Your tires are one of the most important safety systems on your vehicle, although many people think of them as just an essential part of the car. Tires can affect everything from a car’s performance parameter, handling and acceleration, and even its braking and ride comfort. Because of this, it shouldn’t be a surprise that tire maintenance is one of the most important parts of auto maintenance.
Unfortunately, very few drivers remember to regularly check the condition of their tires. In fact, a study by the Department of Transportation in 2001 estimated that about half of all drivers are driving cars with underinflated tires. Besides this, however, there are several other reasons why the tires on your car may be deteriorating before their manufacturer’s time limit. These are five reasons why your tires might be falling apart.
1. Your tires are just too old.
Because tires are often rated by mileage, many people simply assume that they can leave the tires on their vehicle until they drive that many miles. In truth, however, all tires wear out over time due to exposure to the elements. To find out when your tires expire, look at the tire’s sidewall for a manufacturer’s date code.
The date codes are usually a four-digit number. The first two digits are the month and the last two digits are the year that the tire was manufactured. Tires are not required to have an expiration date, but most mechanics agree that five years of service is the upper limit of what they can stand.
2. Your tires are underinflated.
As previously stated, this is believed to be the most common reason why tires give out before their time is up. Tires that are not properly inflated tend to run hotter than they should. This is because air pressure keeps the tire’s tread and sidewalls from bending too much. As the tire bends and flexes, more of it comes into contact with the road. This in turn creates extra wear on the tire.
The easiest and most accurate way to make sure that your tires are properly inflated is to check them with a tire pressure gage. Check you tire pressure at least once a month.
3. You’re overinflating your tires.
Some people think that they will make sure their tires are never underinflated by overinflating them. There is also a belief that this can increase gas mileage. In actuality, however, this is just as dangerous as underinflating. Overinflated tires have less traction, causing them to slip. They are also more prone to explode and shred at high speeds or in bad road conditions. It should also be noted that overinflating your tires does very little to improve gas mileage.
4. Your tires are too deteriorated.
A variety of environmental factors can contribute towards tire deterioration, but the most common culprits are ozone, road chemicals and ultraviolet light. Sidewall rubber is a material that is known for being resistant to damage, but tires in areas with extreme environmental conditions degrade faster than usual. This is especially true for tires on vehicles in extremely hot and dry climates, such as the southwest.
5. You have damaged your tires.
It isn’t very hard to run over a nail or some other type of road debris and not realize it. If none of the other four reasons seem to apply to your vehicle and its tires, it may be time to have them inspected. Many small objects can imbed themselves into a tire, causing a slow leak of air or further damage to the tire. These objects can “hide” in between the tire’s treads, making it hard to find them.
To find these objects, take the tire off of the car and look it over very carefully. If you do find an object stuck in the tire, take it to a mechanic and have it professionally patched.
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