Hey Los Altos area drivers, are your tires worn out? What is the standard for our CA streets? How can you tell on your vehicle?
While there may be legal requirements for the Los Altos area, there are safety concerns that go beyond meeting minimum replacement mandates.
Two-thirty-seconds of an inch is the depth of the tire tread wear indicator bars that US law has required to be molded across all tires since August 1, 1968. When tires are worn so that this bar is visible, there's just 2/32 of an inch – 1.6 millimeters – of tread left. It's that level of wear that's been called into question recently.
We're referring to the tread depth on a tire, it can't move surface water out of the way and you start to hydroplane.
In a safety study, a section of a test track was flooded with a thin layer of water. If you laid a dime on the track, the water would be deep enough to surround the coin, but not enough to cover it.
A car and a full-sized pick-up accelerated to 70 miles per hour, or 112 kilometers an hour, and then made a hard stop in the wet test area. Stopping distance and time were measured for three different tire depths:
- New tire tread depth
- 4/32 of an inch, or 3.2 mm
- 2/32 of an inch, or 1.6 mm
So what happened with the 2/32 inch/1.6 mm tires on the car? Get this – when the car had traveled the distance required to stop with new tires, it was still going 55 mph/89 kph. Stopping distance was nearly doubled to 379 feet/116 meters, and it took 5.9 seconds.
Wow! That means if you barely have room to stop with new tires, you would hit the car in front of you at 55 mph/89 kph with the worn tires.
Now, with the partially worn tires – at 4/32 of an inch, or 3.2 mm – the car was still going at 45 mph/72 kph at the point where new tires brought the car to a halt. It took nearly 100 feet, or about 30 meters, more room to stop and 1.2 seconds longer. That's a big improvement. We can see why Consumer Reports and others are calling for a new standard.
Of course, stopping distances were greater for the heavier pick-up truck.
How do you know when your tires are at 4/32 inch or 3.2 mm? Easy; just insert an American quarter into the tread. Put it in upside down. If the tread doesn't cover George Washington's hairline, it's time to replace your tires. With a Canadian quarter, the tread should cover the numbers in the year stamp.
You may remember doing that with pennies. A penny gives you 2/32 inch, or 1.6 mm, to Abraham Lincoln's head. The quarter is the new recommendation – 4/32 inch, or 3.2 mm.
How do people feel about replacing their tires earlier? Well, tires are a big ticket item and most people want to get the most wear out of them that they can. But do you want that much more risk just to run your tires until they are legally worn out?
For us, and we would guess for many, the answer is "no".
Allied Auto Works
2073 Grant Road
Los Altos, CA 94024
People from Los Altos, CA, love their cars. And nothing goes with cars better than a CA road trip. Freedom from daily schedules, new sights and the open road – it's great! But there's nothing like car trouble to bring the fun to a grinding halt.
You can't always avoid problems, but you can take steps to reduce the probability of getting sidelined on your trip.
Heading out on a CA road trip? Stop by Allied Auto Works before you head out to make sure everything is in good repair.
Let's look at some of the auto maintenance related problems you might encounter on a road trip in CA and what you might do to avoid them.
The most common vehicle component to fail is the tires. Of course, you can't always avoid a road hazard that leads to a flat, but you may be able to head off some maintenance-connected tire problems.
A good tire inspection at Allied Auto Works will start with looking over the condition of the tire itself. Are there signs of uneven tire wear? Are the tires properly inflated? Is the tread worn to the point that the tire should be replaced? The answers to these questions may lead to a recommendation to balance or rotate your tires. It may also be time to have an alignment service.
Your brakes should be inspected for function as well as to determine how much life is left in your brake pads. You'll also want to know if it's time to service your brake fluid. Over time, water and contaminants make their way into your brake fluid and the system needs to be flushed, cleaned and filled with fresh fluid.
While you're out seeing the sights, you'll want to make sure you can see the sights. Replace your windshield wipers if they aren't working well. And don't forget your headlamps. They gradually lose their brightness and you don't even realize it. Many people replace their lamps once or twice a year.
All the items mentioned are part of any good vehicle maintenance plan. These are things that you want to take care of anyway, but they all come into focus as you plan for your trip. They'll always save you money in the long run and may prevent inconvenient delays on your trip. After all, you wouldn't want to miss the world's largest ball of string, would you?
Allied Auto Works
2073 Grant Road
Los Altos, CA 94024
Your minivan engine really needs clean air to operate efficiently. Let’s go egghead for a minute. For every gallon of gas we burn driving around Los Altos, twenty pounds of carbon dioxide comes out the tailpipe. Question: how can a gallon of gas that weighs a little over six pounds produce twenty pounds of carbon dioxide?
The answer is that the carbon comes from the gasoline, but the oxygen comes from the air. You see, it takes about twelve thousand gallons of air to burn a gallon of gas in your engine. Clearly, your minivan needs a lot of air to keep going in Los Altos. A lot of clean air is better.
You’ve seen the pictures of the crowds in Asia wearing face masks. They want some kind of filter to keep unwanted pollution and germs out of their lungs. Well, your minivan also works better when its internals are clean. When your minivan air filter’s dirty, it simply can’t trap any more dirt, so the dirt just passes through into your air intake system. From there it can clog your fuel injectors and even get into the engine itself. And burning dust and pollen in your minivan engine does you no good.
So, we’re talking potential damage for Los Altos drivers. But another big thing is wasted fuel. Your minivan engine management computer tries to mix the correct amount of air in with the fuel. If the filter’s clogged, there isn’t enough air for the optimal fuel to air mix and that really messes with fuel efficiency.
In fact, replacing a dirty air filter at Allied Auto Works can improve your fuel economy in Los Altos by up to ten percent. At today’s fuel prices in Los Altos, you should be able to pay for a new air filter before your next oil change.
The verdict: When your minivan engine air filter needs to be replaced; it needs to be replaced. How often depends entirely on how dirty the air is where you drive in Los Altos. A simple visual inspection at Allied Auto Works will tell you when you need a new engine air filter.
When you look at the air filter on your furnace at home and see it’s all clogged up with dust and dirt, you don’t hesitate to replace it. When your Allied Auto Works technician brings out your nasty engine air filter, you now know why you should go ahead and change it out.