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Tire Maintenance Tips

Did you know?...
  • Under-inflated tires cause more than 600 fatalities and 33,000 injuries every year. Don’t become a crash victim. Protect yourself and your family.

Taking good care of your tires does not have to be time consuming or difficult. You can learn to quickly check your tire pressure and tread, following the easy tips below. Remember – it’s important to check your air pressure with a tire gauge every month, even if your tires look full.

How to Check and Adjust Your Tire’s Pressure

  • It’s important to have the proper inflation or air pressure in your tires. To determine the correct air pressure for your tires (measured in pounds per square inch or PSI) check the sticker on the inside of your driver's side doorframe. You can also check the owner's manual or consult your local tire dealer for the proper inflation information.
  • Check pressure at least once a month and before long trips. Remember to check your tires when they are cool to the touch, to get an accurate measurement of air pressure.
  • After you remove the valve cap, firmly press a tire gauge onto the valve.
  • Read the gauge to determine if your tires have the correct amount of inflation. If not, add air to achieve the recommended air pressure.
  • If your tire is above the recommended tire pressure or you accidentally overfill it, release air by pushing on the metal stem in the center of the valve with the tire gauge tool, a fingernail, or the tip of a pen. Recheck the pressure until its right.
  • Replace the valve cap when you’re done.
  • Repeat with each tire, and don’t forget the spare. You’ll be glad you checked the spare if you get a flat tire.
  • While you’re checking the pressure, take a moment to give your tires a good inspection. Listen for leaks, check tread wear, check for nails or other objects embedded in the tires, look for cuts or gouges, uneven wear, bulges, tread separation, and other irregularities. These could be signs of potential danger, so contact your local car care professional.

The Car Care Council's Car Minute Tire Pressure (1:13-minute video). The Car Care Council is a partner in CalRecycle’s Just Check It campaign. We hope you’ll enjoy this educational video! Visit www.carcare.org for more information.

How to Check Your Tire Tread

While checking your tire pressure each month, you should also check the tread depth of each tire using the "Penny Test." As your tire tread wears down, your car starts to lose traction on the road and is more prone to hydroplaning or sliding, particularly in wet weather.

  • Simply insert a penny upside down. If you can see the top of President Lincoln's head, your tire tread is too low.
  • Another way to test your tread is to look at the built-in tread wear indicators or "wear bars" which look like narrow strips of smooth rubber. Wear bars will appear on the tire when the tread is worn down to 2/32 of an inch. When you see these “wear bars” the tire is worn out and should be replaced.

Additional Tire Maintenance Tips

Did you know?...
  • Many vehicles with automatic tire pressure monitoring systems give a warning if tire pressure drops 25 percent or more. But loosing just 8 psi of pressure can reduce vehicle performance.
  • Rotate Your Tires Regularly. Rotating your tires helps achieve a more uniform wear for all tires on your vehicle. Tires should be rotated approximately every 5,000 – 8,000 miles or sooner if signs of irregular or uneven tire wear appear. If your tires show uneven wear, ask your tire dealer to check for and correct any misalignment, imbalance or other mechanical problem before rotating your tires.
  • Balance Your Tires. An unbalanced wheel and tire assembly may create an annoying vibration when you drive on a smooth road and may result in irregular tread wear.
  • Keep Your Tires Aligned. Misalignment of wheels in the front or rear, bent wheels, worn bushings, and other mechanical problems cause uneven and rapid tread wear and should be corrected by a qualified mechanic. These systems should be checked periodically as specified by the vehicle owner's manual or whenever you have an indication of trouble.

The Benefits of Proper Tire Care

By conducting regular tire maintenance you can:

Stay safe on the road. Underinflated tires cause more than 600 fatalities and 33,000 injuries every year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Under-inflation or overloading of tires can result in rapid or uneven tread wear or blown tires. Even if no injury occurs, tire failure may still cause a crash resulting in vehicle damage.

Get better fuel efficiency. Maintaining the correct tire pressure improves vehicle fuel economy and gives you more miles per gallon (mpg). This means gas money that stays in your pocket. Specifically, properly inflated tires can improve fuel efficiency by 3.3 percent and save $.09 a gallon at the pump. Approximately 1.2 billion gallons of fuel are wasted each year by U.S. motorists driving on underinflated tires.[1]

Make your tires last longer. By properly caring for your tires, you extend their life which has a positive impact on our environment. According to the California Air Resources Board, properly inflated tires could decrease greenhouse gas emissions by 900,000 metric tons of CO2 equivalent.

Footnote

  1. Rubber Manufacturer Association’s 2010 Tire Safety Week Fact Sheet.
Last updated: June 8, 2010
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