Play it Safe

The Importance of Good Tires

by Dana diLorenzo

Atlanta Parent was recently invited to participate in a “Cooper Tire Super Mom Ride-N-Drive” event.  Knowing almost nothing about tires (save for enduring a few ill-timed flats) I was eager to learn more.  Previously, I only thought of tires as another “part” for the car; now I’ve learned that tires are a feature that merit consideration by safety-seeking parents.
A group of moms from all over the nation gathered in San Antonio to test their driving skills.  Basically, we were “test driving” tires in varying conditions. We drove with new tires, but we also tried driving on tires that were well used and on others that were very well worn. We drove on a wet track, pushing the tires to their limits with hard turns and sliding stops, then hit the long straight-aways in dry, dusty conditions. I was amazed at the control, handling and enhanced feeling of safety when driving on quality tires. Next we tried driving on a “distracted mom driving course.”  We’ve all done the busy mom (or dad) day care dash, pushing through traffic and screeching to a stop to beat the dreaded clock. Once our kids are safely strapped into the car, the real distractions begin: a crying baby . . . a toddler-tossed toy flying through the air . . . driving with our knees as we blindly grope for that dropped sippy cup.  My specific “assignment” on the distracted driver course was completely new to me: I had to deal with “middle school girl drama” complete with hysteria, tears and pseudo-upchucking. I was thrilled to win the Cooper Tire “Driving Miss Daisy” award, reportedly given to the “safest” driver among the moms group. A bonus I enjoyed: Getting some tire tips and holding on for dear life while riding along with legend Johnny Unser as he took a few hot laps.

Cooper Tire suggests these tire maintenance tips:

Check air pressure: Tire pressure plays a critical role in the overall performance of tires. Under inflation creates excessive stress on the tire, while over inflation can cause uneven wear in addition to handling and braking issues. Proper air pressure can improve gas mileage by more than three percent, reducing gasoline consumption and expense. Reference the vehicle owner’s manual or tire placard attached to the vehicle door edge, door post, glove box door or fuel door for your tires’ correct pressure. Bear in mind that the tire pressure listed on the tires’ sidewall indicates maximum pressure.

Check wheel alignment: Wheel alignment and balancing are important for safety and maximum mileage from tires. Alignment should be checked periodically, as specified by the vehicle owner’s manual or when there is an indication of trouble such as pulling, vibration or irregular tire wear. Inspect tires at least once per month for signs of uneven wear or damage (i.e., cuts, cracks, splits, punctures, bulges and impacts). These conditions shorten the life of tires and may cause tire damage or failure if not corrected.

Rotate tires: Rotating tires on a regular basis ensures more uniform wear, which results in extended life for your tires. Unless the vehicle owner’s manual has a specific recommendation, the rule of thumb for tire rotation is every 6,000 miles.

Examine tread: Bald tires can skid and slide on pavement and are more likely to be damaged by potholes and other hazards. Cooper tires have a built-in “tread-wear indicator,” making it simple to monitor tread wear. Drivers can check tread depth by inserting a tread depth gauge into the tread. If it is less than four millimeters deep or worn to 2/32 of an inch at any location on the tire, it is time to replace the tire.