4 Hot Weather Car Tire Maintenance Tips

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If you’re located in a part of the United States experiencing a heat wave, then you may need to give some extra consideration to your car tires. As you are probably aware, extreme weather patterns of any kind can affect tire performance, but it can be difficult to think about that when you’re only thought is, “Must. Have. A/C. Now.”

Still, it pays to slow down for a bit and reassess the safety of your automobile. Any time that temperatures climb north of 90 or 100 degrees, you need to be on alert.

That’s why we turned to our friends at Allstate for some helpful tire maintenance tips. Here’s what you should be doing if you’re in the Hot Zone.


1. Tire Pressure Checks

Low tire pressure can lead to flat tires and alignment problems. As Allstate points out, “Underinflation can lead to overheating, which can cause structural tire failure.” Highway road trips — summer vacations, for instance — will generate a ton of heat inside the tires. Allstate recommends “checking pressure in the morning while internal tire temperature is still cool.” The reason for this is that “gas expands when it’s hot” and as the day grows hotter, “the air inside the tires expands, affecting the tire-pressure read.”

Optimal tire pressure numbers are in most vehicles listed as pounds per square inch (PSI) on the driver’s side inside the doorjamb. A digital gauge will give you the best read.


2. Temperature Adjustments

In comments to the Allstate website, Nick Palermo, automotive writer for AutoTrader.com and president of the Greater Atlanta Automotive Media Association, advised that checking your tires later in the day comes with 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 said. As an example, Palermo shared this: 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 … “If you’ve been going 70 mph for 3 hours [and then check the pressure] you can set it at 6 PSI above recommended.”


3. Visual Inspection

Rotating your tires every 5,000 miles (or however often your vehicle owner’s manual advises) will result in better wear on your tires. Still, give the tread there some serious examination because a bald or balding tire can pose risks when it comes to braking or when running in to a thunderstorm — a given on long road trips.

Also, Allstate adds, look for bulging and/or tiny cracks in the sidewall — indicators that it’s time to replace tires.

The Bald Test: Examine the small bars between treads. When tread wears down to those bars, “you’ve used up all of the life of that tire,” and “it’s time to get a new one,” adds Palermo. “Sometimes that can happen to one side of a tire and not the other.”


4. Tire Tosses

Old tires are at an increased risk of a blowout. Before you even think about taking on a long trip, consider tossing them out and replacing them with new ones. “Drivers who don’t drive often may have old tires that still have good tread,” Palermo explains. “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.”

By checking the DOT number on the side of the tire, you’ll be able to know whether it’s time to toss.

“There’s a series of numbers that starts with ‘DOT,’” says Palermo. “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.”

Ten years is thought to be the maximum life span of a tire, but if you’re uncertain, talk to an expert. (Preferably someone who isn’t in the tire selling business.)


In Summary

Hot weather can be as grueling on tires as cold. Before you assume you’re taken care of, heed the advice of Allstate auto insurance and Palermo. Check pressure and tread routinely, and don’t forget the age factor.

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