When you think about it, four pieces of rubber are all that separate your car from the road. Yet, according to recent survey data, alarmingly few Americans have a clue when it comes to maintaining their tires or are equipped to deal with an emergency tire situation. Car Coach Lauren Fix offers some tips on how to properly care for your tires. According to a Michelin survey carried out for National Tire Safety Week: • Only 12% of Americas have had formal "tire education." The majority (71%) learned tire maintenance from family and friends, or a mechanic or car dealer. Surprisingly, 17% of people surveyed said they never learned how to maintain and care for their tires. • When quizzed on how to check tire pressure, more than one-third (36%) of respondents said they check their tire pressure by simply looking to see if their tires are flat, while 6% said they "kick them to see if they're soft." Proper inflation is essential for the performance and longevity of a tire. Under-inflated tires will make your tire wear unevenly and negatively impact performance. In addition, keeping your tire pressure at the recommended level can boost fuel efficiency by one mile per gallon. The Department of Transportation estimates that 5 million gallons of fuel per day are wasted due to low tire pressure. • Be sure to properly check all four tires once a month and before a long trip -- you can't tell if a tire is underinflated just by looking at it. If it actually looks underinflated, it is severely underinflated. • Do not inflate tires to the maximum pressure molded onto the tire's sidewall. The optimum tire pressure required for your car can be found on a sticker in the door jamb, on the inside of the glove compartment door or in the owner's manual. • Check the pressure when the tires are cold -- first thing in the morning is best. • Purchase your own tire gauge (a digital pressure gauge is recommended). Rotate Tires Regularly
Regular rotation helps extend the life of your tires, saving time and money in the long run. Tires should be rotated every 6,000 to 8,000 miles. If you have a full-size spare, it should be included in the rotation process. Rotations can be done at your local mechanic shop. Keep Proper Vehicle Alignment
Alignment generally refers to the adjustment of a vehicle's front and rear suspension parts. Proper alignment helps ensure that your vehicle handles correctly and will help increase the life and performance of your tires. Check Tire Tread Depth
In New York, the minimum legal tread depth is 2/32 of an inch. Place a penny with the top of Abraham Lincoln 's head facing down into your tires' shallowest groove. If you can see the top of Abraham Lincoln 's hairdo, it's time to replace your tires. Tires account for nearly 20 percent of the energy consumed to move a car forward, so finding a quality name brand tire that combines fuel efficiency with safety and longevity is important. Remember, your tires are the only part of your car in contact with the road.