Living in the southeastern United States, we get to enjoy beautiful weather for most of the year. There may be some rainy days from time to time, but apart from the odd ice storms—remember Valentine’s Day 2014?—we usually do not need to struggle much with poor road conditions. Because of this, however, we do not typically pay as much attention to our tires as residents of the northern half of the country.
Just because we usually do not require snow tires and chains does not mean that we can be lax about the maintenance and care of our tires. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has said that an estimated 80 percent of people do not regularly check and maintain their tires. Many accidents are caused or aggravated by bad tires even without snow and ice, so make tire care one of your 2015 resolutions and join the 20 percent!
Where to Start With Proper Tire Maintenance & Care
For just a few dollars, a tire pressure gauge can join your tool box and greatly improve your safety. Most people with newer cars tend to rely on their low tire pressure light to illuminate before putting air in their tires, but these lights illuminate well below the safe operating inflation levels for your tires.
Tires lose about 1 psi (pound per square inch) per month, and this is about as often as you should check your tire pressure. While it may seem like more hassle than it is worth, try this on for size: according to the NHTSA, for every 1 psi lost, you lower your gas mileage by 0.3 percent. Underinflated tires could cost you about one dime per gallon of gas—and that can add up quickly!
While you’re doing your tire pressure check each month, inspect the exterior of your tire for nails, damage, and tread wear. Most new tires have tread wear indicators between each tread; when the indicator and tread are level, new tires are needed. While we may not contend with snow and ice, proper tread helps maintain traction on wet and dry roads, too—tread is important everywhere.
Keep Your Tires Cared for and Your Safety First
While checking your tires monthly may seem like a chore (and who hasn’t lost a few of those little valve stem caps?), remember—the NHTSA estimates that about 200 people die each year from tire-related accidents. Take ten minutes each month to keep your tires safe, as well as yourself.