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Tire Safety: It's in the Air and Tread Wear

By David Goguen | Last updated on

Hey Baby, What's Your PSI?

As Americans take to the highways for summer vacations -- and just in time for National Tire Safety Week (July 7 - 13, 2009) -- FindLaw's Injured puts the focus on tire safety, with tips on proper air inflation and watching your tread wear.

When it comes to tire safety and the steps you can take to avoid tire failure, the three most important things to watch out for are:

  • Underinflation of tires (proper pounds-per-square-inch, or "PSI" ratio)
  • Overloading of vehicles
  • Worn tire tread

Underinflation and Overloading. So, how can you make sure your tires are properly inflated and that your vehicle isn't carrying too much weight? Your vehicle's manufacturer has kindly provided the guidelines to follow. You can find the data in your vehicle's owner manual, or (usually) on a sticker label inside the driver's side door frame. This should tell you the desired PSI for your front and rear tires, and your vehicle's weight capacity (the maximum number of passengers in the front and rear seats, and the maximum overall weight limit, i.e. 900 lbs).

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recommends checking your tire pressure at least once a month, to make sure that the PSI is in line with specifications from your vehicle's manufacturer.

Tread Wear. If your tire tread wears down to 2/32 (or 1/16) of an inch, it's time to replace your tires, according to the NHTSA. If you don't have a ruler, Abraham Lincoln can tell you if your tread is too worn. Take a penny and place the edge that's right above Lincoln's head into the tread groove. If you can still see all of Lincoln's head (i.e. the top of his head), you need to replace the tire.

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