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Four simple checks will keep your car's tires in good shape

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, underinflated tires are responsible for 660 fatalities and 33,000 injuries each year. A simple, easy-to-perform, monthly tire-pressure check only takes five minutes and can help avoid unwanted vehicle complications and reduce the number of fatalities and injuries on the road this year. The Rubber Manufacturers Association and Pep Boys suggest drivers use the acronym "PART" — Pressure, Alignment, Rotation and Tread. Special to the Times

Pressure

Proper inflation is important. The right amount is specified by the vehicle manufacturer and is on the vehicle's door sill, glove box door or fuel door. It's also listed in the vehicle owner's manual.

• Check inflation pressure at least once a month and before long trips. Always check tires when cool. After driving, tires need at least three hours to cool.

• Remember to check the spare.

• Visually inspect tires to make sure there are no nails or other embedded objects that could puncture the tire and cause an air leak. Check the sidewalls to make sure there are no gouges, cuts, bulges or other irregularities.

• Tire inflation pressure increases in warm weather or decreases in cold weather by 1 to 2 pounds for every 10 degrees of temperature change.

Alignment

Wheel misalignment can cause uneven and rapid tread wear and should be corrected by a tire dealer. Have the alignment checked periodically as specified by the vehicle owner's manual or whenever there is an indication of trouble such as "pulling." Also check tire balance periodically.

Rotation

Tire rotation can prevent irregular tire wear. Always refer to the vehicle owner's manual for rotation recommendations. If no rotation period is specified, tires should be rotated approximately every 5,000 to 8,000 miles. After rotation, make sure inflation pressure is set to the vehicle manufacturer's specification.

Tread

Tires must be replaced when the tread is worn down to 2/32 of an inch. Traction and resistance to hydroplaning is reduced as tires wear. Place a penny upside down into a tread groove. If part of Lincoln's head is covered by the tread, there is a proper amount of tread. If all of Lincoln's head is visible, it's time to buy new tires.

Built-in tread wear indicators or "wear bars" will appear on the tire when the tread is worn down to 2/32 of an inch. When the top of the "wear bars" are flush with the tire tread, the tire needs to be replaced. Visually check tires for signs of irregular tread wear, such as high and low areas or unusually smooth areas. Consult a tire dealer as soon as possible.

Tire Pressure Monitoring System

Vehicles equipped with a Tire Pressure Monitoring System can help detect loss of inflation pressure. Federal regulations require TPMS to warn drivers when tires are 25 percent under-inflated. For many vehicles this warning may be too late to prevent damage caused by under inflation. TPMS units are not a replacement for monthly tire pressure checks with a gauge.

Four simple checks will keep your car's tires in good shape 06/21/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 21, 2011 4:30am]
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