Checked Your Tires Lately?

Tires are so good these days that few people give them the attention they deserve, and that could be a serious or even fatal mistake.  The advances the tire industry has made over the last three decades is truly startling.  Today's tires frequently offer 60,000 miles of life or more, but that doesn't mean they don't need to be maintained.  And, ironically, the key maintenance that has to be done on your tires is as free as the air we breathe.  In fact, it is the air we breathe.  Maintaining your tires costs you virtually nothing except your time, and maybe that's why it is so often neglected.

For your own safety and the safety of your family, you should do a tire check monthly to make certain your tires are carrying the vehicle manufacturer-recommended air pressure.  A simple air pressure gauge and less than five minutes of your time is all it takes.  The benefits are substantial.  Properly inflated tires give you better fuel economy, ride quality and handling ability.  Your ability to maneuver your vehicle will be enhanced, helping to keep you out of dangerous situations.

Of course, one dangerous situation arises from tire underinflation itself.  Underinflated tires generate heat from internal friction that can seriously shorten the life of the tires or even cause sudden tire failure.  This internal wear is exacerbated by heat and heavy loads, which means a tire that can carry a given load in total safety on a 50-degree day when properly inflated could be prone to failure on an 80-degree day when inflation pressure is below manufacturer recommendations.  And don't think you can eyeball your tires and determine if their air pressure is too low.  If your tire looks underinflated odds are it is seriously underinflated and could be causing dangerous variations in your vehicle's handling ability.

To help bring this crucial information to the public's attention the Rubber Manufacturers Association highlights tire maintenance and safety issues during National Tire Safety Week now through April 30. More than 10,000 tire and auto service outlets participate in the RMA's initiative through the distribution of educational brochures and other efforts to promote tire and auto safety. Bridgestone Firestone participates in tire maintenance and safety efforts through its retail tire centers and its Web site TireSafety. 

"At Bridgestone Firestone we understand the difference between wants and needs," said Phil Pacsi, executive director of consumer tire marketing, BFNT.  "Tires are certainly a necessity: they support the load of your vehicle, when properly inflated they offer fuel savings which is critical with today's skyrocketing gas prices, and tires offer peace of mind when selected with key attributes such as wet traction design, Run-Flat technology or specific compounds or design for better grip in rugged or difficult terrain."

Now through May 7 Bridgestone Firestone's Need New Tires(tm) promotion will offer a rebate of up to $100 with the purchase of four select Bridgestone brand tires. The Need New Tires campaign begins just as the automotive aftermarket industry celebrates National Car Care Month with a renewed focus on building consumer car care awareness. The Car Care Council spearheads the effort through a consumer education campaign, "Be Car Care Aware," which promotes the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair.

Automotive journalist Luigi Fraschini writes frequently on maintenance and safety issues from his Cleveland office.