Keeping Your Tires Safe

Your tires are built to keep your car on the road in many types of conditions. When your tires wear down, you lose traction and risk an accident or injury. Learn how to look for tire problems and stay safe on the road. Here are how your tires protect you and the signs to look for that it's time to replace them.

Tire Designs Keep a Grip on the Road

Tires are made of layers of rubber, fiberglass, and metal. This construction allows the tire to retain its shape while flexing to keep a grip on the road around corners and on uneven surfaces. Each tire tread uses four elements to keep you safe.

  • Lugs—This is the part of the tire that touches the road surface. It's also the part that wears down until the tire becomes dangerous to drive on. Lugs are effective because of the other elements around it on the tire.
  • Voids—This is the space between the lugs. The lugs flex into these spaces to grip the road.
  • Grooves—These are channels that run across the lugs to push water out of the way of the tire. Without these grooves, your tire might ride on top of the water on a road, causing you to slide (hydroplaning).
  • Sipes—If you live in a particularly wet climate, you can request the tire services company make these additional slits in the tire for better traction on wet or icy roads.

Checking Tires for Wear

There are three ways to check how worn down your tires are. Make it a habit to regularly inspect your tires for wear.

  • Tire wear bars—A small strip of rubber extends across the tire at a level that indicates the minimum safe level for your lugs. Compare the wear bar with the lug closest to it. If the lug is at or below the height of the wear bar, it's time for new tires.
  • Copper penny test—Place a penny into one of the grooves with Lincoln's heading pointing down into the tire. If you can see the top of Lincoln's head, the lug has worn below safe limits.
  • Tread gauge—Most tire services centers offer free tire inspection. Take your car to one of these facilities and they will use a gauge to determine how much life is left in your tire.

Abnormal Tire Wear

While inspecting your tires, look for signs that they are wearing unevenly. Here are two typical tire problems you may spot.

  • The middle of the tire is more worn than the outer edge—This indicates that the tire is overinflated, causing it to ride up on the center of the tire. Check the air pressure with a tire gauge and let out air until it is inflated to the correct level indicated on the side of the tire.
  • The outer edge is more worn than the middle—This is due to an underinflated tire, which causes the tire to flatten out on the road. Add air to the tire until it is inflated properly.

To set up an appointment with an automotive service to have your tires inspected or replaced, contact a representative through a website like