Auto Auction Baltimore offers great info on tires

Image via Flickr by The Pug Father

Your tires are literally the only things between your car and the hot asphalt, so it’s important to know what a safe tire looks like. Driving on bad tires puts you and your passengers at risk for accidents, slows down your fuel economy, and impedes your car’s handling.

Check the Tire Wear

The standard test for checking your tire treads involves a penny. Place the penny between your treads, with the top of Lincoln’s head pointing at the tire. If you can see the top of his head, your tires are well on their way to going bald, and they aren’t safe to drive anymore.

Look for signs of uneven wear as well. If the treads are more worn on the edges, then you’ve underinflated your tires. Wear in only the center means overinflation, which is just as dangerous as underinflation. Finally, if you see more wear on one side than the other, it means your wheels are out of alignment and you need to get your alignment fixed.

How’s the Air Pressure?

The air pressure in your tires is extremely important: it gives you better fuel economy, makes your car drive safer, and helps your tires live a longer life. When you’re examining your tires for safety, air pressure is one of the most important things you can monitor. You need to check your air pressure more often than you probably do now: about once a month, or every other time you fill your tank with gas. Due to temperature and permeation, tires naturally lose air faster than you probably think.

If you have to give your tires air more often than this, or if you notice one is going flat quite regularly, you’ve probably got leaks and need to have them patched or replaced. Don’t put off visiting your mechanic for your tires.

Look at the Walls

The side walls of your tires are the parts that connect with your wheel rims and extend up to connect with the tread. Checking your side walls is another important part of tire safety. You should have smooth walls, not cracked, worn, or scuffed. Sometimes bulges and bubbles show up, which means the tire is weakening quickly and needs to be replaced.

Is Anything Stuck in the Rubber?

Checking for nails and other puncture culprits may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many people fail to notice these problems. Sometimes you can get a small puncture, like from a nail, that at first doesn’t cause you to lose much more air than normal. That’s why it’s important to visually inspect your treads for problems when you check your tires for air pressure. If you do spot a nail, don’t pull it out. Drive to the garage and have the professionals take a look.

Your tires are essential to keeping yourself, your passengers, and the other drivers on the road safe. It doesn’t matter if the rest of your car is in top shape — driving on bad tires puts you at risk for accidents.