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The rainy season is upon us. And with the onset of wet weather, our cars also need to be prepared for those times when road surfaces are less than ideal.

Tires are the main contact points of the car on the road. They are the ones responsible for letting you accelerate, steer and brake. They are in fact, the most important safety feature of your car. Without tires, you basically will not be going anywhere in your car. And without the right set of tires for your car, you will be introducing compromises that will impact on your driving safety.

During the rainy season, water on the road surface can create a barrier between the road and your tires reducing grip. With less grip, there is less control. That is why everyday street tires are equipped with grooves or treads that channel water out of the tires’ contact surface. These grooves help keep your car on the road during wet weather driving letting you control your car even in heavy downpour. The shallower they are, the less water they expel and the less control you will have when driving.

However, it is not enough just to have rubber between your wheels and the road surface. Having the right set of tires, and tires that are in excellent condition for that matter, is crucial to your safety. Here are ways to check the condition of your car’s tires and determine whether it is time for you to replace them.

1. CHECK THE TREAD DEPTH

To ensure optimum performance, tire tread depth should not be lower than 1.5mm. One of the easiest ways to confirm this is to use a one peso coin. If you place it in between the grooves and find that you cannot see the whole “Republika Ng” line on top of Dr. Jose Rizal’s head, then your tires are still good. If you can see all the writing of those words however, it is time to buy new rubber.

Tires also come with tread wear indicators just below where the grooves begin when looking at the tires from the side. These are small triangle outlines that visually warn you that it is time to change tires. If the wear, or “kain”, of the rubber reaches these triangles, it means your tires are candidates for replacement.

2. INSPECT FOR DAMAGE THAT CAN COMPROMISE TIRE INTEGRITY

Philippine roads are not exactly as smooth as a baby’s bottom. In fact, many of our highways and streets are littered with debris or are finished so shabbily that they can cause damage to tires.

Bulges on the tire surface may be the result of a nasty hit from a pothole. Cracks are a sign of old age, as well as sun and heat damage on your tires. They are also an early warning sign of impending delamination, or when the tire disintegrates and shreds into pieces.  While flat spots can happen under hard braking and when the wheels stop turning, causing high wear at one area of the tire.

If you have seen or experienced any of these on your car’s tires, it is better to err on the side of safety and replace them as soon as possible.

3. KNOW THE TIRES’ MANUFACTURING DATE

As tires get older and get exposed to the elements, the bond between the rubber and the steel belts is reduced. That is why knowing when your tires were manufactured is important to ensure they are capable of offering maximum performance and safety.

For tires made in the year 2000 onwards, you can find the manufacturing date at the end of  the 10 to 12-digit Tire Identification Number which is usually preceded by the acronym “DOT”, for example: DOT ELCB DKE 1800. The last four numbers in this series will tell you when it was made. The first two numbers tell you the week it was built, and the last two is the year. So, in the example above, this tire was made in the 18th week of the year 2000.

If you see less than four numbers in this series, the tires were built before the year 2000 and you should not even be using them. Tires should be replaced once they reach ten years from the manufacturing date, regardless of their physical condition.

4. CHECK FOR ABNORMAL WEAR AND TEAR

Uneven wear on the tires surface are signs of misaligned suspension or even improper tire pressure. Regularly inspect the tread and sidewalls of the tires for wear. Each corner of the car can show different tire wear characteristics. If so, then there are usually accompanying suspension or tire pressure issues that go with it.

If tire wear is more obvious on the inner side of the tire tread, then the car’s suspension camber is biased too negatively. The opposite is true when there is positive camber. If the wear has gone too deep into the tread, it is time to replace your tires.

5. MAINTAIN THE CORRECT TIRE PRESSURE

Having the right tire pressure can prolong your tires’ effective life and performance. The easiest way to know the correct tire pressure is to follow the tire guide sticker normally found at the pillar where the driver’s door latches. This shows the required Psi (or Bar) based on the size of your car’s wheels and tires.

If the rubber fades more at the edges of the sidewall than on the tread, your tires are underinflated. But if the wear is more on the middle of the tread than on its outer edges, then your tires are overinflated.

Having gone through the list above, and you see that your tires are in need of replacement in time for the rainy season, it’s time to look for tire models that can fit your car’s performance needs and of course your budget.