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Christmas 2021 is fast approaching (well, for many Pinoys, the season had arrived as soon as the “ber” months kicked in), and it must be a welcome respite for all of us who’ve been adversely affected by the 18 months (and counting) of the ongoing pandemic.

I know, it’s also the time to go out more often and celebrate two years’ worth of Yuletide cheers, face to face, with family and friends. And that means being out on the road more often. Which brings me to wonder: Your cars may be in tip-top shape, but are your tires also up to par?

Let me first share a very short story. More than 20 years ago, I was driving an AUV on a narrow and remote mountain pass in Benguet province. I had just come from Sagada on a two-vehicle convoy. We were headed back to Baguio City. A heavily laden 10-wheeler cargo truck approached from the opposite lane, and as it passed my vehicle, the truck’s outer rear wheel blew out its sidewall. Apparently, the truck’s tires were overinflated, and the pneumatic force of the explosion blew in my AUV’s left front fender, bent the hood upward and gouged out the left signal light. Fortunately, apart from the frazzled nerves (and the ringing in my ears), no one was hurt. Unfortunately, the truck driver didn’t even stop to check on us. The truck’s remaining nine wheels enabled it to trudge on as if nothing happened.

We did report the incident to the nearest police precinct, but the case went only as far as the blotter. We were in transit to Manila, and I and my companions had work waiting for us there, so we couldn’t spare the time to go after the truck.

Good thing this blowout happened at a relatively slow speed, and in circumstances that didn’t cause the driver to lose control of the steering. In many other cases, tire blowouts result in serious road accidents.

A tire blowout on a four-wheeler going at a high rate of speed would be a different story altogether—one that may have a higher likelihood of a more terrifying ending. Is there a way to minimize the risks of accidents caused by tire blowouts?

I got in touch with tire experts Sam Liuson, managing director of Concept One Wheels, Jaybee Atanacio, supply chain director and product/technical manager of AP Bluewhale Corp. (exclusive distributor of Maxxis/CST and Presa), and Goodyear Philippines’ engineers to ask them their most important tire safety tips for motorists.

Tread on safest spot on the road

Atanacio: “Always drive cautiously. We all know the Philippine road network is improving but there are pockets in the Metro and the rest of the country that have a lot of unrepaired and unpaved roads. One of the leading causes of prematurely replacing a tire is impact against a road hazard such as curbs, potholes, and uneven road surfaces.

“Check your air pressure regularly. If you’re running more than 50 km a day, it’s advisable to check your air pressure once a week. For less than 50 km a day, twice a month is enough. Checking pressure regularly will establish consistency of air pressure readings. Any sudden drop will be an indicator that you might have tire injuries that cause air leaks, cracked wheel or valve issues. The correct air pressure not only gives you even wear, it also prevents prematurely damaging your tire. Include your spare tire in your checking and correcting air pressures.

“Follow your vehicle manufacturer’s maintenance advice when it comes to alignment. Incorrect axle and axle ends’ geometric settings will lead to uneven wear of your tires, leading to prematurely replacing them. Alignment checks or calibrations should be performed after every major underchassis component replacement or repair, such as suspension systems, brakes, wheels, tie-rod ends, etc.

“Have all your tires—the front and the rear—balanced whenever you replace or rotate your tires. Tires that are not balanced will vibrate, bounce, or roll erratically, which is not safe and will make your treads wear unevenly.”

Prioritize alignment, balance, proper inflation

Liuson: “Misaligned tires cause uneven wear of tires, leading to premature wear. We’ve seen mud tires half an inch thick on one side and balding on the other side. A very simple way to check is to visually look at your tires laterally and see if the tread wear is equal. If one side seems thicker than the other, have your tires aligned at the nearest tire shop that provides alignment services.

“Check your spare tire. Most people forget to check the spare tire, thinking that since it’s not used, it should hold the original tire pressure only to find the spare also flat when they need it. We recommend inflating it to its maximum tire pressure before you stow it in.

“You will know if tires are unbalanced when the steering wheel vibrates at a certain speed and goes away when you go slower or faster. It is very uncomfortable to drive the car in this state, knowing that the constant shaking is annoying on a long trip. It also loosens up or slowly wears out other suspension parts and bolts of the whole car. Unbalanced tires also cause uneven wear or feathering of tire tread when left unattended for a long time.

“Ninety percent of tire problems stem from underinflation. We often encounter people with sidewall bulges or cracks because they have neglected their tires. When tires are not inflated properly, the sidewall suffers most of the brunt of impact of any road hazard material, uneven surfaces or potholes. When tires are inflated properly, they can handle most of the regular rough and tumble of everyday driving and give you best fuel mileage.

“I would like to emphasize checking tire pressure at least once a month, knowing that tires lose pressure slowly even when the car is not being used (up to 2 psi loss per month). When your tires get soft every few days, (that means) there’s a puncture on your tire, or you have a faulty tire valve or rim.”

Drive smoothly for longer tire life

Goodyear Philippines’ customer engineers: “Lack of rotation, worn suspension parts, under or overinflation, wheel imbalance, and misalignment can cause vibration or irregular tire wear. Rotate your tires according to your vehicle manufacturer’s recommendations or at maximum intervals of 10,000 km.

“The way you drive has a great deal to do with your tire life and safety. Therefore, in addition to proper tire maintenance, cultivate good driving habits for your own benefit. Observe posted speed limits. Avoid fast starts, stops and turns. Avoid potholes and objects on the road whenever possible. Do not run over curbs or hit the tire against the curb when parking.

“The rate of wear increases during hard cornering at both high and low speeds due to scuffing caused by lateral forces, particularly on the front tires. Hard acceleration or braking will also cause increased wear due to torque and weight transfer.”

Keep these tire care tips from the certified wheel experts in mind, and do make it a habit to actually practice these tips. As for me, I’ll be singing “Winter Wonderland” during my Christmas drives, and change some of the lyrics, as such:

“Later on, we’ll conspire

As we dream, of new tires

To face unafraid

The lanes that we’ll take

Taking on that road trip overland.”

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