If you bang into a curb or hit a pothole it can throw your front end out of alignment and cause damage to your tires. Misalignment of wheels in the front or the rear can cause uneven and rapid tread wear. Good maintenance includes a periodic alignment check from your tire dealer.
Front-wheel-drive vehicles, and those with independent rear suspension, require alignment of all four wheels. Have your alignment checked periodically as specified by the vehicle owner's manual or whenever you have problems such as a pulling or a vibration in the steering wheel.
Also, irregular wear can be caused by an unbalanced tire and wheel assembly. Do have your tire balance checked periodically or if you notice a "shimmy" or vibration in the steering column.
Under-inflation leads to tire stress because the tire can flatten and bend and build up internal heat. This can result in tire failure. At the least this causes unnecessary tire stress and tread wear. In the worst case it may cause loss of control resulting in an accident.
Do not rely on whether or not your tires 'look' properly inflated. A half-inflated tire may still not look "flat." Remember, under-inflation can result in tire failure. The correct air pressure for your tires is specified by the vehicle manufacturer and is shown on the vehicle door edge, door post, glove box door or fuel door. You can also check in the owner's manual.
Here's how to check and properly achieve the recommended air pressure:
1. Check the air pressure when your tires are cool. Even driving one mile can mislead your pressure reading. Tires do heat up and the air pressure inside goes up as you drive. However, never reduce air pressure when tires are hot. (NOTE: Even a short drive to inflate your tires will result in tires that will probably be under-inflated compared to the cool tire reading. If you have to drive more than a mile to get air, check the tire pressure first to see how low it is. Then add enough air pressure to make up the difference when you get to the pump).
2. Remove the cap from the valve on the first tire.
3. Use a good quality tire gauge and check the pressure by firmly pressing the gauge onto the valve.
4. Add air until the gauge reads the recommended air pressure. (NOTE: the recommended pressure is a "cold tire" reading).
5. If the gauge shows an overfill, release some air by pushing on the metal stem in the center of the valve with a fingernail or the tip of a pen. Then recheck the pressure with your tire gauge.
6. Put the valve cap back on.
7. Repeat steps 2 through 6 with each tire, not forgetting the spare. (NOTE: Some spare tires require higher inflation pressure).
8. This is also a good time to inspect the tires to make sure there are no nails or other leak-causing objects in the tires.
9. Look at the sidewalls to make sure there are no cuts, gouges, bulges or other irregularities.
(NOTE: Warm weather raises air pressure in a tire and cold weather lowers air pressure about one to two pounds for every 10 degrees of temperature change).
ROTATIng Your Tires
Rotating tires means that you switch the tires in a pattern among the wheel positions of the vehicle. This is important because the front tires have some different tasks than the rear tires, and different tires carry different amounts of weight. Rotation can slow down uneven tread wear by evening out those differences. Your owner's manual tells you how often to rotate your tires. In general, it could be done on the same schedule as oil changes, or perhaps every 6,000 to 8,000 miles. If there is uneven wear, check with your mechanic to find the cause; misalignment and other mechanical problems can cause uneven wear. Rotate your tires sooner if you see signs of uneven wear.
An often-used pattern for rotating tires on a front-wheel drive vehicle is to move the tires in an X-pattern. This is a criss-cross move, with the left front tire trading places with the right rear, and right front trading with the left rear. A full-size spare may be included in your rotation pattern, but not a small "temporary" spare, because the temporary tire is only meant for low-speed and short-distance emergency use.
NOTE: Always refer to your vehicle owner's manual for rotation recommendations. If no rotation period is specified, tires should be rotated approximately every 6,000-8,000 miles. If your tires show uneven wear, ask your tire dealer to check for and correct any misalignment, imbalance or other mechanical problem involved before rotating your tires.