A study by Continental Tires suggests that 34% of fleet tires are regularly underinflated.
Aside from being unsafe to drive on, failure to properly inflate tires can cause accidents, tire punctures, blowouts, and damage to your truck’s suspension.
To help ensure your safety while driving, here are some key ways you can inspect and maintain your tires, as well as some signs to look for to diagnose tire problems before they happen.
Here are three ways can properly maintain your tires:
Regularly check and re-inflate tires
Rotate the tires every 3000-5000 miles
Regularly check the tire tread depth, and replace the tires when they fall under measurement of 4/32 of an inch.
Read below for more details on these three tire maintenance tips:
Checking Your Tire Pressure And Keeping Them Properly Inflated
When your tires are underinflated, this means that your truck’s stopping distance is lowered, and that your tires are more prone to blowouts and punctures. Tire pressure should be checked once a month and re-inflated to the manufacturer’s specifications.
Using a tire gauge is the only way you can accurately check your tire pressure. You can purchase a tire pressure gauge for just a few dollars at your local auto parts store.
You will get a more accurate tire pressure reading if you check the tires when they are cold (meaning the car hasn’t been driven for at least an hour). The heat from driving on the road can increase tire pressure causing an inaccurate reading. For this same reason, you should check your tire pressures if there is a dramatic change in temperature.
If you notice that your tires are underinflated, you can always go to a gas station or truck stop, and reinflate them to your vehicle’s spec using your tire gauge.
Keeping An Eye On Your Tire Tread Depth
Tire tread depth refers to the vertical difference in between the top of the tire and the bottom of the tire’s grooves. The tread depth (the depth of the grooves between the tires) determines how well the tire grips to the road, so driving on tires with shallow grooves is dangerous.
Tire tread depth is measured in either millimeters or inches, with the minimum recommended depth being 1.6 millimeters or 2/32 of an inch.
Here are two ways that you can measure the depth of a tire’s tread:
The quarter test
Stick a quarter into the tire’s tread with the caribou facing down. If you can see the tip of its nose, then it’s almost time to replace the tires.
Tire tread warning bar
There is a raised rubber bar on tires that becomes visible when tire tread is dangerously low. Look out for this raised rubber bar when inspecting your truck’s tires.
Rotating Your Tires
Rotating tires means simply swapping your front and rear tires with each other. We rotate tires because the front tires wear differently than the rear, and rotating your tires will make them last a lot longer.
Tire rotations should be performed by a skilled mechanic every 3,000-5,000 miles.
Inspecting Your Tires And Diagnosing Issues
Aside from tire rotation and tread depth measurement, visual tire inspection is necessary for proper tire maintenance.
Have a professional raise your truck in the air every three months for a thorough tire inspection. Proper tire inspection will help prevent underlying problems like tire blowouts before they happen on the road.
The best way to inspect your tires without a lift is to tire the steering wheel all the way to the left and all the way to the right. This allows you to see the full width of the tire, but keep in mind that sometimes tire wear happens on the inside of the rear treads and can only be seen when either removed or if the truck is up in the air on an auto lift.
Here are two important signs of tire wear:
Uneven tire wear is when one side of the tread wears faster than the other.
Other specific weaknesses
Look like signs of tire weakness like cracks or bulges. Dry rot and cracking is dangerous and will cause tire blowouts.
There are certain specific types of uneven tire wear you should look for that may reveal underlying problems with your suspension, including:
EXCESSIVE WEAR IN THE CENTRE OF THE TIRES
If the tire is worn in the middle of the tires but not on the inside or outside of the treads, this means that the tires are overinflated. When this happens, you need to check the tire pressure and cross reference this with your vehicle’s manual.
EXCESSIVE WEAR ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE TIRES
Conversely, if the tires are more worn on the outside with excess tread remaining in the middle, this generally means that the tires are underinflated.
Feathering happens when the tread wear is uneven across the whole tire.
Feathering is sometimes hard to identify, but if you run your hand across the tire, you might feel one side of the tire to be sharp and “feathered” due to underlying problems like bad wheel alignment or suspension.
Take your truck to a mechanic for repair if you notice tire feathering.
Cupped tires are when the tires have irregular patches of uneven wear. Cupped tires are different compared to feathered tires because feathers have uniform uneven wear, and cupped tires are less consistent on larger wear spots.
If you see these clearly more worn patches on your tires, this could mean that your suspension isn’t doing its job properly, and the tires are bouncing around too much while driving. Take your truck to a mechanic if you notice tire cupping.
Damaged and improperly worn tires are both dangerous and also a sign of other underlying issues with your truck (e.g. suspension issues).
Regular maintenance and inspection of your tires will make you a safer driver, and it will also help you save money in the long run by preventing problems before they happen.
A last helpful tip is to fill your tires with nitrogen to prevent flat spots.
This article was written by Mike Skoropad, Co-founder and CEO of tire retailer United Tires, and published on our Fleet Safety International blog with his permission.