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Are You Treading Dangerously with Unsafe Tires?

Are You Treading Dangerously with Unsafe Tires?

May 09, 2018
By Bary Gassman

Tire-related accidents that often result in injuries and fatalities can be prevented by taking the time to regularly maintain and inspect tires for safety.

Tire Maintenance Saves Lives

Worn, damaged, or defective tires increase the risks of tire blowouts and tire-related accidents. Blowouts occur when a tire suddenly bursts due to lack of air pressure. This can be caused by cuts or punctures, tread damage, too much or too little air pressure, and overloaded vehicles. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), many tire failures are preventable and happen because vehicle owners neglect to perform regular tire maintenance on their vehicles.

Tire Tread

Safe tire treads are necessary for proper road grip. Tread depth can be checked by inserting a quarter in the groove of the tread. The quarter should only show a distance of about 4/32 inches, the distance from George Washington’s hairline to the rim of the quarter. If the entire head is visible, tire treads are showing signs of wear. A penny can show uneven wear, if the distance between the top of Lincoln’s head to the edge on the penny is more than 2/32 inch. More space can indicate low tire pressure, tire misalignment, or aggressive driving.

Tire Pressure

Under-inflated tires flex more, build up heat faster, and reduce fuel efficiency. Over-inflated tires have less road grip, uneven road contact, and cause a bouncy car ride. In either case, improper air pressure can cause tire blowouts and unexpected car collisions and rollovers. Proper tire pressure is typically found on the driver’s doorjamb. Pressure should be checked when the car has been parked for at least three hours. Many new vehicles have tire-pressure monitoring systems, but they are not maintenance reminders. When the alert light comes on, tires are already under-inflated by at least 25 percent.

Tire Age

All tires have a date code that shows when they were manufactured. The date code is usually shown on the lower sidewall of a tire. The last four numbers identify when the tire was made. Drivers sometimes find that their tires were in inventory for months or longer before purchase. Many car manufacturers recommend tire replacement after six years, even if tires don’t show wear. For optimum safety, all tires more than 10 years old should be replaced.

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