Ah, wheels… where would we be without them? Truthfully, probably panic-dialing AAA from the side of the highway, so be honest… when’s the last time you gave yours anything more than a passing thought? Never?
Considering what unsafe tires can cost you, it’s probably high time you gave them the attention they deserve.
Of course, upon hearing “cost” your wallet was likely the first thing that popped into mind. True, having properly inflated tires does lend itself to efficiency, which could save you upwards of 11 cents per gallon of fuel. And yet, only 19% of drivers have theirs properly inflated.
That’s a staggering 81% of consumers betting much more than their paychecks on unsafe tires. In fact, an estimated 700 people die each year as from tire-related crashes alone. Blowouts, flats, or lack of grip from bald tires—the potential loss of life and limb just isn’t worth it, and each can be prevented through proper tire maintenance.
So how do you know when you’re ready to roll… safely?
The way tires adhere to the road is through friction. When the treads on tires are worn down—baldness—they start to get slippery, and traction is reduced to dangerous levels. If you’re a Formula One racer toed up to the Monaco Grand Prix start line, that’s just dandy. For anyone else… not so much.
Then there’s age. As tires get older, oxygen penetrates the rubber and the bonds holding the molecules together start to weaken. Over time, the tires can grow brittle, and lose their elasticity, which puts you at the risk for a blowout. America’s Tire has a great explanation of how this happens, including a chart that tells you when your tires have aged out of being safe, but anything older than 6 years puts you at risk.
So in addition to making sure your tires are already properly inflated, you’ll want to consider their age, and what that tread wear is like. Typically the latter is something your mechanic will bring to your awareness, but it’s always smart to check it yourself.
Thankfully, on those days when you forget your best pair of calipers at home, there’s still a super easy way to measure the depth of your tire treads—and it won’t even cost you a cent… mostly because you’ll get to the keep the penny you just fished out of your pocket when you’re finished.
Naturally, it’s called “The Penny Test,” and with any luck it might just save your life.
With Lincoln’s bust held upside down—and with the surgical precision of a child dunking an Oreo in a glass of milk—insert your 16th president head-first into one of your tire’s grooves.
If any part of his head remains hidden within the tread, you’re good to go. But if all of him is visible, your treads are too shallow and it’s time to head to your nearest Goodyear or Firestone to get those tires replaced.
But tire safety doesn’t only extend to the four attached to your vehicle. There’s a fifth that most people overlook: The Spare. Yes, even that ugly duckling donut in your trunk requires periodic maintenance. As a precaution, it’s recommended that you have your mechanic give it a checkup each time you get your tires rotated and your oil changed (every 5,000 miles or so).
Bear in mind, even a spare tire that looks (and smells) like new might not be roadworthy. Since these tires are rarely used, they’re also prone to aging, even in your trunk. For this reason it’s recommended you replace them every 8-10 years, if not sooner. And that’s if you even have one! According to AAA, nearly a third of new vehicles don’t come equipped with a spare. Instead, many come with run-flat tires preinstalled, and a patching kit and pump in place of the spare.
Like a donut, punctured run-flat tires shouldn’t be driven on for extended distances, but they will buy you the extra miles you need to your mechanic safely.
So pop that trunk when you get home. If anything, it’ll be good to know what you’re working with in case you get a flat.
But what if you spend most of your time on two wheels, instead of four? Since you probably don’t spend your commute popping wheelies in your Prius, our next bit of advice applies to motorcyclists. Once again it’s all about inspection and inflation.
Per an online guide by the Motorcycle Industry Council, “Under-inflation or overloading can cause sluggish handling, heavy steering, and internal damage due to over-flexing, and can cause the tire to separate from the rim.” Meanwhile, “overinflation can reduce the contact area (and therefore available traction), and can make the motorcycle react harshly to bumps.” Poor tire condition can turn a quick ride into an even quicker one to the hospital.
So before you and your friends hop on those hogs, remind them that safety is about more than giving the wheels a good kick. Even when you’re too tired, and don’t want to, you have to bother. Have them check their air pressure and do the Penny Test. If you let the tread trends start with you, proper inflation will be blowing up across Ventura County in no time.
Whether you drive on four wheels, or two, or one (…one?), you always want to keep your tires in the forefront of your mind. They’re that keep you on the road, and steering clear of expensive repairs or hospital bills.
Even though we know it’s never a pleasant expense, replace your tires when the time comes. And of course, once your new tires have been swapped in, we all know how to put the old ones to good use.
Ah… to be a kid again. Now who else is craving Oreos?
Speaking of kids and things with tires, check-in soon for a post all about stroller safety! Whether you’re going for a jog, or on a quick jaunt to Starbucks, we know: making sure you’ve got the best gear for your little one isn’t always a walk in the park.
Have a serious injury and need legal advice?
Contact Howard Blau.
Check Out These References for Further Reading:
“Are You Ready for a Flat Tire?” Consumer Reports. Retrieved 18 April 2018. https://www.consumerreports.org/tires/are-you-ready-for-a-flat-tire/
“Tips for Maintaining and Driving on a Spare Tire.” Nationwide. Retrieved 18 April 2018. https://blog.nationwide.com/driving-on-a-spare-tire/
“Tire Guide.” Motorcycle Industry Council. Retrieved 18 April 2018. https://www.msf-usa.org/downloads/MIC_Tire_Guide_2012V1.pdf
“Myths About Tires and Tire Safety.” America’s Tire. Retrieved 18 April 2018. https://www.americastire.com/learn/tire-safety-myths
“Tire Safety.” America’s Tire. Retrieved 18 April 2018. https://www.americastire.com/learn/tire-safety
“Stopping Distance.” America’s Tire. Retrieved 18 April 2018. https://www.americastire.com/learn/stopping-distance
“Overloading and Underinflation.” America’s Tire. Retrieved 18 April 2018. https://www.americastire.com/learn/loading-overloading
“Nearly a third of new vehicles do not include a spare tire, AAA finds.” Automobile Club of Southern California. Retrieved 18 April 2018. https://www.calif.aaa.com/automotive/advocacy/spare-tires.html
“Be prepared when heading out in the rain.” Automobile Club of Southern California. Retrieved 18 April 2018. https://www.calif.aaa.com/automotive/advocacy/wet-weather-driving-tips.html
“Drive Smart: What Car Maintenance Do I Need?” Automobile Club of Southern California. Retrieved 18 April 2018. https://www.calif.aaa.com/publications/auto/drive-smart/0914-timely-maintenance.html
“Tires.” National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Retrieved 18 April 2018. https://www.nhtsa.gov/equipment/tires
“Measuring Tread Depth.” America’s Tire. Retrieved 18 April 2018. https://www.americastire.com/learn/tire-tread-depth