Proper Tire Care for Safe Summer Road Trips

Tire safety can be one of the most important – and overlooked – aspects of vehicle safety. Proper, regular tire inspections and tire maintenance can extend the life of your tires, and ensure your safety while driving. Many people take road trips on long weekends or summer vacation, and might not think to check their tires before driving – this is a mistake. Always remember that your tires are the only thing between you and the road, and as such, it is important that you take good care of them.

Inspect your tires regularly

The first step to proper tire care is regular inspections. At a minimum, tire inspections should be conducted monthly.[1] If you are planning a long trip you should also always inspect your tires before the trip. Extra tire inspections may also be necessary during very cold weather, or if you drive on particularly rough, or poorly maintained roads. To inspect your tires, do a quick visual search for the following issues.[2]

  1. Under inflation. In an underinflated tire, the middle of the tire will bow inward, causing excessive pressure and wear along both edges.
  2. Over inflation. Over inflation creates a bulging effect that swiftly wears down the middle of the tire.
  3. Edge wear. Edge wear is significantly more wear along one side of the tire. This means that there may be a problem with the alignment of the wheels.
  4. Erratic wear. Erratic wear is scattered spots of wear that usually mean the wheel is out of balance or the shocks of the road are not being properly absorbed.
  5. Bumps. Bumps or bulges along the tire indicate that strands are beginning to separate.

How to properly maintain your tires

The second step to proper tire care is regular tire maintenance. Proper tire maintenance can save you money by increasing your gas mileage, and can extend the life of your tires. Follow these tips: [3]

  1. Maintain proper tire pressure. Tire pressure should be checked monthly, and more frequently during cold months. Keep a tire pressure gauge in your car, and make sure to check the pressure of each tire. The proper PSI for your vehicle’s tires should be located on the Tire and Loading Information on the side of the driver’s door.[4]
  2. Check your tire tread. Tire tread helps tires grip the road and avoid slipping and sliding in wet or slick conditions. Tire tread should be checked monthly. Tires are considered unsafe if the tire tread is worn down and level with the “treadwear indicators.”[5]
  3. Have your wheels regularly balanced and aligned. This will ensure that your vehicle’s wheels rotate properly, and can extend the life of your tires.
  4. Rotate your tires. Rotating your tires helps ensure that your tires will all be exposed to similar wear and tear. This means that all of your tires can last longer. Always consult your owner’s manual about whether your vehicle’s tires should be rotated. If recommended, tires should be rotated about every 5,000-8,000 miles.[6]
  5. Purchase tires that are the correct size for your vehicle. Consult your owner’s manual or the Tire and Loading Information located on the driver’s side door to ensure that you are purchasing tires that are the right size for your vehicle.[7]

Finally, be aware of potential tire-related problems while driving. Wheels that are out of balance may cause a bumping or thumping feeling, and underinflated tires can cause your vehicle to pull towards the side of the underinflated tire. If your car feels unusual while driving, you may have a serious tire safety concern. [8] Inspect your tires, check the tire pressure, and ask a tire expert to be sure your tires are safe enough to continue driving. For more information on tire maintenance, visit http://www.safercar.gov/tires/index.html.


[1] http://exchange.aaa.com/automobiles-travel/automobiles/car-care-and-maintenance/tire-safety-and-maintenance/#.VYJ95-kVjyc.

[2] Id.

[3] http://www.safercar.gov/tires/pages/tires_maintenance.html.

[4] Id

[5] Id. For more information on checking your tire tread, visit http://www.safercar.gov/tires/pages/tires_maintenance.html. For further information and tricks for checking your tire tread, visit http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/Story?id=3682871&page=1.

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] See supra note 1.