This is National Tire Safety Week, and as you prepare to head out on vacation -- or even if you're still languishing in daily-commute mode -- the Rubber Manufacturer's Association as well as Goodyear, Michelin and Pirelli have compiled a handful of quick, easy checks designed to bring about a longer and less-stressful summer, for both you and the tires on your vehicle.
Heading the to-do list is making sure that each of your vehicle's tires is properly inflated. In addition to profoundly impacting their longevity, under-inflation can seriously impact handling and response under all conditions. As a matter of course, check tire-pressure settings monthly, and certainly before setting off on any extended drive. The need can be even more acute on vehicles with certain types of alloy wheels. These lightweight rims, which have a greater porosity than their steel counterparts, can slowly lose pressure over time. Another key factor in extending tire life and optimizing a vehicle's dynamic capabilities is to maintain proper wheel alignment. Beyond avoiding close encounters with major potholes, periodically turn the wheels on your vehicle to full lock and check the tires for any signs of uneven wear -- both on tread itself and at the margins where the tread belt and sidewall meet. Odd wear patterns in either place are generally the result of improper toe or camber settings. Also be aware of any steering wheel shimmying or shuddering that can occur when a wheel/tire is out of balance or by a warped or damaged brake rotor. Finally, rotate your tires according to recommendations the owner's manual of your vehicle -- or use the 6,000-8,000-mile swap window suggested by most tire manufacturers. And when tread depth on any tire finally does fall below the legal limit of 1/16th of an inch or the wear bars start to show, replace it.