Put some fun in your holidays: check your tire pressure

December 11, 2003|LIZ MAPLES

It's no fun to be stuck on the way to grandma's, fruitcake in the trunk, with a flat tire.

As the holiday travel season approaches, many people are taking their vehicles in for check-ups.

The most frequently found problem in October AAA car inspections was improper tire pressure, and 20 percent of vehicles needed at least one tire replaced.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has said that motorists who drive on bald or under-inflated tires risk injuries or death. The warning came after the department's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that 9 percent of passenger cars are driven with at least one bald tire.

Danville Assistant Chief Jay Newell said that under-inflated tires can cause a vehicle to sway more in a turn than the driver expects it to, and extremely under-inflated tires could separate from the rim in a hard turn, or cause a blowout.


He said that if a tire is wearing unevenly, it is an indication that something else is wrong with the vehicle, such as the alignment or suspension.

"All of these things could leave you stranded," he said.

Hometown Tire of Danville owner Dennis McWilliams said December is his busiest month, and stressed that it is important to winterize vehicles completely, not just the tires.

Besides checking tire pressure and rotating, motorists should:

* flush and clean the radiator.

* change the oil, lube and filter.

* inspect belts, hoses and filters.

* check fluids and the battery.

Cold temperatures can cause tires to lose pressure, McWilliams said. Tires lose one pound of pressure for every 10 degrees of temperature change.

Tire tread grips the road and stops vehicles from slipping and sliding on wet or icy roads. When a tire is worn down to 1/16th of an inch, it should be replaced, according to NHTSA. Another way to check is to use a penny. Place the penny upside down within the tread. If the top of Lincoln's head is visible, the tire should be replaced.

The NHTSA recommended that drivers check tire pressure once a month. A tire can lose much of its pressure and still look like it is fully inflated. Driving on an under-inflated tire can cause tire separation and blowouts, which in turn can cause drivers to lose control of their vehicles.

Under inflated tires also shorten tire life and cause vehicles to burn more gas.

AAA projected that nearly 5 million drivers will have a breakdown in November or December this year. During this time last year AAA-affiliated service personnel changed 640,000 flat tires.

McWilliams said that part of the tire problem is that many gas stations used to be full service, and tire pressure was checked with a fill-up. Now, as self-service stations dominate the scene, drivers need to remember to check their own pressure, he said.

The proper tire pressure is recorded on the tire, and on the driver's side door.

Central Kentucky News Articles