(BPT) - Summer travel is off to a hot start, and with historically low gas prices and declining car rental rates across the country, Americans are opting for road travel to reach their summer destinations. Whether driving to a beach vacation, visiting family or exploring the back roads, drivers should consider the following tire safety checklist prior to departure to ensure safe, smooth and fun travel.
1. Tire pressure
Tire inflation has a direct impact on driver safety and performance, so it should be effectively maintained to ensure optimized driving, tire life and mileage. Tire pressure can decrease by one psi a month, and because inflation can also fluctuate with the outside temperature, it's imperative to check tire pressure before every summer road trip. Over-inflated tires can result in excessive tread wear and can make the tires more vulnerable to road hazards such as potholes and road debris. Underinflated tires often result in decreased performance, lower fuel economy and shortened tire life. The optimum air pressure level for tires can be found on the inner side of the car door, inside the fuel cap or in the car manual. Before using an air pressure gauge to check the pressure levels, the vehicle should be inactive for at least three hours.
2. Tire tread
Vehicle traction is top of mind this summer, as 42 percent of Americans think about their tires' tread when driving through rain, up or down hills and through hairpin turns, according to the latest Hankook Tire Gauge Index. Ideal traction starts with healthy tread wear, as the deeper the groove (or tread), the better the tire grips to the road. To determine if a tire's tread is too worn, simply take a penny and insert it heads-down into the tread of the tire. If Lincoln's head is visible, it's time for a new tire.
3. Wear and tear
While checking the tread, be sure to also inspect for bumps, bruises or other visible damage to the tires that could impact driving performance and tire pressure levels. A bulge or bubble on a tire's sidewall is not easy to spot, but can indicate an air leak or tire defect, which can have a significant impact on performance and safety. If there is a defect, be sure to swap tires that match the driver's vehicle, driving style and geographic location. Drivers who live in areas with varied weather should consider an all-season tire such as the Hankook Ventus S1 noble2. For drivers exposed to consistent warm weather conditions that can reach high-heat levels, a summer tire such as the Hankook Ventus S1 evo2 might be the best fit.
4. Tire alignment
Before embarking on a long trip, it's smart to check the vehicle's wheel alignment. Hankook recommends drivers check their wheel alignment during annual inspections or for every 12,000 miles driven. If wheel alignment is off, the tire life is shortened and mileage performance decreases. When properly maintained, wheel alignment helps prevent vibration, skidding, road noise and abnormal tread wear.
5. Spare tire
Drivers who end up on the side of the road with a flat tire will be thankful they checked their spare before leaving the driveway. Don't take having a spare for granted. Thirteen percent of Americans either do not have a spare tire or are unsure if they have one, which can cause serious delays if faced with a flat. Check both the presence of the spare tire as well as its condition prior to departure. Since 60 percent of Americans are not comfortable changing a tire, it's important to have a plan of who to call if pulled over on the side of the road. While 40 percent of drivers acknowledge their first call would be to AAA or an insurance company, it's recommended to first notify local authorities who can help direct traffic and secure the area.
Take the travel stress out of vacation this summer by following these five tire safety tips.