Tires are one of the most important components of your car. Many critical aspects of your car, such as road grip, braking efficiency, ride quality, stability, handling, and fuel economy, depend on the quality of its tires. It is estimated that every year, tire failures account for over 200 fatal road accidents in the U.S. It is important to check your car tires periodically and maintain or replace them when necessary. Tires have a maximum life of about 10 years, but a number of factors can shorten it.
Tires deteriorate with age
Tires have a shelf life even if they are unused. Even if you use your car sparingly, its tires will slowly deteriorate. The rate at which this happens depends on conditions such as the temperature, tire pressure, wheel alignment, weight of the car, frequency of usage, driving style, and road quality. You must look out for signs of aging, especially when your tires are over five years old.
Cracks on the rubber surface and deformation are signs of dry rot. Such tires can fall apart while you are on the road. When you check the tires, don’t ignore the spare. If you notice any problem with the tires, get them checked by an expert. You must also insist on a tire inspection when your car is serviced. An expert will be able to tell you if it is time to replace the tires. In any case, don’t drive with tires that are over 10 years from the manufacturing date, which is mentioned on the tire wall.
Damage due to accidents
Accidents, punctures, or driving over poor-quality roads can damage tires. Driving with flat tires can also damage its internal structure. Get your tires checked by an expert if you:
a) Have an accident.
b) Hit the curb.
c) Accidentally drive with flat or nearly flat tires.
d) Drive over a speed breaker at high speed or go over a car-jarring pothole.
If internal damage is a possibility, remove the tire from the wheel to ascertain that it is safe to use. A bulge on the sidewall of a tire is a sure indication of structural damage. You must never drive with such tires because they can burst while you are on the road. A tire blowout at high speed could make you lose control of the vehicle and result in a serious accident. Never drive with tires that are structurally damaged. Replace them immediately.
The engine is the heaviest part of the vehicle, therefore your car’s front tires endure more stress and wear. Uneven wear also can be caused by incorrect tire pressures, wheel alignment issues, and wheel balancing problems. Problems with the suspension or transmission can also cause tires to wear unevenly. Uneven wear will shorten the life of your tires.
To minimize problems related to uneven wear, ensure that the tires are always inflated to the recommended pressures. Both over- and under-inflation are harmful. Under-inflated tires tend to wear out faster on the shoulders. Over-inflated tires will wear out faster in the middle. Besides preventing unnecessary tire wear, correct tire pressure will also make your ride more comfortable and give you better fuel economy.
Wheel rotation (swapping the front and rear wheels periodically) will reduce uneven wear due to weight distribution issues. Tire wear on just one shoulder indicates a possible suspension misalignment. Ensure that the wheels are aligned and balanced every time your car is serviced. If there is too much uneven wear, get your car checked by an expert and replace tires if required.
Tires wear out with usage, and if you drive a lot, your car tires will need replacement much earlier than their maximum life of 10 years. As a tire wears, the tread depth decreases. When the tread depth reaches 1.6 mm, the tire must be replaced. Beyond this point, safety is seriously compromised. In some countries, the law requires a minimum tread depth of 1.6 mm. Even with the minimum legal tread depth, your car may be unsafe on wet roads. Drive slowly and cautiously until you get the tires replaced.
Modern tires have tread wear indicators that will tell you when the tread is down to its minimum depth. Tread wear indicators are small rubber bridges within the treads. When the tire is worn down to the bridge, that is, the bridge is level with the rest of the tire surface, it means you have just 1.6 mm of tread left and the tire is no longer roadworthy. It’s best to replace your tires when you have about 2 mm of tread left. If you drive a lot, you should check the tread depth at least once a month. Do it more frequently as the tires age.
If you experience an unusual vibration in the steering wheel or if the ride is rough, there could be a problem with your car tires. In most cases, it’s just a matter of under- or over-inflated tires or wheels that need balancing, all of which can be corrected easily. On the other hand, if your tires are worn out or damaged, you should get them replaced right away. Before you decide to replace your tires, have them checked by an expert to rule out any other problems.
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