Tires and Safety: How Tire Compounds, Maintenance and Alignments Can Cause and Prevent Accidents
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Tires and Safety: How Tire Compounds, Maintenance and Alignments Can Cause and Prevent Accidents

Good tires provide the grip needed for steering and braking to avoid accidents, while also being a major factor in the comfort of your vehicle. Here’s what you need to know to pick the right tires for your vehicle, when to replace them, and how an alignment helps you get the most from your tires.

Choosing the Right Tire

Unless you’re buying tires for the track or the dirt, you can divide them into three main categories based on weather performance. Choosing the right tire keeps your car stable in turns and can shave several feet off of stopping distances, possibly preventing an accident.

Winter tires use tread compounds that stay flexible in low temperatures. The tread is deep to push away snow, and the tread surface has tiny pores that wick away moisture. This gives them superior traction on snow and ice. Above 45°F, the tread becomes soft, making handling and braking difficult.

Summer performance tires have tread compounds designed for warm weather and little rainfall. These provide maximum grip, but performance is poor in bad weather. Below 45°F, the tread becomes hard, decreasing grip.

All-season tires work in all conditions, but there are some tradeoffs. They don’t perform well in extreme cold or heat, and they struggle on snow. These are a good choice in mild climates, but here in Wisconsin, you’re better off switching to winter tires in cold weather.

Old Tires: Your Biggest Threat for Blow Outs

Running on old tires puts you at risk for having a blowout. Exposure to UV light and heat breaks down the rubber in the tire. Eventually, this will cause the steel belt and tread to separate. This tears the tire apart and can cause you to lose control of your vehicle.

To check the age of your tire, find the four-digit code printed on the sidewall. The first two digits are the week of production, and the last two are the year. If it has a three-digit code, the tire was made before the year 2000.

There’s no set time for tire replacement, but a good rule of thumb is to get new tires every 6 years regardless of wear. While you’re checking the date, make sure there aren’t any visible cracks or sidewall bulges. If you see either, it’s time for some new rubber.

Spare tires are also subject to the same aging, even if they’re inside the trunk. If you have an older car with a donut spare, now is a good time to replace it with a full-size tire and wheel.

Tire Maintenance

Taking these steps to care for your tires will help them last longer and provide better performance.

Air pressure: Over time, tires lose air pressure, increasing sidewall and tread flex. This has a major impact on handling and performance. TPMS has been standard on all U.S. vehicles since 2007. While this system will warn you if a tire has very low air pressure, it won’t activate unless the tire is several pounds below manufacturer’s recommendations.

Check your tire pressure at least once every two weeks. The recommended tire pressure is printed on a sticker on the driver’s side door frame.

Rotating: Tires experience different stresses depending on where they’re mounted on your vehicle. Rotating the tires helps even out wear, maintaining performance and increasing their usable life. Most manufacturers recommend rotating the tires every 5,000 miles. Treadwear warranties are only valid if you have proof that you regularly rotated your tires.

Wheel alignment: Wear and impacts can change the position of suspension components, and this can affect how the tires contact the road. An out-of-alignment car can have trouble braking, steering and tracking straight. There are three measurements taken during an alignment:

– Camber is the up and down angle of the tire.
– Toe is the angle of the tire from front to back.
– Caster is the angle your front tires turn when steering.

You should always get an alignment when buying new tires to get the most wear from them. Your car also needs an alignment if the steering feels off, the tires are wearing abnormally, or the car pulls to one side. Alignments are also part of almost every collision repair. Even a minor impact can shift suspension parts around, affecting how the car handles.

Make It Feel Like the Accident Never Happened

Merton Auto Body is a complete autobody repair shop. Our repairs go more than skin deep. We have the equipment to align frames and wheels to makes sure your car drives like it did before the accident. If you need help getting your car back on the road, visit our shop in Sussex. We’re between Lisbon and North Lake, and just a short drive from Pewaukee.



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