Maintaining a vehicle is a great way to stay safe on the road while extending the car's life. Routine maintenance can keep a car running like new for years as long as vehicle owners stay on top of things and stick to a maintenance schedule.
Most drivers are aware of when to get their oil changed and other fluids checked, but not all drivers know how to maintain their vehicle's tires. Proper tire maintenance makes a car safer for drivers and their passengers and can even pad a driver's pocket with a little extra money.
* Routinely check tire pressure. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration notes that tire-related crashes are most often caused by underinflated tires. Underinflation isn't always caused by a leak. In fact, gradual loss of pressure is natural, particularly when the seasons change and temperatures dip. An underinflated tire makes handling difficult and can even cause structural damage to a vehicle. Drivers should check their vehicle's tire pressure at least once a month. Those who have long commutes should check their tire pressure more frequently, and it's always a good idea to check tire pressure before and after a long road trip. Recommended tire pressures are listed in the owner's manual.
* Look for abnormal wear and tear. Tires will wear down over time, gradually losing tread. However, drivers should inspect tires for excessive wear and tear, which could be indicative of other issues, including underinflation and alignment problems with steering and suspension.
Additional issues to look for include bulges or cracks on the sidewalls or tread and any signs of a punctured tire.
* Rotate tires. Most drivers have heard of tire rotation but might not know how often tires should be rotated or even why rotation is necessary. The owner's manual will solve the first problem, identifying how often tires should be rotated (most suggest every 6,000 miles). As for why it's good to rotate tires, doing so helps achieve even tread and extend the life of the tires. Tires are expensive, and rotation can help drivers get more bang for their buck. Drivers of front-wheel drive vehicles will notice their front tires wear down faster than their rear tires. That's because the front tires are doing most of the work, bearing the brunt of the force of braking, steering and driving. Rotating tires effectively levels the playing field.
* Stay balanced. Sometimes tires become unbalanced. When taking a car in for routine maintenance, ask the mechanic to see if there are any issues regarding balance. Out of balance tires can cause significant issues that stretch beyond just uneven tread wear. An out of balance tire can wear down the vehicle's suspension. When driving at highway speeds, drivers might notice a considerable thumping. This is often indicative of an out of balance tire.
* Stay cool. Sudden tire failure can often be traced back to overheated tires. A tire can overheat for a number of reasons, including aggressive driving. Frequently driving on coarse surfaces or at high speeds can also increases tire temperatures, as does ambient temperature.
Driving at high speeds on a very hot day increases the risk of sudden tire failure, as does driving at high speeds on coarse surfaces. To reduce tire temperature, avoid doing these things simultaneously. If it's an especially hot day, for example, don't drive aggressively and maintain lower speeds.