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Worn tires create a danger on Oklahoma roads

Badly worn tires are even more likely to blow out if the vehicle is driven fast on a hot day, safety experts say.
BY JERRY PITTMAN Published: July 18, 2010

That's a mistake many motorists make.

"People tend to wear tires down to the minimal tread," said Roy Henson of Ralph & Sons Tire Center of Chickasha. "Tires are more likely to blow when they become old and the rubber starts to harden. That and underinflation make it hard for tires to dissipate the heat that builds up."

He said even if a tire doesn't have excessive miles, it can fail because of age and exposure to the elements.

Kathy Evans, a data analyst for the Oklahoma Highway Safety Office, said from 2007-2009 there were 881 traffic accidents where troopers listed tire conditions as a contributing factor. The number of deaths resulting from those wrecks was 32.

The National Highway Safety Administration estimates that about 660 people die every year nationwide due to tire failure.

Oklahoma stopped requiring motor vehicle inspections in 2001. Tire condition was one of the items on the checklist.

What to do

While state highway patrol no longer can write tickets for not having a vehicle inspected, West said motorists still must maintain safe vehicles.

The Rubber Manufacturers Association recommends visual inspection and inflation pressure check of all tires and the spare at least once a month.

The National Road Safety Foundation gives these tips on how to steer out of a blowout.

• Your car's reaction will depend on which tire blows, your speed and road conditions. Generally, the car pulls in the direction of the blown tire or, if the rear tire is blown, the car may fishtail from side to side.

• Keep a firm grip on the steering wheel and stay in your lane until the car is under control.

• Sound your horn and hit your hazard lights.

• Start slowing down and pull off the road safely.

Summer safe driving tips

Tests: Check tires for uneven wear, age cracks and damage. Check the inflation pressure in all the tires, including the spare. Underinflated tires run hot and that increases the risk of a blowout.

Coolant: A low coolant level can allow your engine to overheat. Make sure the coolant reservoir is filled to the proper level. Never open a cap on a hot radiator to check the coolant level. Hot steam and boiling coolant can spray out and burn you. If low, add a 50/50 mixture of the specified coolant and water. Never run straight water in the radiator. Antifreeze is required to raise the boiling temperature of the coolant and to protect against corrosion.

Fans: The electric cooling fan should come on when the air conditioner is turn to maximum. No fan may mean a defective fan motor, relay or electrical problem. If the engine has a belt-driven fan with a fan clutch, a worn fan clutch may cause the engine to overheat. High mileage fan clutches (those with more than 100,000 miles on them) may be weak and not provide adequate cooling. If the fan clutch is leaking fluid or spins with little resistance, the clutch needs to be replaced.

A/C: Make sure the air conditioner blows cold air and is working properly. If the A/C is not blowing cold air, the refrigerant charge may be low. The system should be checked for leaks before adding refrigerant.

Batteries: Most car batteries last four or five years. Hot weather is actually harder on batteries than cold weather because it increases the rate of evaporation of the liquid electrolyte inside the battery. The date can be determined by reading the date code on the battery. The date code number indicates the year, and the date code letter corresponds to the month.

Oil: Replacing old dirty oil with fresh oil can increase the lubrication protection for the engine. Switching to a heavier viscosity motor oil during hot weather is a good idea, especially on high-mileage engines. Synthetic motor oils are even better for high-temperature protection.

Wiper blades: Natural rubber wiper blades have a life of a year or less. Sun exposure, extreme heat and cold age the rubber and cause it to become hard and brittle. If the wipers streak, chatter or smear, it is time to replace them.

Sunshade: Buy a sunshade to be used for the windshield when the car is parked. Close the sunroof sunshade and leave the windows cracked so hot air can escape. This can lighten the cooling load on the air conditioner when the vehicle is first started, and prevent you from burning yourself on hot interior surfaces.



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