They may not be the engine or any of the electrical or mechanical parts of your car, but the tires that move your dream vehicle are just as important as anything else in it. Sadly, they are often a neglected lot, despite all the wear and the tear they get subjected to.
So how do we give them their due? More importantly, how can we prevent a mishap happening because the car is running on defective or insufficient rubber? The maintenance of tires is a serious topic in itself, but, for now, let us watch out for the top five signs on when to change your car tires.
Of course, no two cars are alike and each differs in the way they drive or are driven. That itself points to a host of other variables like the surface they are mostly driven on, the frequency at which they are aligned and balanced, and among other things, the discipline with which the pressure is regulated in them.
But, over and above these variables, there are some common triggers and signals that are apparent and applicable to all tires. These are the warning signs that all vehicle owners should keep a watch out for – not just to get the most out of these as auto accessories but also to ensure there are no crashes caused.
Here is a list of the top five signs that should prompt you to change your car tires, regardless of their age or the expense that could come along.
- Tread depth: A new tire can be distinguished from an old one fairly easily. The most telltale sign usually is the clear and even grooves and treads in a new unit as compared to the faded and flat look of a worn out one. The treads, as they are called, are responsible for providing the all-important friction for the tire.
When the proverbial rubber hits the road, it’s this grip that gives stability to the vehicle and confidence to the driver.Over time, this tread begins to even out and the resulting loss of grip while driving can be felt while braking or navigating a bad stretch. Any erosion in the depth of the tread cannot only reduce driving pleasure but also is an invitation for a possible crash.
A reduction in the tread depth, thankfully, can be pre-empted with the help of basic tools like a tread depth gauge. In modern day tires, tread wear indicators also can be seen. While it could vary based on tire specifications, the tread depth should not be allowed to fall below 1/16th of an inch or 1.6 millimetres in depth.
- Cracks on the sidewall: Even easier to detect are the cracks that show up on the sidewalls can point to a more serious eventuality like a potential leak in the tire. Extreme situations like the tire blowing out can be catastrophic and a periodic check on the sidewalls could be lifesaving.
- Bulges, blisters and slits: Another development that could be hazardous is the weakening of the outer surface of the tire. This may lead to formation of bulges or blisters towards the outside. However, the good part is that they are easy to detect. But, if neglected, just as a swelling of an artery in a person affected by aneurysm can lead to a rupture, a tire could also blow up while running. To prevent this from happening, periodic checks must be done.
- Vibration: It is a fact that cars are required to run on all kinds of surfaces from well paved city roads to uneven and broken surfaces. More than any other part of the vehicle, it is the tires that bear the brunt of the ride. Any vibration felt in such conditions is normal and not necessarily a verdict on the state of the tires. But if you notice persistent vibration or a rough ride on good and even roads, it is time to take a closer look at your car’s rubber or, better still, have an expert inspect it. If it is not due to other factors like the air pressure being low, it is most certainly time to get a new set.
- Unusual noises or overheating: Beyond the visual judgment, another giveaway of a tire begging to be changed can be the unusual sound that it makes while in motion. This usually points to a loss of tread or any other damage to the rubber but is a sure indicator of the tire not functioning as it should be. Similarly, an unhealthy trend can be spotted when a tire is seen to be heating up after a drive.
Besides the above standard signs and triggers, it always helps to consider the basic tenets of tire (or for that matter, any other component) maintenance. For instance, being aware of the age of the tire is essential knowledge. Used in normal circumstances, tires are usually problem free for the first five years. Post that, routine and detailed checks by an expert are recommended. In any case, the life of a tire usually is ten years and running it beyond that is hazardous, no matter what condition it is in.
Also, it is advisable to have the tires checked not just for air pressure but also for the alignment and balancing being proper before setting off on a long drive. Even otherwise, a monthly check on pressure needs to be done. But prolonged usage when any one of the set is not in top working condition can spell trouble.
Finally, it is good and standard practice to also change the entire set at once and not individually. This ensures the wear on the tires are even and they all age equally without having to put additional pressure on any other.
Watch out for any of these pointers. The tires your car drives on can be the foundation for a safe journey. They work hard and deserve all your care and attention.