(BPT) - When you get behind the wheel, some actions come automatically, without thinking, such as checking your fuel gauge, using your turn signal and snapping on your seat belt.
But even the most experienced drivers fail to follow this key habit that every driver should practice: They don’t check their tires.
If you miss the warning signs that your tires need air, repairs or replacement, you could end up with a tire blowout as your car zooms down the highway. This can lead to loss of control of the vehicle and, ultimately, an accident. According to a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 12 percent of crashes involving inexperienced drivers are caused by tire-related issues.
So as a new driver, you have an opportunity to start a new habit right away. Check your tires once a month, and schedule a reminder on your phone. It’s worthwhile to take a few moments to pay attention to your tires. Otherwise, if you don’t, your tires will one day force the issue.
If any of these tasks on this checklist are unfamiliar to you, have a trusted family member or friend show you how. Before long, these steps will be almost as effortless as checking the fuel gauge!
Inflation: Learn how to check tire pressure with the help of a simple, inexpensive tool that fits right in your glove box: a tire pressure gauge. First, look in your jamb of the driver's side door for the PSI number, which means pounds per square inch. This tells you how much air your tires need. Remove the cap from the valve stem of your tire and apply the pressure gauge to find out how much air is in your tires. If you need to top them off, find a nearby service station, hopefully one that offers free air!
Wear: Get down and examine each tire, front, back and sides, and use the penny test to check for excessive wear. You accomplish this by placing the coin in the tread with Lincoln’s head pointing downward. If you can see the top of his head, your treads are too worn down to adequately grip the road and it is time for replacement.
Debris: Check your treads for any debris, such as rocks or nails. If you think one of your tires is punctured, yet you don’t hear any hissing, place some liquid soap on the suspected area. If a bubble arises, that's a sign of a puncture and it should brought in.
Bulges: If you see a "bubble" or a bulge in the sidewalls, that is a sign of distress and your tire in danger of failing. Bring it in as soon a possible. This is usually caused by striking a curb or a pothole or some other debris on the road. If you should accidentally hit something, it's a good idea to pull over to a safe place and examine the tires for signs of damage. If you don't see anything, be sure you check again the next time before you get behind the wheel.
Rotation: Front tires will wear more quickly than the rear, thanks to the heavy weight of the engine. That’s why it’s recommended that you rotate your tires every 6,000 to 8,000 miles. Luckily, this can be done very easily during an oil change. All you have to do is ask.
Equipment: Is your spare tire in the trunk of your car, along with all the other necessary tools? Don't forget to check the tire pressure of your spare, as well. If you are in a situation where you can't change your own tire, know who you would call, and whether you have the resources to cover the costs. Now that winter is coming, it's a good idea to be prepared with other supplies to keep you safe in case you are stopped, such as a winter kit and a snow shovel.
Your tires are the only things between your car and the road. But investing a few minutes into this monthly safety check is an important step in reducing your risk in getting into a crash. To learn more about being safe on the road, check out Michelin's Beyond the Driving Test at www.beyondthedrivingtest.com.