Studies of tire safety show that maintaining proper tire pressure, observing tire and vehicle load limits (not carrying more weight in your vehicle than your tires or vehicle can safely handle), avoiding road hazards, and inspecting tires for cuts, slashes, and other irregularities are the most important things you can do to avoid tire failure, such as tread separation or blowout and flat tires. These actions, along with other care and maintenance activities, can also:
This booklet presents a comprehensive overview of tire safety, including information on the following topics:
Use this information to make tire safety a regular part of your vehicle maintenance routine. Recognize that the time you spend is minimal compared with the inconvenience and safety consequences of a flat tire or other tire failure.
Safety FirstBasic Tire Maintenance
Properly maintained tires improve the steering, stopping, traction, and load-carrying capability of your vehicle. Underinflated tires and overloaded vehicles are a major cause of tire failure. Therefore, as mentioned above, to avoid flat tires and other types of tire failure, you should maintain proper tire pressure, observe tire and vehicle load limits, avoid road hazards, and regularly inspect your tires.
Finding Your Vehicle's Recommended Tire Pressure and Load Limits
Tire information placards and vehicle certification labels contain information on tires and load limits. These labels indicate the vehicle manufacturer's information including:
Both placards and certification labels are permanently attached to the vehicle door edge, door post, glove-box door, or inside of the trunk lid. You can also find the recommended tire pressure and load limit for your vehicle in the vehicle owner's manual.
Understanding Tire Pressure and Load Limits
Tire inflation pressure is the level of air in the tire that provides it with load-carrying capacity and affects the overall performance of the vehicle. The tire inflation pressure is a number that indicates the amount of air pressure measured in pounds per square inch (psi)a tire requires to be properly inflated. (You will also find this number on the vehicle information placard expressed in kilopascals (kPa), which is the metric measure used internationally.)
Manufacturers of passenger vehicles and light trucks determine this number based on the vehicle's design load limit, that is, the greatest amount of weight a vehicle can safely carry and the vehicle's tire size.The proper tire pressure for your vehicle is referred to as the "recommended cold inflation pressure." (As you will read below, it is difficult to obtain the recommended tire pressure if your tires are not cold.)
Because tires are designed to be used on more than one type of vehicle, tire manufacturers list the "maximum permissible inflation pressure" on the tire sidewall. This number is the greatest amount of air pressure that should ever be put in the tire under normal driving conditions.
Checking Tire Pressure
It is important to check your vehicle's tire pressure at least once a month for the following reasons:
For convenience, purchase a tire pressure gauge to keep in your vehicle. Gauges can be purchased at tire dealerships, auto supply stores, and other retail outlets.
The recommended tire inflation pressure that vehicle manufacturers provide reflects the proper psi when a tire is cold. The term cold does not relate to the outside temperature. Rather, a cold tire is one that has not been driven on for at least three hours. When you drive, your tires get warmer, causing the air pressure within them to increase. Therefore, to get an accurate tire pressure reading, you must measure tire pressure when the tires are cold or compensate for the extra pressure in warm tires.
Steps for Maintaining Proper Tire Pressure
If you have been driving your vehicle and think that a tire is underinflated, fill it to the recommended cold inflation pressure indicated on your vehicle's tire information placard or certification label. While your tire may still be slightly underinflated due to the extra pounds of pressure in the warm tire, it is safer to drive with air pressure that is slightly lower than the vehicle manufacturer's recommended cold inflation pressure than to drive with a significantly underinflated tire. Since this is a temporary fix, don't forget to recheck and adjust the tire's pressure when you can obtain a cold reading.
To maintain tire safety, purchase new tires that are the same size as the vehicle's original tires or another size recommended by the manufacturer. Look at the tire information placard, the owner's manual, or the sidewall of the tire you are replacing to find this information. If you have any doubt about the correct size to choose, consult with the tire dealer.
The tire tread provides the gripping action and traction that prevent your vehicle from slipping or sliding, especially when the road is wet or icy. In general, tires are not safe and should be replaced when the tread is worn down to 1/16 of an inch. Tires have built-in treadwear indicators that let you know when it is time to replace your tires. These indicators are raised sections spaced intermittently in the bottom of the tread grooves. When they appear "even" with the outside of the tread, it is time to replace your tires. Another method for checking tread depth is to place a penny in the tread with Lincoln's head upside down and facing you. If you can see the top of Lincoln's head, you are ready for new tires.
Tire Balance and Wheel Alignment
To avoid vibration or shaking of the vehicle when a tire rotates, the tire must be properly balanced. This balance is achieved by positioning weights on the wheel to counterbalance heavy spots on the wheel-and-tire assembly. A wheel alignment adjusts the angles of the wheels so that they are positioned correctly relative to the vehicle's frame. This adjustment maximizes the life of your tires and prevents your car from veering to the right or left when driving on a straight, level road. These adjustments require special equipment and should be performed by a qualified technician.
Rotating tires from front to back and from side to side
can reduce irregular wear (for vehicles that have tires that are all the same
size). Look in your owner's manual for information on how frequently the
tires on your vehicle should be rotated and the best pattern for rotation.
A Tire Rotation Example
The proper repair of a punctured tire requires a plug for the hole and a patch for the area inside the tire that surrounds the puncture hole. Punctures through the tread can be repaired if they are not too large, but punctures to the sidewall should not be repaired. Tires must be removed from the rim to be properly inspected before being plugged and patched.
Uniform Tire Quality Grading System (UTQGS)
To help consumers compare a passenger car tire's treadwear rate, traction performance, and temperature resistance, the federal government requires tire manufacturers to grade tires in these three areas. This grading system, known as the Uniform Tire Quality Grading System, provides guidelines for making relative comparisons when purchasing new tires. You also can use this information to inquire about the quality of tires placed on new vehicles.
Although this rating system is very helpful when buying new tires, it is not a safety rating or guarantee of how well a tire will perform or how long it will last. Other factors such as personal driving style, type of car, quality of the roads, and tire maintenance habits have a significant influence on your tire's performance and longevity.
Treadwear grades are an indication of a tire's relative wear rate. The higher the treadwear number is, the longer it should take for the tread to wear down. For example, a tire grade of 400 should wear twice as long as a tire grade of 200.
Traction grades are an indication of a tire's ability to stop on wet pavement. A higher graded tire should allow you to stop your car on wet roads in a shorter distance than a tire with a lower grade. Traction is graded from highest to lowest as "AA", "A", "B", and "C".
Temperature grades are an indication of a tire's resistance to heat. Sustained high temperature (for example, driving long distances in hot weather), can cause a tire to deteriorate, leading to blowouts and tread separation. From highest to lowest, a tire's resistance to heat is graded as "A", "B", or "C".
Federal law requires tire manufacturers to place standardized information on the sidewall of all tires. This information identifies and describes the fundamental characteristics of the tire and also provides a tire identification number for safety standard certification and in case of a recall.
Information on Passenger Vehicle Tires
Please refer to the diagram below.
* For tires with a maximum speed capability over 149 mph, tire manufacturers sometimes use the letters ZR. For those with a maximum speed capability over 186 mph, tire manufacturers always use the letters ZR.
U.S. DOT Tire Identification Number
Tire Ply Composition and Materials Used
Maximum Load Rating
Maximum Permissible Inflation Pressure
Additional Information on Light Truck Tires
Please refer to diagram below.
Tires for light trucks have other markings besides those found on the sidewalls of passenger tires.
Max. Load Dual kg(lbs) at kPa(psi) Cold
Max. Load Single kg(lbs) at kPa(psi) Cold
Thanks to the NHTSA (National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration)
for this page and information.