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Safety Where the Rubber Meets the Road: Quick Tire Tips

A person using a coin checks the depth of a tire tread.

Taking care of a vehicle's tires not only helps you get the most mileage out of them, it's also vital for the safety of the driver and passengers. How many of these tips are you following?

1. Maintain tire pressure at the recommended level.

Tires can lose up to 1 psi (pounds per square inch) every month, according to Michelin, and keeping them inflated at the proper level is important for three reasons:

  • Low pressure can prevent tires from gripping on wet, rainy surfaces, posing a safety hazard.
  • Properly inflated tires can improve your gas mileage by 0.6—3 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.
  • Despite a tire looking fine, constant flexing can create an underinflated tire to result in a blowout
Only 15 percent of drivers know how to properly check tire pressure. Find the psi specific to your car's tires in your owner's manual, on the driver's side door edge or on the doorpost. Watch this quick video from Michelin to see how easy it is to check your vehicle's tire pressure.

2. Perform regular tire rotations and keep the spare in good shape.

Unless your owner's manual advises differently, most experts suggest a tire rotation every 5,000—8,000 miles. This helps your tires wear evenly, last longer and stay balanced. If you have a spare, remember to get that checked during your monthly tire pressure checks. A well-functioning spare can save you a lot of time and inconvenience if you have a blowout or run over a nail far from home.

3. Monitor tread depth.

Sufficient tread on your tires helps ensure you get good traction on wet roads to prevent skidding and hydroplaning. Visually check your tires often for uneven wear and smooth patches. Measure the tread depth by inserting an upside-down quarter or penny into the grooves: If you can see all of the president's head, replace your tire, cautions Continental Tire.

4. Stay in alignment.

Hitting a curb or driving though a pothole can throw your car's front end out of alignment. You might feel as if the steering wheel is vibrating or pulling to one side when you're driving. Let your mechanic adjust your vehicle's suspension system to restore proper alignment to ensure your tires wear evenly.

5. Don't overload your vehicle.

Consult your owner's manual to determine your vehicle's maximum load, and don't exceed it. Not only can overloading your car shorten the life of your tires, it also reduces your fuel economy.

6. Know your tire's birthday.

When tires age, they deteriorate, even when not in use. This happens even faster in hot, dry climates. Most vehicle manufacturers recommend you replace tires at six years. You can determine a tire's date of birth by looking at the long serial number near the edge of the rim that begins with "DOT" (Department of Transportation). The code ends with a four-digit number that indicates the week and year your tire was manufactured. For example: "2216" means the tire was made in the 22nd week of 2016.

7. Replace tires with the same type and in pairs when possible

Check the sidewall of your current tire, or consult your owner's manual to ensure that you replace tires with the same size, type and speed rating that came on your vehicle as original equipment. Adding a single new tire to a vehicle can have an adverse effect on tread wear, gear ratios, the transmission and the suspension system. It's always best to replace two tires, but if you have to replace just one, pair it with the tire that has the deepest tread.

8. Put new tires on the back axle.

Deeper tread tires on the rear axle help you keep control of your car on wet, slippery roads. If you're only replacing two tires, be sure you put them in the back to help prevent loss of traction.

In addition to following these tips, speak with your independent insurance agent to ensure that your auto policy includes roadside assistance for maximum peace of mind while on the road.

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