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How Do You Know When You Need New Tires?

car parked in a parking lot

Keeping your vehicle in good working order will extend its overall life and limit your risk of being involved in an accident. Performing regular maintenance is about much more than just getting the oil changed, though. Your vehicle’s tires also need regular attention, and you should be prepared to replace them when necessary.

It is never a good idea to continue driving on worn-out or old tires. Remember, your life and safety are quite literally riding on them. In this article, our car accident attorneys explore the ins and outs of tire safety as well as when you might need new tires.

Checking Your Tires

You should regularly inspect your tires to ensure that they are in good working condition. If you were never taught how to accurately assess a tire’s condition, or it’s been a while since you’ve last had to do it, you should review the following information.

Maintaining Good Tire Pressure

In 2000, Congress enacted the TREAD Act as a reaction to rollover crashes associated with Firestone Tires. The TREAD Act requires all vehicles to have tire-pressure monitoring systems, or TPMS. All vehicles manufactured from 2008 on have a TPMS, and even some 2006 and 2007 models have this system.

This means that if your vehicle is a 2008 model or newer, it will alert you when the tire pressure is low. The warning light will illuminate when one or more of your tires is 25% lower than the manufacturer’s recommended tire pressure. This is the point at which your risk for causing a car accident goes up.

If you drive an older vehicle that does not have a TPMS, you can manually check your tires with a tire pressure gauge. Here is how you can accurately measure your tire pressure:

  • Review your manufacturer’s recommended PSI (pound per square inch). You can find this information in either your vehicle’s manual or on the door jamb of the driver’s door.
  • Unscrew the cap from the valve stem on your tire and place it in a safe place, like your pocket.
  • Position the open end of your tire pressure gauge on the valve stem and press down firmly. You will hear a hissing sound. If you are using a digital gauge, the PSI will appear on the screen. Otherwise, a bar will push out of the other end. Measurements on the side of this small bar will show you your tire pressure.
  • Repeat the above-referenced steps for all your tires and inflate as necessary.
  • Check the pressure on all your tires again. If any are inflated more than the manufacturer’s recommended PSI, press firmly against the valve stem to release air. Repeat this process until all tires are correctly inflated. When you are done, replace the valve stem cap.

Most gas stations have machines you can use to inflate your tires. If you are not comfortable with this task or are physically unable to bend or kneel down to check your tires, visit your local mechanic or tire shop for help.

You should not wait until the tire pressure light comes on or the tires look a little low to measure again. Instead, make it a habit to check your tire pressure monthly.

If you regularly inflate your tires only for the TPMS light to come back on a few days or a week later, you might have a slow leak. You should replace any tires that cannot maintain proper PSI or risk a tire blowout, which could lead to an accident.

In 2019 alone, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recorded 612 fatalities related to tires. Proper maintenance and replacing your tires when necessary is one of the best ways to protect yourself and others on the road.

Checking Your Treads

The tread runs around the circumference of a tire. This part of your tire touches the ground as you drive. If you examine your tire, you’ll see that it has ridges and grooves. These are the tread pattern that help create traction between the tire and the road.

Tread patterns and even rubber material are different between road, snow, and off-road tires. Be sure to use the correct tire for your vehicle and its usage. If you need snow tires during the winter, take them off once the snow and ice have subsided.

The tread can also indicate when it is time for a replacement. The typical tread on brand new tires is between 8 and 9 millimeters, or about 10/32 of an inch.

Over time the tread will wear down with regular use. If you drive with underinflated tires, your tread will wear out faster. Remember, the tread helps create traction between your vehicle and the road, so you should do everything in your ability to make it last longer.

It is time to replace your tires once the tread is reduced to 2/32 of an inch. NHTSA advises that you check your tire treads monthly, which you can easily do at the same time you are checking your tire pressure.

First, look for the tread wear indicator. These are small marks in the tread that are cut to 2/32 of an inch. If your tread is worn down and flush with these bars, you know it’s time to get new tires.

Some tires are not equipped with tread wear indicators, or you might simply be unsure about how to accurately interpret tread wear. If so, you can use a penny to measure your tread. First, flip the coin so that Abraham Lincoln is facing you, but upside down. Next, place the penny between the grooves in your tread. It is time to replace your tire when you can spot the top of the former president’s head.

Could New Tires Have Prevented an Accident?

If you were injured in an accident through no fault of your own, you need to be prepared to fight for the help you deserve. Pursuing a personal injury case against the driver who caused your accident is often the most effective method for recovering compensation for your damages, including medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, emotional trauma, and more.

Successfully securing that compensation relies on your ability to prove that the other driver was at fault. This requires a certain amount of experience and knowledge, which the car accident attorneys at Buckingham & Vega Law Firm have.

We can help collect evidence, including indications of poor car maintenance such as neglecting low tire pressure or worn-out treads, that prove your side of the story. For the opportunity to discuss your case during a free consultation, get in touch today.

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