AAA: Cold temperatures bring on tire troubles

Man with broken down car flat tire in the middle of the street
Man with broken down car flat tire in the middle of the street

During the first few weeks of 2022, AAA Oklahoma’s Roadside Rescuers responded to an average of 89 calls a day for tire issues from members. That’s higher than in 2019, when more drivers were commuting to offices and in-person activities. Neglecting critical tire maintenance can result in increased expense or even worse, tragedy on the road.

AAA research indicates that when driving on worn tires at highway speeds, stopping distances increase by 43 percent compared to new tires, putting drivers and their passengers at more risk.

Tires need to be properly inflated to adjust for colder temperatures. Those that aren’t are more likely to result in a flat or blowout and tires with worn tread are more likely to result in a crash. AAA urges drivers to check tread depth, replace tires proactively and increase following distances significantly when roadways are wet or snow-covered.

“Oklahoma’s winter temperature swings take a toll on tires, and wet road conditions just worsen chances of problems,” Kevin Lynch, AAA Oklahoma car care manager, said. “Periodically checking air pressure, tread, alignment and rotating tires is key to motorists avoiding wear and tear that shortens tire life.”

Lynch said some have altered habits or routines they had prior to the pandemic for tire inspection and maintenance.

“Routines may have changed, but routine car care is still critical,” he said.

AAA urges drivers to know whether they have a spare tire and include it in tire maintenance.

“More drivers calling AAA for roadside assistance with tire-related issues are discovering that — to their surprise — they don’t have a spare tire in their vehicles,” Leslie Gamble, AAA Oklahoma public and government affairs manager, said.

As automakers strive to reduce weight and improve fuel economy, they continue to eliminate spare tires from new vehicles.

In 2021, AAA Oklahoma came to the rescue of 41,493 members with tire-related issues, Gamble said, adding more than one-third of those calls were for a flat tire without a usable spare. Vehicles that do not come with a spare tire as standard equipment, create unnecessary hassle and expense for drivers.

To help motorists avoid the need for emergency roadside service, AAA Car Care, Insurance and Travel Centers in central Oklahoma offer free tire inspections by appointment and 24/7 self-serve air stations.

Some tips for routine tire maintenance are:

• Check Tire Pressure — Keeping a vehicle’s tires properly inflated to the automaker’s recommended pressures is a critical element of tire maintenance. Tires that contain the specified amount of air pressure last longer and contribute to vehicle safety. Check tire inflation pressure on all four tires and the spare. As the average temperature drops, so will tire pressures – typically by one PSI for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit. The proper tire pressure levels can be found in the owner’s manual or on a sticker typically located on the driver’s side door jamb (Do not use the pressure molded into the tire sidewall).

• Check Tire Tread — Adequate tread depth is necessary for a tire to maintain traction on slippery roads. Tread depth can be measured with an inexpensive gauge available at any auto parts store — or use the traditional quarter test. Insert a quarter into a tread groove with the top of Washington's head facing down. If the top of his head is not visible, the tires are fine for continued use. If the top of Washington's head can be seen, it is time to start shopping for new tires. Take multiple measurements across the tread to help ensure accurate results.

This article originally appeared on The Shawnee News-Star: AAA: Cold temperatures bring on tire troubles