Get your tires up to speed to handle spring weather

Published on Wed, Mar 19, 2014 by Quinn Welsch

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Say goodbye to winter tires and snow chains; spring begins Thursday, March 20. 

Unfortunately for Northwest drivers, that means we merely exchange one burden for another. Wet roads and warmer weather are all good reasons to make sure your tires are in tiptop shape. 

If you’re planning on swapping out winter tires for summer or all-weather tires, Joe King, owner of Border Tire in Blaine, recommends giving them a goaod check before wrenching them on. That means checking the air pressure and tread and rotating them. 

“To me it’s common knowledge, but it’s always stuff you want to keep your eye on,” King said. “The biggest thing is air 
pressure.”

Your tires might look like fine but warmer temperatures will result in higher tire pressure. King says to make sure your tires are filled to the approved pounds per square inch (PSI). (Check the vehicle’s owner’s manual or look near the driver’s door locking mechanism for the appropriate PSI for your vehicle.) “It’s something people seldom think of, but higher or lower air pressure leads to premature wear on the tire,” King said. Higher tire pressure also means less traction, and less traction means less control. 

Drivers also need to watch out for their tread, King said. “Once you get down to the shoulder of the tire, you’ve lost 80 percent of the tread,” he said. The tire’s shoulder is the farthest edge of the tread that connects to the tire’s side. 

Good tread is a must for icy conditions in the winter, but is no less important for the ever-rainy Washington weather. 

Reduced tread can result in hydroplaning on wet surfaces. Hydroplaning occurs when the tires lose contact with the road and ride on top of a thin cushion of water. On average there are 1,312,000 weather-related car crashes each year, according to the Federal Highway Administration. The vast majority of those crashes are due to wet pavement.

To check the tread on your tires, safecar.gov recommends placing a penny in between the tread with Lincoln’s head upside down and facing toward you. If you can see the top of his head, it’s time for some new tires. Otherwise, tread on.

If you’re exchanging winter tires for summer tires, make sure you put the tires with the best tread up front, King said. Front tires experience the greatest wear, he said.

To even out the wear on your tires, drivers should also rotate them. As a rule of thumb, King recommends rotating your tires after every oil change. 

Even if your tires are looking good, it never hurts to be aware of road hazards. One of those hazards are the potholes. Potholes are everywhere, and now that it’s spring, there are bound to be more of them. People tend to run right over them often without noticing, King said. Not only are potholes bad for the tires, they can also damage the car’s suspension and tire alignment.

Another potential danger is slick roads, and not just from rain, King said. “The first couple of real wet weeks we have draws the oil out,” he said. “The roads are slicker than they would normally be.” 

Preventing these hazards begins with safe and attentive driving. Next is making sure your tires are in good condition. King recommends drivers also double-check their windshield wipers, antifreeze, car battery and alternator. 

Concerned drivers can stop by Border Tire at 1100 Yew Street for a free tire rotation and inspection. The shop is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.