AAA warning: Why you need to be paying more attention to your tires


How often do you take the time to visually inspect your tires?

When we take into account the effect that weather conditions can have on the roads, there’s not a lot of room for complacency when it comes to knowing the condition of our tire treads. Nearly 800,000 crashes occur on wet roads each year, according to AAA.

Why you shouldn’t speed on worn tires in the rain

Driving on worn tires when it’s wet can increase the average stopping distance by 43% (87 more feet), according to new research from AAA.

“Tires are what keep a car connected to the road,” John Nielsen, AAA’s managing director of Automotive Engineering and Repair, said in a press release. “Even the most advanced safety systems rely on a tire’s basic ability to maintain traction, and AAA’s testing shows that wear has a significant impact on how quickly a vehicle can come to a stop in wet conditions to avoid a crash.”

Your department store mechanic may tell you that you should buy new tires every couple years, but often they’re just trying to get money out of you on a regular basis. AAA advises that if your tires are getting older, the main factor in replacing them should be based on the depth of a tire’s tread.

If the tread reaches 4/32″ it should be replaced, according to the group.

“Unfortunately, current industry guidelines and state laws and regulations frequently recommend that drivers wait until tread depth reaches 2/32″ to replace tires. Not only does this recommendation jeopardize a driver’s safety, it minimizes manufacturer warranty costs and is often paired with environmental concerns,” AAA said in the release.

AAA’s findings underscore why we need to know the condition of our tires before we set out on road trips, especially when inclement weather is in the forecast. There’s nothing worse than being caught in a thunderstorm 200 miles from home with bad wheels. With that in mind, here are three ways to stay safe behind the wheel, according to AAA:

3 ways to stay safe on the roads

  • Check your tires’ tread depth: If you don’t have a tread depth gauge, you can use the quarter test. Put a quarter in the tire tread grooves with George Washington’s head facing down. If you can see the top of Washington’s head, your tires are at 4/32 of an inch or less of remaining tread. According to AAA, it may be time for some new tires.
  • Replace tires proactively: Most tires today should last anywhere from 20,000 to 50,000 miles, if rotated on schedule. But it depends on several factors, including the type of tire, manufacturer guidelines and how you drive. That’s why visual inspection is so important.
  • Increase following distances significantly in wet conditions: To decrease the risk of hydroplaning, slow down and avoid hard breaking and making quick turns. “The depth of a tire’s tread plays a significant role: the lower the tread depth, the more likely a car will hydroplane,” AAA says.

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