3 tips to ensure you're ready to hit the road safely

(BPT) - Temps are higher, the days are longer and road trips are planned.

When it comes to getting our cars ready for the road, we habitually adjust our rear-view mirror and double-check fuel levels before putting the car in gear. We sometimes change our engine oil and refill the windshield fluid. Yet we often overlook one of the most important safety features on our vehicles — the tires.

With a little preparation and the right tire maintenance know-how, major issues on the road can be largely avoided. Follow these simple tips to ensure your rubber is ready to meet the road:

1. Choose the right tires for the season.

There are many different tire categories, from ultra-high performance (UHP) tires designed to ensure performance vehicles handle flawlessly at high speeds to highway tires built to provide a smooth, comfortable ride and predictable handling.

It’s important to work with a professional tire technician to decide which tires are best suited for your vehicle and style of driving.

“Today’s tires are available in thousands of fitments providing varying performance, comfort and safety features, making it absolutely necessary to discuss your wants and needs with a knowledgeable tire sales person to ensure you’re getting the desired results,” says Matti Morri, Nokian Tyres technical customer service manager.

For example, a driver looking for balanced performance on varying surfaces — from hot and dry to cool and wet — would be happy with something like the Nokian zLine A/S UHP, designed to perform safely and precisely in variable conditions.

2. Give your tires a once-over for correct air pressure.

One of the easiest ways to extend the life of your tires is to regularly check them for correct air pressure.

Low and uneven inflation will cause a number of problems for your vehicle, including poor handling and reduced comfort, increased fuel consumption and an overall unsafe driving experience. Tire pressure should be checked once a month and always before longer trips. You should always check tire pressure before hitting the road because driving causes tires to heat up and air pressure to increase. Consult the vehicle’s manual for proper inflation pressures.

3. Check your tread depth.

Tires with inadequate tread are susceptible to poor handling, hydroplaning, reduced gas mileage and more. In fact, tires are considered legally worn out when they reach 2/32 of an inch.

“To ensure your tires will perform safely, it’s crucial to monitor for worn treads,” Morri says. “Nokian Tyres’ products are equipped with Nokian’s Driving Safety Indicator (DSI), which indicates what percentage of tread depth remains, as well as a water drop stamp that disappears when tread is reduced to the point where the risk of hydroplaning is increased.”

Pro tip: A penny and a match are both easy tools to check your tread depth. Stick a penny, facing you, upside down in the tread on multiple spots around the tire. If Lincoln’s head is completely visible, your tread is too worn and you should replace your tires. Similarly, if you stick the head of a match in your tread and the tip is not completely hidden, your tread is too worn. These are both signs of ultimate worn tread, and you may want to consider new tires before reaching this point.

Before you hit the open road, remember that minor issues can become major roadblocks in the blink of an eye — or turn of the wheel. Take a little extra time to follow these simple tire tips and the only thing you’ll have to worry about is the wind messing up your hair.

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