Top-5: Back-to-School Tire Maintenance Tips for Students

If someone in your life is heading off to college, or maybe just driving to high school, check out these five tips that will help you, and them, prepare their car for the upcoming school year.

As temperatures and leaves begin to drop, students across the U.S. prepare to go back to school. Pick up school supplies, sign up for a sports team, get photos taken, perform routine tire maintenance….wait, what? We are guessing not many students have tire maintenance on their back-to-school checklists, but they should!

According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), only 17% of drivers know how to properly check tire pressure. Why is proper tire inflation important? Under inflated tires cause U.S. drivers to waste 1.2 billion gallons of fuel annually. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, properly inflated tires can improve fuel efficiency by 3.3 percent. They also site that under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3 percent for every 1 psi drop in pressure on all four tires. And besides that, properly inflated tires are safer and they last longer.

In addition to saving money (who doesn’t want to upgrade from ramen noodles?), implementing a regular tire maintenance program can save you headaches down the road. After all, there’s nothing worse than being late to class due to a flat tire. Continental Tire recommends a routine tire maintenance program to make your school year headache free. Here’s how:

1. Check tire pressures – check tire pressure regularly, once per month and before every long trip – including the spare. Tire pressure should be checked when tires are cold (car has not been driven for at least three hours). The correct tire pressure can be found in the car owner manual, on the gas tank lid, the driver’s side door edge, or on the door post. Tire pressure must be the same on the tires of each axle, but may be different on the front and rear axle. And remember to tightly close the valve caps to protect the valve from dust and dirt and to prevent leaking. Replace missing valve caps without delay.

Note: While new vehicles are equipped with tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS), these systems issue a low pressure warning only after tire pressure drops 25 percent below the vehicle manufacturer’s recommended pressure. In many cases a slight drop in air pressure would not trigger a warning light and would cause a loss of fuel economy and could lead to vehicle safety issue. Even with TPMS, motorists need to check tire pressure with a tire gauge every month.


2. Make sure your car is aligned – A jolt from hitting a pothole or curb can put a front end out of alignment and damage tires. Misalignment of wheels in the front or rear can cause uneven and rapid treadwear and should be corrected by a tire dealer. Have the alignment checked periodically as specified by the vehicle’s owner’s manual or if trouble such as a “pulling” sensation or vibration is experienced.


3. Time to rotate – Unless a vehicle owner’s manual has a specific recommendation, the guideline for tire rotation is approximately every 5,000 – 8,000 miles. Rotating a vehicle’s tires regularly will help achieve more uniform wear. If uneven wear is experienced, ask a tire dealer to check for and correct any misalignment, imbalance or other mechanical problem involved before rotation.


4. How deep are the grooves – Proper tread depth is essential to prevent hydroplaning and skidding. The minimum tread depth is 2/32nd of an inch (1.6 mm). Advanced and unusual wear can reduce the ability of tread to properly grip the road in adverse conditions. Visually check tires for uneven wear, looking for high and low areas or unusually smooth areas and any signs of damage. You can also use tires armed with Continental’s, Tuned Performance Indicators to determine when tires are no longer optimal in Dry, Wet and Snow conditions.

If you don’t have Tuned Performance Indicators, place a penny into several tread grooves across the tire. If part of Lincoln’s head is always covered by the tread, you have more than 2/32” of tread depth remaining which is the recommended depth per the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTS).


5. Where is the spare tire and how do I change a tire? – before handing over the keys, make sure your child knows where the spare tire is located in the vehicle (if there is one). It’s a good idea to have them practice getting it out and changing a tire so they aren’t stranded on the side of the road. The vehicle owner’s manual will provide instructions including location of the tire and how to use the tools provided to change the tire.


In addition to the five points listed above, it’s important to replace tires with the same type of tires that came on the vehicle as original equipment (including tire size, type and speed rating). Other potential hazards to avoid include potholes, debris in the road, fast stops and starts, and hitting or driving over curbs. Always take a moment to visually inspect all your tires when you are getting in/out of your vehicle. Check sidewalls for gouges, cuts, bulges or other irregularities. All of these things can cause tire trouble.


And remember, when packing to head to your new college dorm room, it’s important not to overload a vehicle as that can shorten the tire life. Motorists can check the owner’s manual for the vehicle’s maximum load.


If you ever have questions, visit your local Continental Tire dealer. They are always happy to help.