How to know why your tires are failing

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A blonde woman in a dress and heels who is changing her car's tire.

Changing your tire is an essential skill to possess. (Photo Credit: CC BY/Beercha/Wikipedia)

Having a great car with bad tires is a recipe for ending up in a roadside ditch. You probably aren’t a professional stuntman, so don’t mess around. Learn why your tires are failing, and swap them out for quality rubber.

It’s not just about flat tires

Unless you run over a nail on the highway or your pimp slashes your tires with a sharpened fireplace poker, a flat tire is the end result of a cycle of neglect on your part. Under-inflation, over-inflation, worn tire tread and other conditions are symptoms of bad driving habits (laying rubber) and a lack of attention. If you have neglected your tires, consider these tips your first step toward recovery and lasting change.

If you are a tire abuser, you aren’t alone. According to a U.S. Department of Transportation study, as many as 80 percent of vehicles on the road are on under-inflated tires, as much as 30 percent below recommended pressure. Under-inflation disrupts proper traction and causes the sidewalls to rub and wear, which eventually causes bubbling, holes and flat tires.

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Are your tires too old?

Are you guilty of elder tire abuse? Check the sidewall for the manufacturer’s date code. It’s a four-digit number that states the month and year the tire was produced. While there is not a specific expiration date on a tire, it isn’t a good idea to put tires on your car that are more than five years old, notes Popular Mechanics.

Hot under too little pressure

If your tires are under-inflated – if the air pressure PSI is too low – your tires will heat up much more than properly inflated tires. The tread and sidewalls shouldn’t flex. Flexing opens the door for friction when the vehicle is in motion, which quickly degrades the rubber and fabric of the tire. You simply should not judge a tire’s PSI on sight. Use a tire gauge and test it regularly. The pressure level your tires require is printed on a sticker on your driver’s side door frame, or inside the car’s glove box. Your car’s owner’s manual will also have this information.

It’s hard to get a grip with a fat tire

According to the rock band Queen, “fat-bottomed girls” may “make the rockin’ world go round,” but fat-bottomed tires won’t continue going around for long. Over-inflated tires will not grip the road properly, as the tread will become misshapen because of the excess air. The tire tread will go prematurely bald in the center, too. Traumatic impacts can also make blowouts more likely, which can send you into that roadside ditch.

Crazy from the heat

Summer is knocking at the door, and the UV rays of the sun can do a real number on your tires. Add ozone and road chemicals to the mix and things get even worse for the sidewall rubber. Using aftermarket protectants tends to remove the essential oils prematurely, oils that are there to protect the rubber in the first place. In general, the driver should watch for cracking. A little alligator-like cracking in the sidewalls of your tires is normal. But if the cracks reach down to the fabric sidewall plies, you need new tires immediately.

A flap with danger

Yes, that flapping radial belt is an indication that your tire is in trouble. Any foreign object that penetrates the tire or causes the tread to separate from the rest of the tire is cause for alarm. Consult with a tire technician straight away in order to prevent more serious damage to your vehicle, your health and the health of others on the road. If there is serious damage in the sidewall, replacement is necessary. A small puncture in the tread may be patchable.

Are your tires safe?


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