Flat tires and blowouts are a cause of many traffic accidents. Paying attention to the condition of tires and using common-sense driving techniques to avoid road hazards that could result in a blowout can help you avoid a flat tire and, potentially, an accident.
Check tire pressure. Underinflated tires are one of the most common causes of flat tires and blowouts. When a tire has too little air pressure, it produces increased friction, which then leads to excessive heating that could result in a blowout. Experts say that overinflated tires – tires with too much air pressure – are more susceptible to damage from potholes and bumpy roads. The best prevention here is also an easy fix. Check the tire pressure regularly, once a month. To get a more accurate reading, use a quality air pressure gauge. Check tire pressure when the tires are “cold,” having rested for three hours or not driven more than three miles since your last outing. Use the tire pressure recommended by the vehicle manufacturer, found in the owner’s manual and the sticker on the inside of the driver’s door panel.
Check tire treads. Worn treads on tires can prove risky – and subject tires to flats and blowouts. Look at the wear bars. If they’re level with the treads, it means the tire has worn down and you need new tires. Use the quarter measure: When placing the quarter in the tire’s grooves, if the tread doesn’t extend past the top of Washington’s head, new tires are probably required. Visually inspect tires for wear patterns that are uneven, since these can cause handling problems. Excessive wear on the tire’s center and side is most often caused by underinflated tires.
Do tire rotations at oil change. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends that tires be rotated at 5,000-mile intervals. Another way to ensure tires get regularly rotated is to have this done when the oil is changed.
Watch out where you drive. Avoid driving through construction areas or on roads you know aren’t well maintained. Nails, glass, metal shards, sharp rocks and potholes can easily cause punctures and flat tires. Experts also recommend avoiding driving on the shoulder of the road or highway, since this area often accumulates debris from accidents and can be full of sharp rocks.
Keep an eye on the load. Each tire should have a maximum load rating printed on the center of the tire’s sidewall. Why is this important? When you load your car or truck, you don’t want to exceed this maximum load rating. Overloaded tires are subjected to more heat and friction and are more likely to fail.
Be on the lookout for tire recalls. Although defective tires are relatively rare, it’s still a good idea to be on the lookout for a recall from the tire manufacturer. The NHTSA says it receives an average of 20 tire recalls each year. Check for tire recalls on the NHTSA site or sign up for email alerts.