It's the middle of summer, which means you're driving on hot roads in hot vehicles. While you're likely safely behind the wheel with the air conditioner on, your tires are thumping away on scalding pavement.
This is why the spring to the fall is considered tire-blowout season. The temperatures are changing, the roads are hotter and you're taking long summer road trips with more passengers and cargo. The bottom line is that your tires take a beating during the summer, and now is the perfect time to make sure they are in safe, great condition.
But how to tell? Here are five warning signs that you may be in need of a tire replacement, repair or maintenance:
1. The tire warning light
If you have a newer vehicle - typically later than a 2008 model - you have a low tire pressure warning light system. This is a little indicator that pops up on your dash and looks like a "U" with an exclamation point in the middle. All this means is that tire pressure in at least one of your tires is too low based on the manufacturer's recommendation. You have two options here - add some air to your tires yourself, or bring it in to a mechanic to figure out which tire was low and why. Sometimes, low pressure is indicative of a larger problem.
2. Low tire tread
Tire tread - the stubbly bumps and grooves over the outside of the tire - is an incredibly important feature. It ensures your vehicle has traction, and poor traction will mean you are slipping and sliding over the road and get worse gas mileage. Low tire tread is a clear warning sign. It could be extreme wear all around, or just on the outside or center of the tire. It can also be a sign of other problems, like over or underinflation, misalignment or damaged tires. Ask your local car repair shop for the diagnosis when you notice this problem.
3. Cracked tires
In some cases, the sides of your tires can also be damaged. This will often look like little cracks or holes in the tire itself. Cracked tires could be a sign of a future blowout, so it is definitely something you need to get checked soon. It may also be a sign that your tire is steadily leaking. Cracked tires can also be the result of direct damage to the tire, such as hitting a pothole or curb.
4. Wear on one side
Tread wear on the center strip of the tire is a sign of overinflation, while wear on the edges is representative of underinflation. However, wear down just one side is indicative of something else. It could mean that your tires are nonaligned, with one edge hitting the road more of the time. It might also be a sign that you have damaged springs, ball joints or other related parts. The best course of action is to talk to your mechanic. Likely, you'll need to have tires replaced, an alignment performed and adhere to a more frequent tire rotation schedule.
"Ask your mechanic about any tire trouble."
5. Tire vibration
All cars vibrate, especially on rough roads. Even so, you probably know when something just feels "off." If your tire has a serious vibration, it is a warning sign that you have a bigger issue at play. It could be an alignment problem again, or even a damaged suspension. If you notice too much vibration, bring your vehicle to your mechanic as soon as possible.
Your tires are some of the most important safety features on your vehicle. Even so, many drivers overlook the importance of high-quality, well-maintained tires. So, if you see any of these warning signs, talk to your mechanic right away.