June 3, 2010— -- As reported today on "Good Morning America," checking your tires is important for the safety of you and your family. But 64 percent of drivers do not know how to check their tires' tread depth, according to a tire trade association, and 85 percent do not know how to check their tire pressure.
Indeed, 11 percent of vehicles have at least one bald tire and 49 percent have at least one underinflated tire, according to the Rubber Manufacturer's Association. When "Good Morning America" tested 100 cars in a Virginia parking lot, our own results were much the same. Eleven percent of the cars failed our tread depth test and 45 percent failed our tire pressure test.
Under-inflation and tire tread may not seem like a big deal but as Dave Craig of Cooper Tire explained, your tires are "really the only piece of the vehicle that touches the road , and keeps them on the road. … Maintenance level and time put into that is very important."
Here are some tips to help get you started on checking your tires.
Tire Inflation Tips:
Ideally your tires should be at the precise pressure in your owner's manual. Find the ideal pressure in your owner's manual, glove box or on the door jam of the car. Contrary to popular belief, the pressure listed on the tire itself is not the optimum pressure. It's the maximum allowed pressure.
Tire Inflation Tips
If you notice that one of your tires has much lower pressure than the others you may have a significant leak caused by a nail or other puncture in the tire so be sure to bring it to your mechanic for a thorough check.
Tire Tread Tips:
Safety Tips for Tires
Nicks in the sidewalls of your tires are a hazard, too, because they subtly degrade the strength of this vital part that carries your heavy vehicle. And even missing air caps are not ideal, because they will very slowly let air out and dirt in. Proper tire maintenance can be achieved with a few simple tools. You will need a penny or a quarter as well as a tire pressure gauge, which can be purchased at any vehicle service center, tire retailer or the automotive section of your local warehouse store.
Finally, it's a good idea to scrutinize the tires of any used car you are looking to buy.
"Tires are one of the windows into the car's past," said Chris Basso of Carfax, the vehicle history report company.
For example, if a used car has low mileage but the tires are not the original tires, it's possible the mileage is inaccurate because the odometer has been rolled back.
"The tires are a great way to tell if the seller's being up front and honest," Basso said.
Additionally, many Carfax reports contain service information that reveals whether the car's tires have been properly maintained.