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Hitting The Road

Tire Tread Safety

Just as the soles of your shoes wear down as you walk, so does your vehicles tires the more you drive. This in’t necessarily a sign of poor driving, but rather an inevitable fact of the lifespan of tires. Failure to address these faulty tires, is thought to be a factor in 1 out of 11 vehicles crashes (9%) per year. Whether it’s from blowouts, tread separations, under inflation, or worn out treads, these crashes could result in simply you not getting to work on time that day to injury or death. Fortunately manufactures are starting to install TPMS sensors, which alarm you if a tire is severely under inflated. However, it only takes a few minutes to take a look at all your tires before you put the vehicle in gear, and it’s suggested that you check at least 1 time a day. Below are listed 5 warning signs that indicate you need new tires.

Check 1

(1) The tread on your tires should never fall below 1/16 of an inch in depth. If you regularly drive on slick, wet surfaces, you’d be even better off with twice that much. You can buy a gauge to measure the tread depth the way the professionals do, but there’s an old trick that will give you a rough idea of how much tread depth you have left and it won’t cost you more than a penny. Through a few internet searches the most common method to check the depth is with an American penny. Insert Abe Lincolns head down into the tread, if his entire head remains visible than you don’t have enough tread – could you try that with the queens head?


Check 2(2) Newer tires have a convenience that older tires lacked. They have tread wear indicator bars built into the tires themselves. These bars, invisible or barely visible when the tires are new, gradually begin to appear as the tread wears down. They appear as flat rubber bars running perpendicular to the direction of the tread itself. If more than one or two of these are visible on a tire, the tread is getting low. This should be particularly obvious in the wet tracks that your tires leave after you drive through a puddle.  if the bars are starting to appear on any or all of your tires, it’s once again time to replace your tires.


Check 3(3) Not all problems with the tires are going to be in the tread. They can also appear in the sidewall. Fortunately, it’s easy to do a visual check of sidewall problems. Look for tracks or cuts in the sidewall – grooves that are distinct enough to be visible to the naked eye. This could be a sign that your tire is developing a leak (or worse, that it’s nearly ready to blow out). This is definitely something you want to avoid. So if the cracks in the sidewall are starting to look serious, get that car to a repair shop at the next opportunity and start talking about getting them replaced. Better safe than sorry, as they say.


Check 4(4) Sometimes the outer surface of the tire begins to weaken. The result can be a bulge or blister that extends outward from the rest of the surface. This is similar to an aneurysm in one of your blood vessels and you know that if your doctor tells you that you have an aneurysm, you’d better get to the hospital as quickly as you can before you blow out an artery. It’s the same with your tire. This weak spot can cause a sudden blow out, and if you don’t put the car in the hospital (or service center, as the case may be) before this happens, it may end up putting you in the hospital when the tire blows out on the freeway. 


Check 5(5) A certain amount of vibration is inevitable when driving, especially on poorly paved roads, but if you’ve been driving for a while, you probably know how much vibration feels right and how much means that something’s going wrong. There can be any of a number of causes for the vibration – maybe your tires are misaligned or unbalanced, or your shock absorbers are starting to go. But it could also indicate that there’s some sort of internal problem in the tire itself. Even if the tire isn’t the root cause of the vibration, the vibration could damage the tire and pretty soon you’ll have a problem. 


How Stuff Works – 5 warning signs you need new tires
Consumer Reports – How safe are worn tires
U.S. Department of Transportation – Tire related factors
Travelers Insurance – Check tire treads
U.S.  Department of Transportation – Safety in numbers