What am I talking about? I’m talking about the tire safety checklist. PART is the acronym for tire safety and care, and it stands for the four major pieces of tire safety: Pressure, Alignment Rotation, and Tread. When is the last time you checked your tire pressure? Do you know the correct pressure for your tires? If not, do you know where you can find that information? How about alignment? How often do you rotate your tires?
I don’t mean to drill you here, but if you don’t know the answers, you ought to give the rest of this article a once-over and get educated. Proper care for your tires makes a big difference: you’ll use less gas, be less likely to have an accident or blowout, and of course, spend less on tires down the road! That’s a win-win-win situation. Ready? Let’s PARTy.
Pressure—Under-inflation results in tire stress, causes them to wear unevenly, and can result in an out-of-control accident. Nobody wants that. Plus, did you know a tire can lose up to half of its inflation pressure and not appear to be flat? So even if your tires look good—check them to make sure. If you don’t have a tire gauge, get one, learn how to use it, and check your tire pressure at least once a month. It’s a simple tool that can make a huge difference in many ways.
Alignment—Ever been driving down the interstate, and you notice that your car wants to “pull” to one side? Sometimes you may have to actually hold the steering wheel a little to the left or right to keep driving straight ahead. This can be caused by your front tires being misaligned. If they’re not both facing exactly the same direction, driving your car can be like pushing the “bad” shopping cart at the supermarket. A jolt from hitting a curb or pothole can throw your front end out of alignment and sometimes even damage your tires.
Misaligned tires have a tendency to only wear on one side—this will cause those tires to wear down much more quickly than normal. Have your auto service provider check the alignment periodically, because sometimes the difference is too small to notice until it’s too late.
Rotation—Regularly rotating your vehicle’s tires will help your tires wear evenly. Tires on the front will wear faster than the back, because they’re used for steering. Rotating them will help make sure you don’t end up with two good tires and two dead ones. Unless your vehicle’s owners manual has a specific recommendation, the guideline for tire rotation is approximately every 5,000 miles, or every two oil changes.
Tread—When it comes to tires, tread is a precious resource, and essentially all of the other tire safety steps deal with preserving this all-important attribute. Your tire’s tread is what enables it to grip the road in adverse conditions, and without it, any light rainstorm can prove disastrous. Anytime you check your tire pressure, you should be checking the tread depth as well—that’s how deep the grooves are. It’s measured in 1/32-inches. New tires typically have a tread depth of 10/32 -11/32, and anything below 2/32 is getting into the danger zone. An easy way to measure this yourself is with a penny.
Stick a penny into a groove in your tire tread, with Abe Lincoln’s head pointing down. If the top of the tread touches the top of Abe’s head, you’re good! If he has any space above his head, then you’re getting a little low. Check the tread in several places, not just one, and if you notice one tire wearing faster than the others, that could be a sign of trouble.
So there you have it—your tire safety PARTy. Keep to these tasks, and your tires will serve you well. After all, they are the only part of your car that touches the road!
KAELI GARDNER lives in the beautiful Appalachian mountains of Tennessee where she works as a writer, artist and web marketing manager for Ask Patty, helping to empower women nationwide to take control of their own vehicle repair. Read more of her wisdom and wit at the AskPatty.com blog.