How often do you change the oil in your car? Once every six months? Once every 6,000 miles? How often do you clean your car? Once every three months? Once a month? Now, how often do you check your tire pressure? Confession time- I recently had to replace a tire because it was falling apart. I hadn’t even noticed. I never look at my tires and it never occurred to me that the problem I was having steering was tire related. I drove on an unsafe tire for nearly a month before my grandfather insisted I take my car in. I can’t imagine what might have happened if it had given out on me.
The tires on your car are very important. They are responsible for control of your vehicle. Some symptoms of underinflated or damaged tires are changes in alignment, excessive vibrating, and loss of traction. For example, the alignment on my car was so off, that I had to hold the steering wheel at 11 o’clock in order to go straight. If I let the wheel rest in the center, I drifted horribly to the right. It is very unnerving when your car doesn’t go in the direction you intended. I also started cutting corners because my left turn wasn’t left enough and my right turn was too much to the right, which can damage the vehicle even more.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends that you check your tire pressure at least once a month. You should check it cold, meaning before you drive on them. The manual for your car will have the numbers for proper pressure. It is important to look at the vehicle’s numbers and not go by what the tires say. Tires are made to go on many different cars, only the manual for your car will have the recommended tire pressure specific to your car’s needs.
It was discovered in May of 2000 that Ford Explorers and a few other vehicles were having increased instances of tire failure. The tires were Firestone models ATX, ATX II, and Wilderness AT. All incidents involved tread separation, which is when the tread peels off of the tire and it basically falls apart. The recall was massive and relations between Ford and Firestone fell apart. Recalls happen all the time and if there is not a huge risk of danger to the public, they might not be publicized. To check if your tires or any parts on your vehicle have been recalled you can find a searchable database at safecar.gov.
Tire pressure is especially important on motorcycles as well. John Bolegoh, Technical Services Manager of SmarTire Systems Inc. claims that maintenance studies show that fifty percent of motorcycle tires are underinflated. This is dangerous because underinflated tires will not react well to road hazards, they can lose traction and hydroplane, and riders can lose control of their bikes. Motorcyclists are more likely to be seriously hurt if their tires fail on them and should check their tire pressure every time they take a ride.
Taking care of your tires isn’t only a safety issue, it’s a monetary one as well. By keeping up with the maintenance of your tires you will increase your fuel economy and the lives of your tires. So remember to take five minutes out of your day at least once a month to check your tires, because, as the NHTSA likes to remind us, “everything rides on them”.