ti­mize a ve­hi­cle’s per­for­mance, it’s im­por­tant to check a tire’s air pres­sure once per month in the sum­mer and twice per month in the spring and fall when there are large fluc­tu­a­tions in tem­per­a­ture. Tire overand un­der-in­fla­tion cause tread to wear quicker than nor­mal and can po­ten­tial- ly re­sult in a dan­ger­ous blowout. Ad­di­tion­ally, un­der-in­fla­tion will cause your ve­hi­cle to use more fuel (or re­duce range in an elec­tric ve­hi­cle) and di­min­ish the per­for­mance of your ve­hi­cle as it re­quires more ef­fort to for the car to move.

For the most ac­cu­rate pres­sure read­ing, check the tires while they are still cold. Driv­ing heats up the tires caus­ing the air in­side to ex­pand re­sult­ing with an in­ac­cu­rate read­ing. The cor­rect tire pres­sure for the ve­hi­cle and tire size com­bi­na­tion can be found on a plac­ard in the driver’s door jamb, on the in­side of the gas cap, or in the ve­hi­cle’s owner’s man­ual. Re­mem­ber also to check the pres­sure of the ve­hi­cle’s spare tire (if equipped).

Driv­ers should keep these sim­ple tips in mind through­out the spring and sum­mer to help en­sure a safe driv­ing ve­hi­cle and to get the most out of their tires.

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