The other day, I stopped at a gas station to fill up on gas and put air in my tires. There was a lovely, young lady who looked to be about twenty years old putting air in her tires. She seemed to be taking an unusually long time on just one tire and I wondered if something was wrong. Finally, she looked over at me and asked, “Do you know how to put air in a tire?” I gladly went over and helped her out. I showed her what I knew about putting air in a tire and helped her get the job done. When we finished, she thanked me and happily drove off.
Afterwards, I got to thinking, “How many teens know how to put air in a tire or are familiar with proper tire care?”
Probably not many.
I know that tire care is important for safety, not to mention the fact that proper tire inflation improves gas mileage. I decided to do a bit of research and find out what I could about good tire care so that I could share this valuable information with my teens and yours. Here’s what I learned.
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When the time comes for you to own your own car, you’ll find that knowing a few things about tire care will not only keep you safe, but save you money as well.
One of the first things you should know is that it’s a good idea to check your tires once a month. Checking involves two parts of your tires: the tread and the pressure.
The tread of your tire helps give you traction, especially on wet surfaces. In order for your car to be safe (and legal) on the road, the tread on your tires needs to be greater than 1/16 of an inch. Now, you don’t have to go hunting for a ruler to check your tire tread. There’s an easier way that uses a penny instead. Here’s what you do:
- Insert a penny upside down into the wide cracks between the treads. Lincoln should be standing on his head when you do this properly.
- If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head above the tread, you need to change your tires.
- If the tread covers the top of Lincoln’s head and more, you are probably alright.
Properly inflated tires improve gas mileage and help prevent blowouts. It would be nice if tires always maintained their proper air pressure, but they don’t. All tires naturally lose a little air through a process called permeation. Also, changes in the temperature outside can have an effect on air pressure. Here are some tips on how to check the air pressure in your tires using a tire gauge as well as instructions on how to add or remove air.
- Try to check the pressure when the tires are cold. “Cold” means that the vehicle hasn’t been driven in at least 3 hours. Driving makes the tires heat up and expand which will give you an inaccurate reading. Of course, sometimes you have no choice but to check them when they are hot, like when you are putting air in them at the gas station. Just try to do a cold check first if you can.
- Find the proper tire pressure for your vehicle. This information is usually found on a sticker that is located on the door jamb (the door frame) on the driver’s side. It’s also in the driver’s manual for the vehicle. There should be a number followed by the letters “psi” which stand for “pounds per square inch.”
- Unscrew the cap on the valve of the tire. Put the cap in a safe place while you check the air pressure! Looking for one of those caps on a driveway is not a fun experience.
- Press the end of the tire gauge onto the end of the valve. Make sure it is on securely and there is no hissing sound. The hissing means that air is leaking through the valve so you won’t get an accurate reading. Adjust the angle of the tip until it fits tightly.
- Remove the tire gauge after a second or two and read it. If the number is below the recommended psi number, you’ll need to add air to the tire. Here’s how to do that:
- Most gas stations will have a free air pump. Park your car next to the pump.
- Remove the valve from the tire and press the end of the air pump over the tip of the valve just like you did with the tire gauge. If you hear a loud hissing sound, that means the connection isn’t secure and air is being let out of the tire. Adjust the angle until you get a tight fit.
- Remove the end of the air pump from the valve after a few seconds and check the pressure again with the gauge. It doesn’t take long to fill a tire with air.
- Continue until you get the tire to the proper air pressure level.
If the reading on the tire gauge is above the recommended psi, you’ll need to let air out. Here’s how:
- Locate the pin in the valve of the tire.
- Use a tool such as a small screwdriver or the end of the tire gauge to press the pin in until you hear a hissing sound.
- Release the pin after a second or two and check the air pressure again.
Another important aspect of tire care is alignment. Alignment refers to the aligning of all four wheels with each other so that they make good contact with the road. Alignment can only be checked at a garage. It’s a good idea to have that done if you get into an accident or if you notice that your car pulls to one side of the road as you’re driving.
Lastly, it’s a good idea to get your tires balanced and rotated at a garage according to the vehicle manufacturer’s specifications. This information should be in the owner’s manual. Balancing and rotating prolong the lifetime of the tires. Without these two maintenance steps, your tires will very likely wear unevenly.