The lowdown on tire pressure
Every year New Brunswickers recycle the equivalent of more than one million tires.
Did you know driving styles have a lot to do with how fast tires wear? That’s true but there are other reasons as well. The worst part is that thousands of the tires recycled each year may have been replaced due to premature wear from issues that could have been addressed easily. Typically improper tire pressure and incorrect alignment settings are the most prominent causes of premature tire wear. So, the key to making your tires last is to recognize the signs of an issue and bring your vehicle to a shop if you can’t correct it at home. Learning to read your tire wear can save you a lot of time, money and aggravation.
Tire Pressure: Most people only check the air pressure in their tires when they experience a problem (car pulling to the left or right, tire pressure sensor light goes off or if it just “looks low”). The reality is that anytime the temperature goes up or down 5 degrees Celsius, the tire’s air pressure will change by 1 psi. So if the tire typically has 32psi and the temperature goes from zero to -30 then your tire pressure will vary by nearly 20% in wintertime! Luckily, such dramatic temperature swings are rare but, if you want the most out of your tires, you should pay attention to them.
You can usually find the proper tire pressure for your vehicle on a sticker on the doorjamb. Tire pressures should be set when tires are cold. It is best to check pressure in the morning since that is usually the coolest time of the day. It is not a bad idea to check them on a quarterly basis or when large changes in temperature occur. Low tire pressure is especially dangerous in summer because the buildup of heat from the additional friction makes tire blowouts far more likely.
What to look for: Signs of improper tire pressure include wear concentrating in the center of the tire tread (air pressure too high) or on both shoulders of the tread (air pressure too low).
Vehicle Alignment: Often people assume that the only time you need an alignment is when a car pulls left or right. There are other issues improper alignment can cause that relate to premature tire wear. There are three basic angle adjustments on the front wheels of any vehicle on the road today; caster, camber and toe. Caster relates to the angle at which the steering knuckle pivots. Camber is the angle at which the wheels tilt inward or outward when you view the vehicle head on. Toe is the angle at which the wheels point inward or outward when looking down on top of the vehicle. Since you will take your vehicle to a shop to perform an alignment, the important part is to understand how small changes to these settings can and will affect the wear on your tires.
What to look for: Signs of an improper alignment include wear on just the inside or just the outside shoulders of the tire (improper camber) or patterns such as feathering or saw tooth appearances (improper caster or toe). Modern passenger tires come with safety wear bars, which indicate when the tire has reached its limit of tread remaining (2/32”). If these bars are visible across any part of the tread the tire should be replaced to maintain proper contact with the road surface at all times.