Whether you’re driving across town or the country, a flat tire can bring your travel plans to a sudden halt. You may be able to help prevent flat or blown out tires with some preventative maintenance and precautionary steps. Here’s a look at some ways to keep your tires inflated.
1. Check Tire Pressure
It’s important to make sure your car’s tires are properly inflated. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) suggests using a tire pressure gauge to check each tire, including the spare, at least monthly. Look for the label on the doorjamb or edge of the door on the driver’s side, or consult your car’s manual, to find the recommended tire pressure. Do this when your car hasn’t been driven for a few hours, as tire pressure readings can fluctuate when tires are warm.
If your car has a tire pressure monitoring system, don’t wait for the warning light to come on before adding air to your tires, the NHTSA says, because that generally happens when a tire is already significantly underinflated. Don’t rely on visual inspections, either, says the National Safety Council. Tires have typically lost half of their air before they begin to look flat.
In addition to helping prevent your tires from going flat, proper tire pressure may also play a role in your car’s fuel efficiency and extend your tires’ lifespan, the NHTSA says.
2. Rotate Tires
Having your tires rotated regularly may help avoid uneven wear patterns and prolong the life of your tires, the NHTSA says. Check your owner’s manual to see how often your tires should be rotated. Recommendations often range from every 5,000 to 10,000 miles, according to Edmunds.
Whether you rotate your own tires or go to a mechanic, this is also a good opportunity to inspect the treads and sidewalls for damage and ensure each tire is properly inflated, says U.S. News and World Report.
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3. Avoid Hazards
Though sometimes it’s unavoidable, try to take alternate routes if you know you’ll be driving near active construction zones or roads that are not well maintained. Sharp rocks, nails, metal shards, glass and potholes can all cause punctures and flat tires. Hitting a pothole may result in a damage to your tires, wheels and other parts of the car, the Insurance Information Institute says.
If you notice a tire has cracks or bulges, they may be the result of hitting things like potholes or debris on the road, Popular Mechanics says. Tires may be more susceptible to damage if they are underinflated when the impact occurs. Tires with bulges or cracks should be replaced.
4. Don’t Overload
Take another look at the label that lists your tire’s recommended tire pressure. It also indicates the maximum weight your vehicle should carry. Keep this number in mind when filling your vehicle, Popular Mechanics suggests, because an overloaded vehicle may ruin your tires.
If you’re transporting a heavy load, you may want to increase your tire pressure to help ensure your vehicle can support the weight of your car, Popular Mechanics says. Look at the sides of your tires to learn how much weight your tires can carry if the tires are inflated to the maximum pressure, which is also marked on each tire.
5. Watch for Tire Recalls
Tires may also pose potential hazards due to circumstances beyond your control. It’s a good idea to be aware of any manufacturer recalls related to your vehicle and tires.
The NHTSA provides a tool for checking whether there are recalls for the brand and model of your tires. You can also register to receive emails about recalls involving your vehicle.
While there is no guarantee you won’t encounter a flat tire at some point, there are some steps you can take to help prevent one. By remembering some basic tire maintenance, you can hit the road with the peace of mind that comes with knowing you’ve taken steps to help avoid an unexpected flat.