You may not pay much attention to your tires until you have to call roadside service to come and fix a flat. Actually, your tires may wear out and become unsafe before you have a blow out. Get into the habit of checking your tires for signs of wear every month. Abnormal wear patterns can mean problems with inflation or alignment. Don't wait until a tire fails before you take notice that it's time for new tires on the car.
Tire Anatomy 101
All tire tread is made of four components that work together to keep the tire safe on the road:
- Lugs - This is the part of the tread that actually touches the pavement. The rubber in the lug is what wears down as you drive.
- Voids - These are the open spaces around the lugs that let them flex against the road. The voids let the lugs grab onto the road more effectively.
- Grooves - These are channels that go across the tire to carry water away so your car doesn't hydroplane.
- Sipes - These are smaller channels found in some tires to move more water out of the way from the tire.
Checking for Tire Wear
There are two ways to check your tires for wear. The lugs are the critical inspection point. Enough of the lug must be left on the tire for it to be safe. When it wears down too far, your tire won't grip the road safely.
- Wear bar - Manufacturers are required to include a small strip of rubber across the tire that indicates the minimum allowable lug. As the tire wears down, the lugs will come closer to this mark. When the lugs and wear bar are even, it's time to start shopping for new tires.
- Penny method - One good use for a penny is to check your tires. Put a penny into a groove with Lincoln's head pointing into the tire. If the tread touches the top of Lincoln's head, your tires are still safe.
Other Tire Signs That May Indicate a Problem
When checking your tires, look for these signs that you may have a problem with the amount of air in the tire, or an issue with the car. You may need to make a trip to the auto repair shop, and not the tire shop, to fix the problem.
- Tread is more worn in the center of the tire - This can mean there is too much air in the tire. Check the side of the tire where the correct pressure is listed and let out some air with a pressure gauge. Test it until it is inflated correctly.
- Tread is more worn on the edges of the tire - This can mean an under-inflated tire. Add air and test with a pressure gauge until it is correct.
- Tread is worn more on one edge - This can mean an alignment problem. A trip to the auto repair shop for a front-end alignment is required.
Check your tires each time you fill up with gas, or at least once a month. Don't let tire problems sneak up on you. If, however, you find yourself with a flat or blow out, call a roadside assistance service like Ruhls Diesel Repair.