Summer Road Trips: Are your tires safe?

road trip

Summer is here and it is time to plan the family vacation.  When we learn to drive a car, we learn basic vehicle safety.  We are told to check the oil, kick the tires and make sure our fluid levels are steady.  But what about what we cannot easily see?  A vehicle’s tires have been considered to be at the top of the list for safety features in a vehicle.  They help the vehicle maintain steering, stability, traction and, yes, even braking systems.  However, tires can and do fail.  Whether it is from a nail you picked up somewhere along your travels or from abrupt tire failure, this can cause a driver to lose control of the vehicle with devastating consequences, especially at high speeds or on the interstate.  Tire defects can include inadequate tire design, poor manufacturing standards, insufficient tire bonding, use of old adhesives, improper cooking temperatures or even contamination during production, caused by moisture, sawdust, grease or rust.  When a tire fails, you may experience anything from tread separation to a tire blowout.  Tread separation occurs when a tire’s belts rip apart from each other.  A blowout can be caused by a puncture or cut to the sidewall of a tire or by a defective rim that cuts into the sidewall or causes the bead to break, ultimately slipping the tire off the rim.  Low air pressure can also cause a blowout.

There are warning signs, however.  If your vehicle experiences unusual shaking when you are driving, an unusual thumping or vibration, sudden pulling of the vehicle to one side (often referred to as “radial pulling”), or you notice uneven or excessive tread wear; you should have your tires checked.  You should adhere to your vehicle’s maintenance schedule for rotating, aligning and balancing your tires and between maintenance check to ensure your tires are properly inflated and not losing air pressure.  A common way to check your tire treat is by placing a penny between the tread grooves in the tire with Abraham Lincoln’s image facing upside down and forward.  If Lincoln’s hair is partially visible, it is time to replace your tires.  If his entire head is visible, you have lost most of your traction and should have your tires replaced immediately.

Unfortunately, a recent report by ABC News revealed that many recalled tires remain on the road today due to a badly flawed governmental recall system.  When you replace a tire, take note of the tire’s Department of Transportation (DOT) Tire Identification Number (TIN), imprinted on the sidewall of the tire.  The first 7 or 8 digits disclose information regarding the tire size and the manufacturer; while the last four digits reveal the week and year it was made.  You can also search for tire recalls on  The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration also provides an avenue to sign up for updates on tire recalls on their website or by following the agency on Twitter or Facebook.

Driving on safe tires means you can keep yourself and your entire family safe while in your vehicle.  With a few minor precautions, you can make that summer family road trip safer and more enjoyable.