The little patch of rubber that connects your car to the road is an important safety feature of your car. If there is a problem with your tires, you will have difficulty starting, stopping, and cornering. Knowing how your tires work and how they wear down is important to knowing when you need to replace your tires. Here is what you need to know about your tires and how to make sure you continue to be safe on the road.
Healthy Tread is the Key
Your tires are made of layers of rubber, metal and fiberglass. These hold the shape of the tire while allowing it to flex under the weight of the car and the stress of cornering and bumps in the road. The tread is the part of the tire that holds the car onto the road surface. While each manufacturer has a different design for their tires, all tread is made up of three basic parts:
- Lug - This is the only part of the tire that actually touches the road.
- Void - This is the space between the lugs that allows the tire to flex and hold onto the road. Without the void, you would have a completely bald tire and little traction on the road.
- Groove - This is a channel cut across the tread. It moves water out of the way of the tire so your car stays connected to the road and doesn't hydroplane on top of the surface of the water.
As you drive, the lug wears down. Your tire needs a minimum amount of tread to be safe. Once below that level, you risk losing traction which can reduce your braking and cornering efficiency and safety. There are some simple ways to check that you have enough tread on the tire to be safe.
- Using the wear bar - This is a small strip of rubber that sits next to the lug. It shows the minimum amount of tread necessary for the tire to be safe. Compare the height of the lug with the wear bar. If the lug is at or above the wear bar, your tires are still safe. If it has worn down below the wear bar, it's time for new tires.
- Using a copper penny - Place a copper penny into a void with Lincoln's head pointed down. If you can see the top of Lincoln's head, the tread has worn down below safe limits and it's time for a trip to the tire shop.
You can also get your tires checked at most tire shops. They have a special gauge by which they can measure the tread depth on the tire and give you an indication of how much life you have left on a tire.
Factors That Affect Tire Wear
Certain conditions cause your tires to wear out faster. When checking your tire's tread, look for these signs of a problem.
- The center of the tire is more worn than the edges - This a sign of over-inflation. Too much air in a tire causes it to ride up on the middle of the tire. Adjust the air in the tire to the manufacturer's suggested pressure.
- The edges of the tire are worn more than the center - This is a sign of under-inflation. The tire is resting too much on the road. Again, adjust the air pressure to the recommended value.
- Irregular tire wear - If the front tires show different wear patterns, especially a zig-zag pattern, the front end is out of alignment. Take your car to an alignment services specialist to adjust the alignment so the tires track evenly on the road and wear out in the same pattern.
For alignment services, contact a company such as Spring Suspension & Alignment Services.