Fri July 22 05:50 pm 2011 in category Company news

Improve driving safety and fuel efficiency – inspect tires before summer travel

Warmer weather and school recess means that many people are busy planning car trips for a much-needed summer vacation. But before hitting the road, it’s important to check the vehicle’s tire pressure and tread. While properly maintained tires increase a car’s safety and fuel efficiency, many people don’t know to take just a few minutes out of vacation prep to check the condition of their tires.

“Half of all cars on the road are driving with the wrong tire pressure,” explains Colchester-based tire manufacturer Nokian Tyres, a company whose summer tires consistently receive high ratings in international safety testing. “Tire pressure that is too low or too high can have serious consequences. Warm summer temperatures, heavy luggage, and high speed put improperly inflated tires under additional stress.”

If the tire pressure of one of the car’s front wheels is too low, it can take the vehicle 10% longer to stop on wet roads. Driving becomes dangerous around curves as well. If all tires are under-inflated, the lateral grip of the tires is reduced to nearly half (55%). This can cause the driver to lose control of the car and start skidding off the road. The risk is even greater with heavy loads. Over-inflation can also impact safety because the tire’s contact area with the road is smaller, its grip becomes compromised, and wear is confined to the middle of the tire only.

In addition to safety concerns, under-inflated tires can increase fuel consumption. Tires with low pressure put more surface area in contact with the road, which increases friction or rolling resistance – that is, more energy is needed to get the tires to move.

“Reducing rolling resistance by 40% can reduce fuel consumption by 6%,” says Nokian Tires Development Manager Juha Pirhonen. “And lower fuel consumption also means lower CO2 emissions.”

Tire inflation also impacts tire wear. If tires have too little air pressure, more of the tire’s surface is subjected to wear. Under-inflated tires can even tear because tire walls are able to flex more as the car bounces over potholes.

Safety also depends on the condition of the tire tread. Worn-out and balding tires increase the risk of hydroplaning over puddles or flooded roads, since tire treads are no longer deep enough to firmly grip the road’s surface. Treads should be at least 5/32" deep in order to maintain control of the car on wet roads, especially if the driver has to brake or swerve suddenly. It’s important to note the evenness of tread wear, too; uneven wear can indicate defective shock absorbers, which should be replaced right away.

Nokian Tyres offers these helpful tips for making sure tires are road trip ready:
  • Locate the correct tire pressure, which can usually be found on the fuel flap or in the car’s instruction manual. If the vehicle is carrying a particularly heavy load, a slightly higher pressure may be necessary.
  • Check tire pressure after the car has been parked for several hours, when tires are cool.
  • Whenever possible, check tire pressure outside where temperatures are closer to actual driving conditions (versus a cool garage).
  • Since most households don’t have a tire tread depth gauge, simply place a penny into several tread grooves across the tire. If the top of the Lincoln Memorial is always covered by the tread, you have more than 6/32" of tread depth remaining.
  • To prolong the life of tire treads, tires should be rotated every 3,000 to 6,000 miles.
  • Other damage including cracks, cuts, or bulges can lead to blowouts; it’s important to check for these as well.
  • It’s a good idea to inspect tire pressure and wear several days before a trip, so there’s plenty of time to adjust tire pressure or replace tires as needed.

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Further information about Nokian summer tires:

About Nokian Tyres, Inc.

Nokian Tyres, Inc. is the North American subsidiary of Nokian Tyres P.L.C. Located in Colchester, Vermont, the company employs 170 people and services over 1500 retailers in North America selling Nokian products. The company also owns and operates 10 Vianor retail tire and service centers through the Northeastern United States. Further information about Nokian’s North American operations is available at its North American specific website: www.nokiantires.com