4 Tire Care Tips for Driving in “Hotlanta”
There’s a reason this city has earned the nickname “Hotlanta”: Temperatures climb to average daily highs of nearly 90 degrees in July and August, according to The Weather Channel.
That kind of extreme heat can put additional stress on car tires, says Nick Palermo, automotive writer for AutoTrader.com and president of the Greater Atlanta Automotive Media Association. With summer temperatures remaining high into September, not properly maintaining tires may contribute to an unexpected roadside emergency.
Consider these tips for taking care of your car’s tires during the dog days of summer.
1. Check the Pressure
Underinflation can lead to overheating, which can cause structural tire failure, according to Popular Mechanics.
“If you’re going on a road trip on the highway, you’re going to be generating a lot of heat inside the tires,” Palermo says.
He recommends checking pressure in the morning while internal tire temperature is still cool. The reason, Palermo explains, is that gas expands when it’s hot. As the day heats up, the air inside the tires expands, affecting the tire-pressure read.
Most vehicles typically list the optimal tire pressure number in pounds per square inch (PSI) on the driver’s side inside the doorjamb. Palermo prefers a digital or dial gauge — not a stick gauge — for the most accurate read.
2. Adjust for Temperature
If you do need to check your tires later in the day, Palermo has a few guidelines.
“If you check tire pressure when it’s already hot outside, and the recommendation is 28 PSI but your tires are at 34 PSI, you don’t want to release any of that air because you’re comparing hot versus cold,” he says.
For instance, if you check your vehicle’s tire pressure at 3 p.m. but haven’t driven yet that day, you can set the pressure at 2 PSI above what’s recommended, he suggests. “If you’ve been going 70 mph for 3 hours [and then check the pressure] you can set it at 6 PSI above recommended,” he adds.
3. Inspect Visually
Before hitting the road, have a quick but thorough look to make sure there’s still plenty of tread on the tires and that all four exhibit nearly equal amounts of wear.
“If you’ve been rotating your tires regularly (typically every 5,000 miles, but consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual) your wear is probably alright,” Palermo says. Also, look for bulging and/or tiny cracks in the sidewall — indicators that it’s time to replace tires, he adds.
How do you know if your tires are going “bald”? There are little bars between the treads, Palermo explains. When the tread wears down to those bars, “you’ve used up all of the life of that tire, it’s time to get a new one,” he says. Sometimes that can happen to one side of a tire and not the other, he explains.
4. Toss Out Old Tires
Something your eyes may not pick up on: aging tires that are at risk for a blowout.
“Drivers who don’t drive often may have old tires that still have good tread,” Palermo says. “But older tires tend to [decay into] dry rot and crack, causing separation of the tire’s layers, which can cause failure or blow out.”
How do you know when a tire was manufactured? Check the DOT number on its side, Palermo says.
“There’s a series of numbers that starts with ‘DOT,’” he says. “The last four of those numbers are the week and year the tire was produced. For example, ‘1313’ would be the 13th week of 2013.”
As a general rule of thumb, Palermo says 10 years is the maximum lifespan of a tire, unless it develops cracks in the sidewall before that.
“If you’re not comfortable making decisions about when to replace your car’s tires, take it into an expert,” he adds.