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Check Tires Prior to Seasonal Rains for Safety’s Sake

Baldness may be beautiful, except when seasonal rains let loose. Don't reach for a hat, however; a thorough inspection of your tires may be a safer choice. That's because motorists are facing a wet forecast, and it seems a slowing economy is delaying new tire purchases.

Worn tires and a National Weather Service forecast calling for significant rainfall and perhaps flooding is a recipe for disaster. Drivers should inspect their tires for adequate tread depth to ensure that they can handle the puddles and slick pavement that springtime brings. In addition, federal and state laws prohibit bald tires, where the tread has worn to 2/32nds of an inch and exposed wear bar indicators are revealed in the tread.

An easy way to check tread depth is to use the penny test. Turn the penny upside down with Lincoln's head entering the tread groove. If you can see the top of his head, it's time to replace the tire.

Increased puddling on the roadway can make vehicles susceptible to loss of traction, Cherveny said. A heavy downpour or thunderstorm dumps rain at the rate of 2 to 4 inches per hour, building a film of water up to 0.08 inch deep on the road.

Poor drainage leads to additional accumulation, a prime concern for road engineers, Cherveny said.

If the amount of water a tire must displace through tread grooves is greater than the capacity of the tire, excess water builds up in front of the moving tire. As water pressure mounts, the fluid acts as a wedge and literally lifts the tire off the road, similar to the bow of a speedboat lifting off the water.

Loss of traction on wet pavement is a potential driving dilemma year-round, but it doesn't have to be. When it rains, slow down, drive cautiously, steer and brake with a light touch and make sure you have adequate tread depth remaining on your tires.

A car's speed plays a major role in wet-traction performance; loss of traction can occur at speeds as low as 45 mph or less on curves. A smooth road, low vehicle weight and low tire inflation pressures also contribute to loss of traction.

Courtesy of Goodyear