14 points about tire safety to avoid rolling over and dying
Over the years in my Atlanta personal injury practice, I have worked on cases involving catastrophic tire failure. It has certainly made me more alert to issues when tire issues arise with vehicles in our family.
And it helped to increase my patience with the replacement process when I recently ran over some sort of metal strip on an exit ramp, resulting in the loss of both front tires — one immediately and the other a couple of days later when I was still driving on my spare.
1. No on-the-rim repairs. The tire must be dismounted so that the tire can be properly inspected and sealed against moisture. Short cuts on this can put the survival of your DNA at severe risk.
2. No repairs near the shoulder. This is the weakest part of the tire. Only holes in the middle of the tire can be repaired. If you pick up a nail near the shoulder, just spring for the price of a new tire. It’s cheaper than a funeral.
3. New tires go on the rear. Installing the new tread on the front can lead to loss of control.
4. Check tire pressures and adjust at least once a month. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on tire-related crashes, the leading cause of tire failure is underinflation.
5. Inspect tires regularly for abnormal wear or damage. This is easily done at the same time you check pressures. If repair is needed, see #1 above.
6. Rotate tires every 6,000 miles or according to owner’s manual. I know, this is as boring as flossing teeth, but uneven wear pattens can have really bad outcomes such as catastrophic tire failure, rollover, death, quadriplegia, etc.
7. Maintain tires in proper balance. See #6.
8. Maintain steering and suspension in proper alignment. See #6 again.
9. Never overload a tire. Overloading is the second leading cause of tire failure, next to underinflation. So don’t load down your old Pinto with rocks to build that cool stone patio and outdoor fireplace for the coming spring. Read the load capacity stuff in the owner’s manual.
10. Avoid overheating tires. Excessive speeds, heavy loads, underinflation, rough pavement or concrete, and aggressive driving all contribute to high tire temperatures. All these, especially in hot weather, can lead to sudden tire failure.See #6 again re: bad outcomes.
11. Replace tires when . . .
- Any portion of the tread is worn to the "wear indicator bars"—lateral bars molded into the tire grooves at about 20 percent of their new tread depth—or to a depth, as measured in a groove, of 1/16th inch or less.
- Tread wear is severely uneven (in which case have the wheel alignment checked) or the center is worn much more than the edges. (See #6 again about bad things happening to good people.)
- The tire sidewalls are severely cracked or there are bulges anywhere on the tire.
- There is any indication of tread separation from the tire carcass.
- The tire has been punctured and cannot be satisfactorily repaired. (See #1 & #2 again.)
12. Install tires in matched pairs or complete sets. I just taught this one to my frugal daughter who had one tire go bad. I hope she remembers when she, rather than Dad, is paying for the tires.
13. Select the right tires for your vehicle and driving environment. There is quite a variety of specialized tires available. In our generally mild southern climate, "all season" tires are generally good enough for most of us. My daughter’s boyfriend is an advocate of snow tires in upstate New York, where they are in college. I tell her to ride with him in the winter since we Southerners don’t know how to drive on that stuff anyway.
14. Review 1 through 13. I didn’t really have "Fourteen Points" but as a former history major, I couldn’t resist a nod to the President who once had a law office near where our Georgia Bar Center now stands.
Ken Shigley is a trial attorney in Atlanta, Georgia who has been listed among the "Legal Elite" (Georgia Trend Magazine), as a "Super Lawyer" (Atlanta Magazine), and in the Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers (Martindale). He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy. Mr. Shigley has extensive experience representing parties in trucking and bus accidents, products liability, catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, brain injury, spinal cord injury and burn injury cases. Currently he is President-elect of the 42,000 member State Bar of Georgia.