The most important safety feature on your vehicle is your tires. Only when they lose their grip do your anti-lock brakes, stability control and airbags start doing their job to protect you.
Having too little air in your tires increases their rolling resistance, so you waste fuel. Too much air, and the tires wear unevenly and ride harshly. For best performance, check your tire pressure once a month.
You can buy a gauge in the auto section of major stores. Inexpensive ones are fine, and it doesn’t matter if you get the “stick” type, or one with a dial. To find the recommended pressure, check the owner’s manual or the placard inside the door jamb. Check when the car’s been sitting for a few hours, or driven no more than two kilometres. Unscrew the little cap on the valve, and then press the gauge firmly onto the stem. It takes a bit of practice, and you’ll probably let out some of the air before you get the hang of it. Then read the number on the gauge.
If it’s too low, add some air, pressing the air hose onto the valve the same way as when you checked it. If it’s too high, press on the little pin inside the tire valve with the tip of the gauge to release air. Screw the cap back on and check the others, including the spare.
Even if your car has a tire pressure monitoring system, you should still check. The warning lights only come on when the tire is down by 25 per cent; you could still be wasting fuel even though your car hasn’t warned you.
Worn tread is dangerous: the tire loses its grip, especially on slippery roads. Look for “wear bars,” which are little rubber bars that run across the tread.
On a new tire, they’re deep inside and can be hard to find, but if they’re visible close to the top of the tread, the tire needs replacement. You can also use a penny to check. Tuck it into the tread with the top of the Queen’s head facing down. If you can see any part of her head above her eyes, your tires are worn enough to compromise handling. If you can see her crown, they’re unsafe.