By Steve Rozansky
Tire maintenance should be a bottom line issue, whether you have one
vehicle or a fleet. Bad tires can mean higher fuel costs for your company, not to mention greater risks for accidents and loss.
Fortunately, tires are one of the easiest parts of your car or fleet to maintain, if you make PART (Pressure, Alignment, Rotation, Tread) an integral part of your vehicle maintenance program. Here's how to do it:
Most tires fail because they are under-inflated, which stresses
your tires and can result in irregular wear. A tire can lose up to half of its air pressure and still look normal. Air pressure should be checked once a month and before every long trip. Use your owner's manual as a guide for the proper level of inflation. The recommended levels may also be posted on the vehicle's door, near the gas cap lid or in the glove box. To get an accurate reading, tires must be cool. If you have to drive somewhere to get air, check and record the tire pressure first and add the appropriate air pressure when you get to the pump. It is normal for tires to heat up and the air pressure inside to go up as you drive. Never "bleed" or reduce air pressure when tires are hot. And don't forget the spare. Some spares require higher inflation pressure.
In the course of daily driving, few of us have escaped
Traveling on a rough road, running over a pothole or hitting a curb. Jolts like that can throw the front end of your vehicle out of alignment and damage the tires. The alignment should be checked at a frequency specified by your vehicle's owner's manual, but if you experience handling problems such as "pulling" or vibration, have the alignment checked immediately. If you use a vehicle with front-wheel drive or one with an independent rear suspension, you will need to get all four wheels aligned. And while you're checking the alignment, have the tire balance checked too. Unbalanced tire and wheel assemblies can cause irregular tire wear.
Rotating your vehicle's tires will assure uniform wear. Unless
your vehicle's owner's manual says differently, tires should be rotated every 6,000 miles. Why? Each tire supports a different amount of weight and that unequal weight distribution causes your tires to wear at different rates. By rotating your tires, you extend their life. If your tires show uneven wear, check and correct any misalignment, imbalance or other mechanical problem before rotation. Incidentally, sometimes front and rear tires use different pressures. After rotation, may sure you adjust the individual tire air pressure to the figures recommended by the vehicle's manufacturer.
Worn treads can reduce the ability of tread to grip the road in bad
weather. When the tread is worn down to 1/16 of an inch, tires must be replaced. All tires have "wear bars," small raised rubber bars in the groove that indicate when tires are worn out. If the tread is worn down to the wear bars, it's time for a new tire. Believe it or not, a penny is a reliable tool to check tire tread. Just take a penny and put Abe's head into one of the grooves of the tire tread. If part of his head is covered by the tread, you're driving with the legal amount of tread. If you can see all of Abe's head, it's time to replace the tire.
When it comes to tires, making PART a part of your vehicle maintenance program is just good sense. Inevitably, it translates into the dollars and cents that spell bottom line profits.