Tips to guard against tyre blowouts

Take it from former race-car driver Johnny Unser — checking for telltale warnings of a worn-out tyre is more important than you think. It can prevent tyre blowouts and save you and others from unnecessary anguish.

“Checking your tyres is like going to the dentist,” says Unser, five-time veteran of the Indy 500. “It’s something we don’t do often enough, that we put off until we absolutely have to.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), tyre failure causes around 11,000 car crashes each year. Both Unser and the NHTSA recommend doing a quick tyre inspection once a month.

Here’s what to look for:

Bulges, gouges or cracks

When a tyre deflates, it bulges at the sides. Unser says this is a sign of low tyre pressure or a slow air leak. “If you see cracks in the sidewall, gouges or anything that looks odd, take it in to your dealer and have them look at it.”

Tread wear

The old-school penny test is one way to check your treads: Place a penny into the tread, if you can still see the top of the noggin, the tread is dangerously low. Most modern tyres, however, have wear bars: bits of rubber woven into the pattern at a specific depth. “You can find the wear bars that go across the groove, and if the tread pattern is worn down to that wear bar, you need to replace your tyre,” says Unser.

Tyre pressure

Tyres deflate at a rate of about one pound per square inch (PSI) per month. “You’re not going to wear your tyres down in a month,” Unser says, “but you should check that you have the right inflation pressure.”

Temperature

Tyre pressure drops in extreme cold. The challenge in summer, says Unser, is “excessive heat buildup in the tyre.” If you’re heading out on a road trip with an underinflated tyre, it will generate more heat and wear out faster.

Vibration

Watch out for vibration or thumping when you’re driving. If it feels like it’s coming from under the seats, the rear tyres may be out of balance. Vibration from the steering wheel could indicate suspension issues. Unser says anything less than a smooth ride means you should take your car in to the dealer.

When it’s time to replace your tyres, Unser recommends doing so in pairs or all four at a time for better performance and traction and, ultimately, a safer ride.

Culled from www.geico.com