Saturday, May 9, 2015

Tires 101 For Dummies

I had the opportunity to visit the Cooper Tire & Vehicle Testing Center (CTVTC) in Texas last week and wow, did I learn A LOT in the couple days I was there! I feel a little stupid; I feel like I should have already known these things, but I'm pretty sure I'm not the only one out there who is undereducated when it comes to tires. I attribute my ignorance to the fact that I was married for 18 years to a guy who took care of all my car maintenance. I never had to give it a second thought. Also, and I think most of us fall into this category, who thinks about tires? Really, as long as your vehicle is running, who really ponders the tires on which it sits?

This happened to my tire a few months ago. It happened on my way to work in a really bad neighborhood. Thankfully, it was only inconvenient for me; it could have been disastrous. Yes, I realize it's extreme and most people would have recognized that their tire was completely bald long before it split like this. I didn't. I never considered checking my tires. I never thought about it. When the tow truck arrived, I had them take my van to Walmart where I bought one tire to replace the flat. I'm a single mom of 6 kiddos, trying to make ends meet, and I was going for the cheapest option possible. But, as is always the case, you get what you pay for.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to learn much about tires and tire maintenance, and I'm excited to share that information with you because there's no reason for a flat tire (like that pictured above) to happen to anyone!

Check your tires once a month

1. You can't see when your tires are low.
At the CTVTC, folks from Cooper had me walk around a truck to inspect the tires, then they asked me which one had low pressure. "The back right. No. Yes. Wait, maybe it's the front left. Yeah. No, wait. I'm not sure.Yes, definitely the front left." They had me check all the tires with a tire pressure gauge. The back right one was low. The moral of this story is that you cannot tell if a tire is low just by looking at it. By the time you can visually see that the tire is a little flat, it's significantly low on air. That is why you should check them regularly.

2.  Those little caps don't hold in the air.
These caps don't keep the air from escaping the tire, but they do keep dirt, gravel, salt, and other debris away from the valve, preventing problems with it. You should always keep the valves covered. If you're missing some caps, pick up new ones at an auto parts store.

3.  Maintain proper inflation.
Do not go by the number printed on the tire itself; that number indicates the maximum pressure the tire can hold, not the recommended pressure for the tire/vehicle. The correct amount of inflation for your tires is specified by the vehicle manufacturer and is usually shown inside the driver's door (and also in the owner's manual.)

4.  Check your tires when they're cool. 
Wait at least 3 hours after driving to get an accurate measurement of tire pressure.

5.  Use a tire gauge to measure pressure.
Make sure the slide ruler part of the tire gauge is pushed all the way in before measuring to get an accurate reading.

6.  Do not overinflate.
More is not always better. At any given time, the surface area of the tire which is in contact with the ground is about the size of your hand. (We teased the good folks at Cooper about being hand models here!) If you put too much air in the tire, you reduce the area of the tire in contact with the pavement. Less contact - less control.

7.  Save money.
Proper tire inflation leads to better fuel consumption, saving you money. It also helps you get the most potential wear out of your tires, so they don't need to be replaced as often.

8.  Inspect tire tread while checking inflation. 
Visually check your tires for signs of nails or other embedded objects, gouges, cuts, bulges, or other irregularities. Check to make sure you still have enough tread. Traction and resistance to hydroplaning is diminished as tread wears down. An easy test is to place a penny, upside down, in one of the grooves. If part of Lincoln's head is covered by the tread, you're okay. If his entire head is showing, your tread is too worn and your tire needs to be replaced.

9.  Check the Wear Squares.
Cooper Tires come equipped with a number of Wear Squares on each tire. This is a super-handy, fool-proof indicator that takes the guess work out of deciding when you need to replace your tires. When your tires are brand new, you see a full square imprinted on the tire. As they wear, you see the sides of the square disappear until you're left with an "!" as a message to replace the tire.
(This video features a different tire than the one I tried out, but it has a great demonstration of the Wear Square.)

10.  Compare your tires.
Compare the Wear Squares and/or the tread on all 4 tires to determine if they're wearing evenly. Uneven wear may indicate a problem with alignment that needs to be corrected.

I hope you have found this information as helpful as I did. Stay tuned for Tires 102 for Dummies coming this week, as there was much too much information to condense into one blog post.

Cooper Tire paid for my trip to learn about their tires. The opinions expressed here are entirely mine.

1 comment:

Stephanie said...

Very Informative. Thanks for the information you have put forward. It's great!

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