For millions of Americans, the long-anticipated arrival of summer means warm sunny days at the beach and the familiar scent of sunscreen, backyard barbecues with plenty of bug spray, and vacation planning. While the call of the open road may be loud and clear, preparing for a road trip involves much more than hopping in the car, popping it into gear and hitting the pavement. Before you can even think about heading to Darwin, Minnesota to take in the world's largest ball of twine, it's time to think about something a bit more practical this vacation-planning season: the state of your tires.
Perfecting Tire Pressure
Did you know that the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) advises that you perform monthly tire checks, including on your spare? However, tires can lose even more air than usual during hot weather so checking your tire pressure whenever you fill your gas tank makes smart sense. While this takes just five minutes, doing so can save you headache and heartache on the road and down the road. In addition to performing routine tire pressure checks, check before long road trips, as well.
Ideal tire pressure varies depending on the vehicle manufacturer, so consult your vehicle owner's manual or the tire placard, which can be found in the vehicle door edge, glove box door, fuel door or doorpost. Also, keep in mind that both over-inflation and under-inflation can lead to uneven wear and tear, problems with handling and stopping, and even tire failure.
The Right Load
Standing paddle boards, golf clubs, tennis racquets, camping gear, and plentiful wardrobe options are all part of vacation packing. Unfortunately, most people are so worried that there will be enough room in their suitcases and trunks that they overlook a critical safety issue: the manufacturer's recommendations for vehicle loading.
But it's not just about the stuff in and on your car; it's also about the people in it. Did you know that your passengers count toward the vehicle load tally? Traveling with too heavy a load can have consequences ranging from merely inconvenient to life-threatening. While it might mean traveling a bit lighter than planned, staying within your vehicle manufacturer's loading recommendations is an essential safety measure.
Just like putting on sunscreen, checking your tire treads is also an essential part of your summer routine. In addition to checking for irregular or extensive treadwear by using the handy "wear bars," inspect your tires' tread grooves for foreign objects, as well as sidewalls for indication of damage, including bulges, tears, cuts and gouges. This not only helps them grip the road better but also enhances your ability to maneuver your vehicle.
If tires are damaged beyond repair or worn down to one-sixteenth of an inch or below, however, it's time to replace them. While there are places to scrimp and save on your vacation, road safety is not one of them.
While much of this maintenance can be done by vehicle owners, your mechanic can be an invaluable partner in ensuring ongoing tire safety. This is important four seasons out of the year, but it's particularly vital before driving long distances. Schedule an appointment to have your mechanic confirm that tires and wheels are aligned, balanced and problem-free.
While winter driving tips may typically claim the spotlight, summer driving merits concerns of its own -- particularly since this is the time of year when most people rack up the mileage. Whether you're bound for Houston's famed beer-can house or Margate, New Jersey's famed Lucy the Elephant, the last thing you want is a roadside breakdown or blowout. Make sure your tires are up to the task before putting the pedal to the metal this summer.
For more information, visit a local auto shop like Free Service Tire.