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Check your car tires lately? Experts say don't ignore them

March 5, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
Mechanic Alex Rodriguez sees firsthand just how dangerous it is for drivers to ignore their tires.

"Some people have blowouts or tire failures," Rodriguez said. "If you keep the correct air pressure in your tires, all these things could be avoided."

Consumer Reports' Jon Linkov says checking car tires at least once a month is one of the best safety moves a car owner can make.

"Underinflated tires contribute to thousands of crash-related injuries each year," Linkov said. "Not only can they lead to blow-outs, they can also negatively affect your car's handling."

At Consumer Reports' test track, a car with underinflated tires had a lot of trouble on the emergency-handling course. But with the tires properly inflated, the tester had no problem maneuvering through the same course.

Additionally, underinflated tires also waste fuel and they wear out a lot faster.

To make it easier for motorists to check their tires' pressure, Consumer Reports tested 14 gauges. They cost anywhere from $4 to $56.

Digital gauges are the easiest to read. This Accutire gauge for about $10 is one of the top-rated ones.

"You want to make sure that you have the correct recommended tire pressure," Linkov said. "A common mistake is going by the tire pressure listed on the tire. That's actually the pressure for the car's maximum carrying load."

Instead, look for a sticker on the driver's-side door or check your owner's manual.

To get an accurate tire pressure reading, Linkov advises to check tires when they're cold. Having a tire gauge on hand makes that a lot easier. It takes about three hours for tires to cool down.