Tire maintenance saves you future headaches ahead of road trips

CARSON, Calif.

You probably don't think about your tires too much, but they're under your car doing duty every time you drive.

"They play a critical role in terms of the safety of the vehicle overall and the fuel economy you get," said Mark Johnson, a Bridgestone spokesman.

At a recent demonstration, customers and dealers were putting some of Bridgestone's newest tires through emergency maneuvers. That's when you definitely want to have good tires.

"They're one of the few remaining parts on the vehicle that does need some amount of care, and so if people are responsible about checking their tire pressure, it's really going to get the best tread life out of the tires, get the best fuel economy out of their vehicles overall," said Johnson.

You want to make sure all four tires are in good condition -- all five tires, actually. Some new cars have done away with spares, but most cars on the road still have them. They're often difficult to get to, which is all the more reason to think that they might be low on air.

But better to check it before a trip, rather than have to deal with a flat spare on the side of the road somewhere.

Here are a couple of other pointers:

- Inflate tires when they're cold, not hot. Do it first thing in the morning.

- And how much air do they need? That's on a sticker, usually located in a door jamb. The number on the side of the tire is not the proper pressure. That number is a maximum level.

"If you overinflate your tires, which some people think that's an advantage -- actually it's a disadvantage because it's going to wear much faster," said Johnson.

And don't just wait for the low-tire warning light to go on. That means one tire is dangerously low. Check them regularly and you'll be better off.

"And I don't think anybody really looks forward to buying new tires, so we want to make sure that you get the best life possible out of your tires," said Johnson.

And it's not just tire pressure to look out for. Check their condition for small cuts, nails or screws embedded in the tire, or just plain old worn tread.

If you do really need new tires, replacing them before the trip is better than having to buy them in the middle of your vacation.

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