Tires are arguably the most important part of your car because, well, they’re the only actual point of contact between you and the road. When I was 17, I didn’t know much of anything about cars except how much I loved to drive them. So, you can imagine my surprise when one day I randomly checked out my tires and wondered why those little steel threads were poking out of the rubber. Here are five tire tips to keep you safe and save you money:

1. Under Pressure

Air pressure matters. Not only does having the right amount of pressure protect the sidewalls from weakening, preventing a potential blowout on the freeway, it also saves you money on gas. That’s right. The proper PSI will keep your engine from working too hard and wasting fuel.

2. Know Your Limits

Tires have weight and speed ratings. If you’re lugging a lot of luggage or think you missed your calling as NASCAR’s latest phenom, just make sure you’re not pushing your tire’s limits. Or those of your local authorities.

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3. Round and Round

Do you really need to rotate your tires? Yes. Weight distribution can vary front to rear and the front tires have the added responsibility to steer your car, so to get even use out of them, move the backs to the front and fronts to the back. It’s sort of like shoes, if we could only switch them to the opposite feet the soles would last a lot longer.

4. Straight as an Arrow

Getting your suspension aligned will also help with wear. If you’re driving on a flat straight road and take your hands off the wheel and your car starts pulling, time for a realignment. Hey, hands back on the wheel, though. Really.

5. Tread Lightly

When it comes to your tires, you always want to tread carefully, friends. Uh, tire tread, that is. How can you tell what’s enough? Put a penny into a tire groove with Lincoln’s head upside down. If you see all of Lincoln’s melon, it’s time to get new tires. And, if like my 17-year old self, you ever see metal threads poking out, get new tires immediately.

More: 5 Road Trip Safety Tips

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