We worry so much about car accidents caused by other drivers, bad weather, or speeding that it’s easy to overlook another important cause: your car’s tires. Sadly, many people die or are injured every year in car accidents that were caused by problems with tires. Some simple, regular inspections and preventative care can help avoid such accidents.
What can you do to prevent a tire-related car accident? First, you want to watch out for three critical problems:
- Low tire pressure. You might be one of those drivers who sees the low tire pressure light go on and ignores it. You’ll get to it later, right? Or, if you don’t have a low tire pressure light, you might rarely, if ever, check your tire pressure. Don’t neglect this simple maintenance. Always make sure your tires are at the right pressure. Low tire pressure increases your chance of a tire blowout and makes it harder for you to brake or turn sharply.
- Old tires. Over time, tires wear thin and start to “bald.” Balding means the grooves in your tire disappear and make it harder to brake and grip the road. If tires get too worn and bald, they also become more prone to a sharp object or jagged edge of a pothole poking through and causing a tire blowout. Get new tires long before they grow worn and bald. If you’re in doubt about how often to change your tires, check your car owner’s manual.
- Slow leak. A slow leak happens when an object punctures your tire but not enough to cause an immediate flat tire and blowout. That means your tire will slowly but surely become very low on a regular basis — sometimes dangerously low. Driving on a slow leak (especially over a long distance) increases your risk of a tire blowout and accident. Watch out for a tire that seems to go abnormally low too often. Usually, you or your car service shop will find that an object like a nail has penetrated and stuck in your tire. An inexpensive patch makes this an easy fix.
To further prevent car accidents related to tires, you can also take some additional proactive steps.
- Rotate your tires. To increase the safety of your tires, you need to rotate them. Otherwise, the front tires can get worn too quickly and — before you know it — go bald and cause an accident. By rotating tires about every 7,000 miles (or every six months), you even out the wear and tear of your tires. This increases your tire life and the safety of your vehicle.
- Replace your tires. While you’ll hear a lot of different opinions about when to replace your tires, it’s best to start keeping a close eye on them after five years. Take an especially close look at the tread depth. If your tire’s tread depth goes below 2/32 of an inch, then you seriously need to consider replacing it. Also, if you’ve had your tires for 10 years or more, immediately replace them as a precaution. Even if your car doesn’t have a lot of mileage, tires still age and go bad when they sit out year-round in all kinds of weather and temperatures.
Keep in mind that while you might be careful about your tires, other drivers are not. Make sure in any police report or investigation that you find out if a driver’s tires were to blame from their own negligence or a manufacturer’s unsafe tires (that perhaps should have been recalled). An attorney can help make sure a proper investigation takes tires into account.