Race drivers win and lose races because of their tires and survive crashes because of safety precautions taken beforehand.
As we approach the summer driving season, you can increase your chances of arriving at your destination safely by taking a few simple precautionary measures up front.
First, keep your car in tip-top shape. Engine tune ups not only help keep the investment in your car safe, but they also keep you safe on the highway. A break down will always present a dangerous situation, even on a side street.
Another advantage of keeping your engine tuned is gas mileage--a well tuned engine and driving below 70MPH will net you the most efficient gas mileage, no matter what brand of car you drive.
Second, keep your tires in good condition. Tires should be inflated to the manufacturer's recommendation and checked regularly. Tire pressure increases with temperature and miles driven. A day-long trip across the floor of Death Valley in August will end up with the tires a few pounds over inflated. They should cool down overnight., so it's no big concern. However, continuously running tires overinflated or under inflated can cause tires to wear out. Look at your tires. If your tires are wearing out equally on both sides of the tire, then you've been running them under inflated. If your tires are wearing out in the middle, then you've been running them overinflated for too long. (If your tires are wearing out on one side or the other, then you probably need to have the front end aligned to correct a camber problem. Front end alignment can also lead to toe-in,-out problems, which are a little harder to detect.)
Another way to extend the life of tires is to rotate them regularly, again in accordance with the manufacturer's recommendations. If you start with a new car, always ask for a "Five-tire" rotation where the spare is incorporated into the moving of the tires (for front wheel drive cars, right rear goes to left front, left rear goes to right front, spare goes to right rear, left front goes to left rear, and the right front goes to the spare position). This is best done by a tire shop where they can lift all four tires off the ground and do it all at once--and, always re-balance at least the front tires.
The last thing I'll mention about tires is to make sure your tires are rated for the highway speeds you drive. There is a "Speed Rating" marked on your tires. (I'll do a blog on tire markings in the future). In conjunction with the Load Rating, there will be a letter designating the Speed Rating. Cheaper tires often are rated "M" or "N" which are only safe to operate up to 81 and 87 MPH. The problem is that these ratings are for "properly inflated" tires. Improperly inflated tires will degrade these ratings--and it's difficult to tell by how much. Be safe and buy ti"P," "Q," "R," or "S" ratings, which are pretty standard for tires in the U.S.
There will be more car and safety tips coming in the future from the Kurt Maxxon series at www.KurtMaxxonRacing.com. In the meantime, have a safe trip, enjoy the summer, and be sure to tune into the car race next weekend.