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Take a few minutes to celebrate Tire Safety Week

Consumer Reports News: June 07, 2012 11:08 AM

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In case you don't happen to have a copy of the Rubber Manufacturers Association 2012 calendar handy, we're right smack dab in the middle of Tire Safety Week. While the tire industry association's designation of June 3-9 for this annual holiday may not inspire much fanfare, it's as a good reminder as any that a few minutes spent once a month on tire care is a proven money saver and way to keep the whole family safer on the roadways.

Underinflated tires can adversely effect handling, increase wear, and lead to failure and a crash. The risk is heightened in the summer months when heat build-up from increased sidewall flexing of underinflated tires is greater than during cooler months. And our testing has shown that underinflated tires can cost you one mpg or more in normal driving.

A recent National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) study found that cars with tires underinflated by 25 percent or more were three times more likely to be involved in a tire-related crash than those with properly inflated tires. (See our tire-pressure gauge buying advice and Ratings.)

And while you're performing a celebratory pressure check in honor of Tire Safety Week, take a moment to inspect your tires for wear before loading up the family for a summer vacation road trip. Check the evenness of the wear across the width of the tread.-A tire worn to the wear-bar in any one groove is a worn-out tire. Improperly inflated tires and wheel misalignment can cause uneven wear, so have it checked out by a mechanic.

While you're at it, check to make sure your tires have enough tread to resist hydroplaning in heavy rain and sliding on slick, wet roads. To make sure they're up for the job, try the quarter test. (Learn more in our tire-buying advice.) This is a good tool to determine how much performance you have left. If you have just about a 1/8-inch tread depth in any one tire groove, then start shopping for new tires.

If you do need tires, we suggest buying four new ones at a time for the best balance of handling and dry and wet grip. Then rotate your tires routinely to promote even wear. If you need only two tires, be sure to have the new tires placed on the rear of the car for secure handling.

Be safe, and enjoy the rest of Tire Safety Week.

Jim Travers

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