You already know that properly inflated tires help you maximize your fuel economy. And you already know that tires with adequate tread are important to safe driving, but do you know how important? According to estimates from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, tire failures may contribute to about 400 fatalities each year.
Tire failures are almost entirely preventable, and raising awareness of the importance of your tires to road safety is at the heart of National Tire Safety Week…which is now!
What Are Safe Tires?
The purpose of tire tread is to funnel water (rain or snow) away so that the tire surface remains in contact with the road surface (i.e. to prevent hydroplaning). Insufficient tread depth gives water nowhere to be channeled, keeping it between the tire and road surfaces. Safe tires, then, are those with adequate tread for road conditions. Although New Mexico has no law stating a mandatory minimum tread depth, in general, you should have:
- 2/32” tread for everyday paved road driving
- 4/32” tread for driving in rain
- 6/32” tread for driving in snow
Safe tires are also those made for particular road and/or weather conditions—i.e. snow tires for winter months and all-season tires for driving on hot pavement in the summer.
You should get in the habit of checking your tire pressure and tread depth regularly—at least once a month or before beginning a long road trip. But if you haven’t done checked your tires for a while, there’s no time like the present. Here’s what to look for:
Tire Pressure—Manufacturer’s recommendations for tire pressure is located on a placard inside the driver’s side door jamb. During the summer months when you are driving on hot pavement, you may decrease the inflated pressure by one to two psi to accommodate expansion.
Tread Depth—You can check your tread depth using pocket change. Here’s how:
Head-side penny test: Place a penny upside down between the tread. If the top of Lincoln’s head is covered, you have at least 2/32” of tread, considered the bare minimum. At this point, you should think about getting new tires.
Quarter test: Place a quarter upside down between the tread. If the top of Washington’s head is covered, you have at least 4/32” of tread. If you drive in wet conditions, like roads during monsoon season, you may want to consider changing tires for increased control.
Tail-side penny test: Place a penny upside down between the tread. If the top of the Lincoln Memorial building is covered, you have at least 6/32” of tread. This is adequate tread for most road conditions, but a tire change is recommended if you’re going to be driving in snow.
Tires also have built-in indicators—tire wear bars—that provide a visual signal that tread depth is low. Tire wear bars are small bridges between tire tread grooves. When tread wears down so that it is flush with the wear bars, it is time to get new tires.
Tire Replacement Considerations
If you need new tires, your owner’s manual will have size specifications and recommendations. When it comes to brand, Internet research may help, but generally, you get what you pay for.
It’s best to have your tires put on by a professional to make sure that the lug nuts are tightened appropriately. Ask the technician to examine the old tires for signs of uneven wear. If tire tread is worn more on one side than another, that indicates a problem with wheel alignment and/or balance. Left unchecked, these issues can affect your fuel economy and steering control.
On average, a tire’s useful lifetime is up to ten years. After that time, temperature changes and exposure to the elements compromise the integrity of the rubber. However, the NHTSA recommends changing tires every six years regardless of wear to ensure tire safety.
If you have any questions about tire safety or need service to correct alignment issues, call, contact or visit Quanz Advanced Auto Body, Inc. We’re here to support your efforts to improve tire safety and accident prevention!