If you think about it, the most important part of your car is your tires. They are the only thing between you and the road. Tires become unsafe when they are worn and could cause a fatal accident. Knowing when you need new tires is very important and your safety could depend on it.
There are some things that you can do to check your tires yourself and be aware of any dangers they may pose
- Check for the “tread wear bars”. These are small bridges between your tire’s tread pattern that show up even with the tire’s tread as the tire wears down. If the “tread wear bars” are even with the treads, it is time for new tires.
- Do the “penny test”. This test involves using and Abraham Lincoln penny to test the tire treads depth. You simply take a penny and place it upside down in the tread with him facing towards you. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, you need new tires right away. If the hair on the top of his head is barely visible, you should get new tires soon. If the penny is inserted deep enough into the tread that you cannot see the hair on the top of Lincoln’s head, then your tires are still in good shape.
- Use a tread depth indicator. This is an inexpensive tool sold at most auto parts stores and it is pressed up against the tread to measure the depth more accurately.
- Check your tires for irregular wear patterns. This could be signs of a steering or suspension issue and, if left uncorrected, could cause further tire damage.
- Rotate your tires. This will enable them to wear evenly.
- Tires also have a “shelf life”. If your tires are six years old or older, they should be replaced.
- If you own a four-wheel drive or all-wheel drive car, you should make sure to replace all four tires at the same time. You might run the risk of burnging out your drivetrain if you don’t.
- Make sure to do the tire test on different areas of the tire, it may not be wearing evenly and you could miss something otherwise.
- Always keep your tires properly inflated. Under-inflated tires can cause a blow-out, increased tire wear and reduced fuel economy.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that there are about 400 fatalities annually in the U.S. due to tire failures. Being aware of the condition of your tires could help prevent those accidents from happening.