The first day of spring is finally here. And if you thought you were tired of winter, think about how your tires must feel. Built-up debris, potholes, and extreme temperature changes can all wreak havoc on their rubber soles. Routine tire maintenance will not only help you get the most out of them, but can also keep you safe while on the road.

A regular check of the following will do your tires a world of good.

Tire inflation

Winter weather can deflate your tires — tire pressure drops about 1 PSI (pounds per square inch) for every 10 degrees the temperature drops. Driving on overinflated or underinflated tires is dangerous, especially on wet pavement. Cars with properly inflated tires have better handling, shorter braking distances, longer tire life, and improved fuel economy — which is especially appealing given the high cost of gas these days.

Keep in mind that when you check your tires’ inflation, you might have to wait at least 3 hours after you last drove (people in the know call it waiting until the tires are cold). And don’t just eyeball it. Check your owner’s manual to find the recommended PSI for your tires and use a pressure gauge to get an accurate reading.

Tire tread

Tire tread provides the gripping action that prevents your vehicle from slipping or sliding, and is something to consider no matter what time of year. If your tread is worn down to 1/16 of an inch, it’s time for new tires.

Use the penny test to check your tire tread by sticking a penny in the tread with Lincoln’s head upside down and facing you. If part of the head is covered, you’re okay, but if you can see all of Lincoln’s noggin, it’s time for a replacement.

Tire rotation

Rotating your tires as they wear can help to maximize their life. Most manufacturers suggest you rotate your tires every 6,000 to 8,000 miles (about every 6 months for most drivers). Getting your tires rotated regularly can also alert you to any odd wear patterns, which could indicate your wheels need to be aligned.

Wheel alignment

Winter weather wreaks havoc on roads, often leading to potholes and other surface irregularities. Driving in these conditions can easily throw your front end out of alignment and result in handling problems. If your car seems like it’s pulling to one side, it’s time to take it in for a wheel alignment.

So now your tires are ready for the open road. But do they look as spiffy as they could? Find out how you could get professionally detailed tires for under $5.

For more info, check out our article on the dangers of spring driving.

Related link has a list of FAQs about tire maintenance

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about Kyle

Kyle has a Master of Arts in English with a concentration in creative writing, which came in handy when she wrote (riveting) copy about car insurance for Esurance. Currently living in Boston, she spends her free time watching funny movies, dork dancing, drinking wine, and eating chocolate.