AAA has teamed up with Discount Tire to educate drivers about the importance of well-maintained tires and tire safety.
Inflate tires to the correct pressure
Check your tires’ air pressure when the tires are cool, because heat (from driving or the ambient temperature) can increase tire pressure by several pounds per square inch (psi). If you have factory-installed tires, the correct psi can be found in your car’s owner’s manual, on the glove-box door, the fuel-filler door, or the driver’s door jamb. When in doubt, consult your tire professional. Don’t inflate the tires to the pressure stamped on the tire’s sidewall; that’s the maximum inflation pressure.
Check the tire pressure often
Tires lose pressure naturally—typically 1–3 psi per month—because a tire’s sidewall is permeable. Low tire pressure results in poor handling and braking, reduced gas mileage, and excessive wear. So be sure to check your car’s tire pressure at least once a month—especially before a long trip. Doing so will also help you detect any slow leaks; for example, from a nail embedded in the tire.
Check the tread depth
A tire’s ability to stop within a safe distance becomes compromised when its tread depth reaches 4/32 inch. An easy way to determine if a tire is worn out is to place an upside-down quarter (not a penny) in a tire tread. If you can see the top of George’s head, it’s time to replace the tire.
Rotate your tires regularly
Ideally, rotate your tires every 5,000 miles—which, coincidentally, is a required service interval for many cars today.
Check the tread pattern
If you’ve kept your car’s wheels balanced and aligned, and the tires rotated and properly inflated, the tread should wear evenly across the width of the tire. Check your tires periodically for uneven wear patterns, and replace tires if necessary.
Know the tire’s age
As a tire ages, its rubber becomes hard and brittle, losing elasticity and strength. Therefore, the older a tire, the higher the risk for failure. The age of your tire can be found by checking the last 4 DOT numbers stamped on a tire’s sidewall; for example, 0419 means the tire was manufactured in the fourth week of 2019. We recommend replacing any tire that’s 6 years old or older.
Check your trunk
An increasing number of new vehicles today come with tire-inflation kits instead of spare tires; some vehicles are equipped with run-flat tires and no spare tire. Check to see which option your vehicle has. If it does have a spare tire, make sure to keep it properly inflated. Small temporary spare tires—a.k.a. donuts—typically have the correct pressure stamped on the side of the tire.
Don’t overload your vehicle
The combination of underinflated tires and an overloaded a vehicle is one of the most dangerous conditions, because the tires can overheat and possibly fail. Check your car’s owner’s manual for your vehicle’s gross vehicle weight rating, which is its maximum operating weight, including the weight of the vehicle, passengers, and cargo (but excluding a trailer).