(BPT) – It’s a tough job driving to work – just ask the millions of Americans who commute every day. The average commute takes 25.5 minutes one way, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. However, 10.8 million people drive an hour or more to work each way. Some have it worse: approximately 1.7 million Americans commute 90 minutes or more each way.
The key to driving to work is getting there on time and that means having a trustworthy vehicle that’s in tip-top shape. “Tires are often overlooked but they should be a priority,” says Bob Abram, product planning manager for Yokohama Tire Corporation, maker of a variety of truck and car tires. “They have an enormous effect on braking, steering, comfort, handling and fuel efficiency because tires are the only parts of a car or truck that actually touch the road.”
Commuters would be surprised at how today’s high-tech tires can help drive down the costs of driving, says Abram. “There are so many new, innovative technologies, such as the use of orange oil in our tires, which saves drivers money either by having tires that last longer or tires with increased fuel efficiency. We now incorporate orange oil in everything from light truck/SUV tires – like the GEOLANDAR H/T G056 – to the ADVAN Sport V105 for luxury and high-performance vehicles.”
However, no matter how much technology tires pack these days, nothing can take the place of proper maintenance in getting the most out of them. No matter what your daily commute is, the more driving you do, the more you should check your tires regularly, especially the air pressure. “By keeping the right tire pressure, you can begin cutting down on your annual fuel costs, which will pay dividends,” he says. “Tires that are under-inflated by 8 pounds per square inch can reduce vehicle fuel economy by as much as 2 percent. For the best gas-saving results, take five minutes each month and check your tire pressure.”
Abram recommends checking tires when they are cold (at least four hours after the vehicle has been driven). Check tire pressure with a reliable tire gauge and make sure the valve stems have a plastic or metal cap to keep out dirt, water and foreign objects. You can find the tires’ proper inflation level (as recommended by the car maker) on a placard in the glove box, on the car door or in the owner’s manual.
* Tires that are balanced correctly will provide a smoother ride and help prevent improper wear. You can get your tires balanced at the same time as your regularly-scheduled rotation.
* Rotating your tires will also prevent uneven wear and promote a better ride. Because the weight distribution on your car or truck can vary, it’s best to rotate your tires a few times a year, such as every time you get your oil changed.
* Check tire alignment once a year. Misaligned tires create unnecessary tire wear and higher fuel consumption.
* Tires must be replaced when the tread is worn down to 2/32 of an inch (the lowest legal limit) to prevent skidding and hydroplaning. Best to replace before 2/32 depending on your drive (geographically and type of streets). Winter traction and wet traction start getting compromised well before 2/32. For example, rural streets that aren’t regularly plowed would be different than city streets that are regularly plowed.
* Checking tread depth: place a penny upside down into a tread groove. If part of Lincoln’s head is covered by the tread, you’re driving with the proper amount of tread. If you can see all of his head, you should buy a new tire.