By Julie Stewart
WAVE 3 Troubleshooter
With all the rain and snow we've been hit with lately, checking your tires is an easy way to keep your family safe when you're driving. Here's help on just how to do it from Consumer Reports.
Joan Satler knows how scary it is when your tires fail. It happened to her as she drove her son along a busy highway. "The car shook and I had trouble getting over to the side and I was really scared," she said.
Consumer Reports' auto test director, David Champion, says some serious problems can be avoided just by keeping your tires maintained. First, check your tire pressure at least once a month. Then, make a point of checking the tread wear on your tires.
"When they get down to a certain level this tread wear indicator bar will show through. The depth here is a 16th of an inch. That's when the tire is legally worn out and needs to be replaced," Champion said.
You can also use a penny as a way to check the tread. Insert a penny. If you can see the top of Lincoln's head, your tire's worn out.
Another sign of trouble is uneven tread wear. A tire that is underinflated is worn out on the sides, but still has some tread in the middle. A tire that is overinflated has tread on the sides, but is practically bald in the center. If you're checking your tires carefully, they should never get to this point.
You should also look for cracks, cuts or bulges in the sidewalls. "If there's a bulge in the tire that shows a weakness or damage to the tire. Difficult to see sometimes, but if you run your hands around you can usually feel it," said Champion
Finally, Consumer Reports says when you're driving, you can pick up other signs of potential trouble. "If you feel a vibration in the steering wheel as you're driving, it may be an indication you have a problem with your tires," Champion said.
If this happens to you, pull over as soon as possible. Check your tires to see if you need a tow or can drive to the nearest gas station.