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What Autistic Drivers Need To Know About Tires

  • February 18, 2022
  • Andrew Arboe

One of the most overlooked parts that allow cars to do their thing is tires. Without them, we would have never been able to get anywhere in the first place. But tires have another very important function: They keep drivers safe. Tires define the traction of a vehicle with the ground, and this means they are a crucial part of coming to an immediate stop when an animal or person suddenly runs into the road without warning. Tires can also absorb the elements of the weather whether it is rain, ice, or snow. Rain, ice, and snow, especially when they come out of nowhere, can be a lot for any driver to deal with. Autistic drivers are often especially worried about the unknowns during their drives, particularly the things they haven’t thought of and aren’t prepared for. While anxiety and executive functioning difficulties can add extra barriers to feeling safe and prepared on the road, tires are a very overlooked tool to combat that anxiety and worry! Tires do everything from getting the car moving to keep the car moving safely!

However, because tires can be so important, they are also a really big responsibility! Tires are the vehicle owner’s and an autistic driver's job to check on and take care of. Tires require a lot of maintenance over time and replacing them can cost a considerable amount of money. I recall the first time I had to get new tires, it took many hours of waiting and cost around $500. While it’s definitely true that my car drove smoother, stopped quicker, and handled snow and rain much better after this, it is still good to know what you are getting into. Taking care of your tires is an important and constant process. This post is going to go in-depth on the ins and outs of managing your tires and getting the most out of them. This post will help you plan better, drive safer, and worry less.

Types of Tires: Just like one can customize many aspects of a vehicle, there are a lot more types of tires to choose from than many new drivers expect. The first important thing to mention is that different vehicle models will require different kinds of tires. This means the price of a car's tires is often related to how rare the tire type is that the car requires. The first thing you need to figure out when picking out new tires is what types of tires will even fit on your car. After that, you will need to pick your new tires based on function and price. You may think there’s only one function of tires, or that there are only snow tires and regular tires, but there are actually all sorts of different tires for different situations and seasons. For a quick real-life example let’s discuss my own car, a Subaru Impreza. I recently changed my tires to “All Weather Tires” before Winter. Because they are “All Weather”, I won’t have to change them again in the summer, but these tires were still better for dealing with snow and unexpected weather than the tires I previously had. Sometimes you just change your type of tires because your old ones got worn out or popped, and a certain type of tire makes sense at the moment. Many car models that do not support All Weather tires have different tires for Winter and Summer. Even trucks have their own specialty tires in the mix like highway and all-terrain tires. As a driver, regardless of what car you have, it is always important to know what tire types can support it and what types of tires make the most sense for you.

Tire Pressure: Keeping your tires correctly inflated is important for long-term care and lowering the costs of any possible maintenance. While most people only think of flat tires when they think of tires that aren’t inflated correctly, over and under-inflating your tires is a potential issue as well. Under-inflated tires reduce fuel economy, which is the travel distance compared to how much fuel your vehicle consumes. Basically, while you can drive on underinflated tires your car will be worse on gas and will likely drive less smoothly. Overinflated tires on the other hand can cause rapid wear in their central tread, meaning they will now likely need to be replaced even sooner than before. As you can tell, having the right balance of pressure in your tires is important. To ensure effective and working tires at all times, you need to know the correct air pressure your tires should have and check them routinely.

To check the current pressure in a tire, one of the tools to use is a pressure gauge. You can find one of these tools at the air compression machine that most gas stations have. Using these stations is very often completely free so don’t be afraid to make use of them! Before you use the tool make sure you know the correct PSI (amount of air pressure) that your tires should have. This information can be found on the tires themselves, written somewhere on it (you will know it because it specifies an amount of PSI). Once you know the correct amount, open your tire’s dial gauge. This typically means unscrewing the rubber piece coming out of the tire. Using the gauge tool, you can check the current air pressure and add more air to the tires. Always make sure to check all four tires and I recommend looking up a video on how to use air compression machines if you haven't used one before. The machine will display an exact number when connected to each tire which ensures you get the perfect PSI for your tires. There is also a similar device to these machines that you can use at home, these are portable air compressors and you can find them online and in stores. Regardless of how you do it, make sure you keep a close eye on your tire's air pressure!

Keeping Them in Good Shape: There are other ways to maintain your tires outside of maintaining their air pressure. One of the best ways is simply to not overdo it with your speed on the road. Speeding over rough terrain or cracked roads can cause a lot of damage to your tires and sometimes even lead to a blowout, which is when your tire fully pops, becoming completely unusable. This can also lead to flat tires which, while you technically can usually drive on them, you should be very careful with. Driving on a flat tire can lead to the car struggling to operate properly, which can lead to many unexpected car issues. Tires receive wear and tear over time, but when they’re pushed too far or get worn down too much, they can quickly become a problem. Routinely inspecting and checking on the PSI of your tires is one of the keys to taking care of them. The other is to avoid damaging your tires as much as possible in the first place.

There is good news in the fact auto maintenance places can help with tire rotation and replacing old tires with new tires. This can help you make sure you’re using the right tires for the weather and they are working correctly. One of the main ways to avoid damaging your tires is to have the right tires for your environment and situation while also knowing what to avoid. During the Winter tires are more prone to dealing with wear and tear because of the cold temperatures, ice, and snow. Another thing to be aware of is potholes, which can cause major damage to tires if not handled carefully. Even with all of this to look out for, you might miss something, and that’s okay! This is why you should always check your tires before any hour-plus long drive. Being prepared is key for long trips where your tires are exposed to multiple environmental conditions.

Overall, tires can be one of the most overlooked yet essential elements to consider while driving. They are what allow people to travel on the road in the first place but also can help combat unsafe driving. However, they can also be expensive to maintain or to replace. This is why constant maintenance is so important to being cost-efficient with tires. Tire pressure and maintaining PSI are also part of our webinar course on managing changes and anxiety while driving which you can learn more about here. A good autistic driver never forgets about the importance of their tires!

Driving With Autism is excited to be part of your learning to drive journey! We have several free resources including other blog posts, a free eBook, and a Newsletter you can sign up for! In January 2022 we will also be running our first 7-Part educational webinar series on various topics that are crucial to learning to drive as an autistic individual. You can learn more and sign up for these courses by navigating to the “Buy Training Series” tab at the top of the page. We have a specific package that comes with extra resources such as a 60-minute consultation with Founder Andrew Arboe and access to our Resource Library which covers all 50 states. We look forward to hearing from you and we look forward to working with you!

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