My love for driving mountain roads has put me in a bit of a pickle, and possibly saved my life.
On recent weekend, I hit a pretty decent sized pothole that was hiding in an area that was flickering in and out of the shade and bright sunlight beneath tall redwood trees. I didn’t know the depth or danger of the hole, until I hit it.
Now, while I have been monitoring my tire’s treadwear, the collision caused me to get a whole new set of tires before I thought I was ready. I had been trying to hold out until next month or October. I figured I had time before the rain started to fall.
But after seeing the knot the pothole created in my front passenger side tire, and after viewing the other three tires, the tire shop specialist told me that waiting was out of the question.
He used some multi-colored tread measuring gadget to prove that the tread on all four tires would pose a danger -- especially in wet weather. What's more, he said I was at risk of blowing out a tire. A blow out at high freeway speeds could cause a collision. Someone could get hurt, or even killed, over something as simple as tire health. I can't live with that.
So, I broke down and bought new tires, spending $350 sooner than I had planned. While I had figured that, since there were still grooves in my tires, they had to still be good. But I didn’t realize it had been nearly two years since I last replaced my tires. Yes, it was
time for new wheels.
To help you better roll down the road, here are some tire facts from www.betirespart.org and www.zerowaste.ca.gov.
When to replace your tires
Tires must be replaced when your tread is down to 2/32 of an inch to help prevent skidding and hydroplaning. Grab a penny and test your treadwear by placing it in the grove of your tires.
If part of Honest Abe’s head is hidden, you’re good to go. If you can see his entire head, you’ve got bad tread and should go buy new tires as soon as possible.
Another way to tell if you need new tires is by checking the built in treadwear indicators, or “wear bars,” which appear as smooth rubber across the tread. They appear when your tread is worn down to 1/16th of an inch. When you see them, it’s time for new tires.
Make sure to check your tires for uneven wear. If you have high and low areas or unusually smooth areas, drop by your tire shop as soon as possible.
Caring for your tires
Having the proper amount of air inside your tires is just as important as having the appropriate amount of tread on the outside. Accurate tire pressure and maintenance increases vehicle safety, gas mileage, steering ability, tire life, as well as prevents blowouts and reduces harmful emissions.
Here are some statistics from the state about tires and how people care for them:
One more thing
- Annually, under-inflated tires contribute to 660 fatalities and 33,000 injuries, according to the National Traffic Safety Administration.
- Eighty-five percent of drivers do not properly check their tire pressure.
- Nearly one out of three drivers incorrectly think under-inflated tires perform better during trips in which their vehicle is fully loaded.
- Seventy-three percent of drivers fail to check the air pressure in their spare tire.
- Decreasing your driving speed will extend the life of your tires.
- Rotating your tires every 5,000 to 8,000 miles will ensure each tire is getting equal wear, thus increasing their life and safety.
- The recommended inflation pressure is located in your vehicle manual, not on the outside of the tire. The number on your tire refers to the “maximum permissible” inflation pressure.
- The best time to check for air pressure is when the tire is cold and has not been driven in at least three hours.
- Tires can lose one pound per square inch for every 10 degrees the temperature drops. For safety’s sake, check your tire pressure once a month.
Each year, California rolls through and tosses 41 million tires. Learn what happens to those used tires, as well as how you can help reduce tire waste at www.zerowaste.ca.gov.
And for information on how to handle yourself if your tire blows out while you're on the road, visit www.safety.com.