Each month, we publish a series of articles of interest to homeowners -- money-saving tips, household safety checklists, home improvement advice, real estate insider secrets, etc. Whether you currently are in the market for a new home, or not, we hope that this information is of value to you. Please feel free to pass these articles on to your family and friends.

ISSUE #1178

Before Disaster Strikes
Fires . . . hurricanes. . . floods . . . earthquakes . . . tornadoes.... Natural or other disasters can strike suddenly, at any time, and anywhere.  Your first priority, of course, would be to protect your family and your property.  But it's also important to protect against the financial consequences of a disaster.  A disaster can damage or destroy your property, force you to temporarily live somewhere else, cut the flow of wages and other income, or ruin valuable financial records.

Listed here are some simple, common sense steps you can take now.  Before you take any actions, however, you should be sure you have involved your family or friends whenever possible in decision making and planning.  You also may want the assistance of an advisor, such as a Certified Financial Planner, insurance agent, or similar financial professional.  The important thing is to begin planning now, before the unexpected becomes a harsh reality.

Also This Month...
Homebuyers: How To Save Thousands of Dollars When You Buy
When you analyze successful homebuyers who have been able to purchase the home they want for thousands of dollars below a seller’s asking price, some common denominators emerge. Although your agents negotiating skills are important, there are three additional key factors that must come into play long before you ever submit an offer.


Things You Need to Know About Automobile Tire Care and Safety
Tires are designed and built with great care to provide thousands of miles of excellent service. But for maximum benefit, they must be maintained properly.

Quick Links
Before Disaster Strikes
Homebuyers: How To Save Thousands of Dollars When You Buy
Things You Need to Know About Automobile Tire Care and Safety



Before Disaster Strikes

Fires . . . hurricanes. . . floods . . . earthquakes . . . tornadoes.... Natural or other disasters can strike suddenly, at any time, and anywhere. Your first priority, of course, would be to protect your family and your property.  But it's also important to protect against the financial consequences of a disaster.  A disaster can damage or destroy your property, force you to temporarily live somewhere else, cut the flow of wages and other income, or ruin valuable financial records.

Listed here are some simple, common sense steps you can take now.  Before you take any actions, however, you should be sure you have involved your family or friends whenever possible in decision making and planning.  You also may want the assistance of an advisor, such as a Certified Financial Planner, insurance agent, or similar financial professional.

The important thing is to begin planning now, before the unexpected becomes a harsh reality.

Protect your property

One of the first things to do is find out what disasters could strike where you live----fire, flood, earthquake, hurricane, or tornado, for example.  The following steps can help you avoid or reduce substantially the potential physical destruction to your property if you were to be hit with a disaster.  These steps can reduce your insurance costs, too.  For example, you could:

  • Install smoke detectors to warn of an apartment or home fire.
  • Elevate utilities to upper floor or attic.
  • Clear surrounding bush to protect your home against wildfires.
  • Anchor your house to the foundation, and anchor the roof to the main frame.
  • Secure objects that could fall and cause damage in an earthquake, such as a bookcase or hot water heater.
  • Install hurricane shutters on windows, and prepare plywood covers for glass doors.
  • Cover windows, turn off utilities, or move possessions to a safer location if you have adequate warning of something like a hurricane or flood.
  • If your home is in a high risk flood area, on a fault line, or threatened by coastal erosion, consider relocating.
  • Have your house inspected by a building inspector or architect to find out what structural improvements could prevent or reduce major damage from disasters.
  • If you haven't yet bought a house, you might take construction type into account. Frame houses tend to withstand some disasters, while brick homes hold up better in others.

If you're not sure where to start, you could contact your local fire department.  Fire departments will often make house calls to evaluate your property and make suggestions on how to improve safety.  In earthquake-prone areas, the local utility can be called upon to come to your location and show you how and where to shut off gas lines or how to elevate utilities to get them above a possible flood.

Conduct a household inventory

Inventory your household possessions by making a list of everything you own. If disaster strikes, this list could:

  • Help you prove the value of what you owned if those possessions are damaged or destroyed.
  • Make it more likely you'll receive a fast, fair payment from your insurance company for your losses.
  • Provide documentation for tax deductions you claim for your losses.

To conduct a thorough home inventory:

  • Record the location of the originals of all important financial and family documents, such as birth and marriage certificates, wills, deeds, tax returns, insurance policies, and stock and bond certificates.  Keep the originals in a safe place and store copies elsewhere.  You'll need accessible records for tax and insurance purposes.
  • Make a visual or written record of your possessions.  If you don't own a camera or videotaping equipment (and can't borrow or rent it), buy an inventory booklet and fill it out, or make a simple list on notebook paper.  Ask your insurance agent if he or she can provide one.
  • Go from room to room.  Describe each item, when you bought it, and how much it cost.  If you're photographing or videotaping, have someone open closet doors and hold up items.
  • Record model and serial numbers.
  • Include less expensive items, such as bath towels and clothes.  Their costs add up if you have to replace them.
  • Be sure you include items in your attic, basement, and garage.
  • Note the quality of building materials, particularly for such furnishings as oak doors or expensive plumbing fixtures.
  • Photograph the exterior of your home.  Include the landscaping---that big tree in the front yard may not be insurable, but it does increase the value of your property for tax purposes.  Make special note of any improvements, such as a patio, fencing, or outbuildings.
  • Photograph cars, boats, and recreational vehicles.
  • Make copies of receipts and cancelled checks for more valuable items.
  • Get professional appraisals of jewelry, collectibles, artwork, or other items that are difficult to value.  Update the appraisals every two to three years.
  • Update your inventory list annually.

Sound like too much work? Computer software programs designed for such purposes can make the task much easier.  These programs are readily available in local computer stores.

Most important, once you have completed your inventory, leave a copy with relatives or friends, or in a safe deposit box.  Don't leave your only copy at home, where it might be destroyed.

Buy insurance

Even with adequate time to prepare for a disaster, you still may suffer significant, unavoidable damage to your property. That's when insurance for renters or homeowners can be a big help.  Yet, many people affected by recent disasters have been underinsured-or worse-not insured at all.  Homeowners insurance doesn't cover floods and some other major disasters.  Make sure you buy the insurance you need to protect against the perils you face.

If you own a home:

  • Buy, at a minimum, full replacement or replacement cost coverage.  This means the structure can be replaced up to the limits specified in the policy.
  • Investigate buying a guaranteed replacement cost policy.  When and where available, these policies can pay to rebuild your house, including improvements, at today's prices, regardless of the limits of the policy.
  • Have your home periodically reappraised to be sure the policy reflects the real replacement cost.
  • Update the policy to include any home improvements, such as basement refinishing.  Annual automatic increases may not be enough to cover these.
  • Buy a policy that covers the replacement cost of your possessions.  Standard coverage only pays for the actual cash value (replacement cost discounted for age or use).
  • Be very clear about what the policy will and will not cover, and how the deductibles work (the part you pay before the policy pays).
  • Check government operated insurance pools if you find it difficult to obtain private coverage because of a recent disaster.  Premiums often run higher than market rates, but this is better than no coverage.
  • Use your home inventory list to check that your policy's coverage matches the value of your possessions.

If you rent:

  • If you are renting, consider locating outside a high risk flood area or away from a fault line.
  • Buy renter's insurance, which pays for damaged, destroyed, or stolen personal property.  Your landlord's insurance won't cover damage to or loss of your possessions.  Also, consider special coverage like flood insurance for your belongings.
  • Be clear about what a policy will cover.  Some policies cover more than others.  For example, will the policy pay for living expenses if you have to live somewhere else temporarily, or for damage from sewer backup?
  • Comparison shop for the best coverage at the best price.  Other than government flood insurance, policies vary from company to company.  Policies in most areas are very affordable.  Start with the company that insures your car.  Discounts are often available if you carry more than one policy with a company.

If you are moving:

  • Select a home in an area not on a fault line, in a flood area, or at risk from coastal erosion.
Consider special coverage

Insurance for renters and homeowners won't cover certain types of losses.  Ask your insurance agent or financial planner about special or additional coverage for the following:

  • Floods- Homeowner policies don't cover damage from flooding.  Call your current insurance company or agent first about getting coverage.
  • Earthquakes- Premiums typically are high, and deductibles may range from 5% to 20% of the policy's coverage.  Still, such coverage may be better than no coverage. (Earthquake coverage for the contents of a home usually is separate.)
  • Home offices- Some policies automatically extend coverage to computer equipment and a few other items of business property. Talk to your agent to determine what items would or would not be covered.  If necessary, you could buy additional business coverage at a modest cost.  Or it may be better to buy a separate small business policy, which would also provide more coverage.
  • Building codes- Ask your agent about additional insurance to cover the costs of meeting new, stricter building codes.  Frequently, after a disaster people get shocked with rebuilding costs that are much higher because building codes have changed.  All current codes must be met when rebuilding.  Consider additional structural improvements that provide more protection.
  • Other potential problems- This would include problems such as underground mines (located beneath your property) sewer backup, or mudslides.
  • Big-ticket items- Purchase additional coverage for specific jewelry, collectibles, artwork, furs, or other big-ticket items.
Where to keep cash

After a disaster, you may need cash for the first few days, or even several weeks.  Income may stop if you can't work.  To help stay solvent, consider the following:

  • Keep a small amount of cash or traveler's checks at home in a place where you can get at it quickly in case of a sudden evacuation.  A disaster can shut down local ATMs and banks.  The money should be in small denominations for easier use.
  • Set aside money in an emergency fund.  That can be tough to do on a tight budget, but it can be well worth the effort.  The fund can be very helpful, not only in a disaster, but in other financial crises, such as during unemployment or when unexpected expenses like legal fees arise.
  • Keep your emergency funds in a safe, easily accessible account, such as a passbook savings account or a money market account.
  • Keep some funds outside the local area, since the disaster that affects you could also affect your local financial institutions.  A mutual fund money market account in another city is one option to consider.
  • Keep your credit cards paid off. You may have to draw on them to tide you over.
Use an evacuation box

Buy a lockable, durable "evacuation box" to grab in the event of an emergency.  Even a cardboard box would do.  Put important papers into the box in sealed, waterproof plastic bags.  Store the box in your home where you can get to it easily.  Keep this box with you at all times, don't leave it in your unattended car.

The box should be large enough to carry:

  • A small amount of traveler's checks or cash and a few rolls of quarters.
  • Negatives for irreplaceable personal photographs, protected in plastic sleeves.
  • A list of emergency contacts that includes doctors, financial advisors, clergy, reputable repair contractors, and family members who live outside your area.
  • Copies of important prescriptions for medicines and eyeglasses, and copies of children's immunization records.
  • Health, dental, or prescription insurance cards or information.
  • Copies of your auto, flood, renter's, or homeowners insurance policies (or at least policy numbers) and a list of insurance company telephone numbers.
  • Copies of other important financial and family records (or at least a list of their locations).  These would include deeds, titles, wills, a letter of instructions, birth and marriage certificates, passports, relevant employee benefits documents, the first two pages of the previous year's income tax returns, etc.  Originals, other than wills, should be kept in a safe deposit box or at another location.
  • Backups of computerized financial records.
  • A list of bank account, loan, credit card, driver's license, investment account (brokerage and mutual funds), and Social Security numbers.
  • Safe deposit box key.
Rent a safe deposit box

Safe deposit boxes are invaluable for protecting originals of important papers. If you don't have a safe deposit box, keep copies in your evacuation box or with family or friends.  Original documents to store in a safe deposit box include:

  • Deeds, titles, and other ownership records for your home, autos, RVs, boats, etc.
  • Birth certificates and naturalization papers.
  • Marriage license/divorce papers and child custody papers.
  • Passports and military/veteran papers.
  • Appraisals of expensive jewelry and heirlooms.
  • Certificates for stocks, bonds, and other investments.
  • Trust agreements.
  • Living wills, powers of attorney, and health care powers of attorney.
  • Insurance policies (copies are sufficient).
  • Home improvement records.
  • Household inventory documentation.

Generally, originals of wills should not be kept in a safe deposit box since the box may be sealed temporarily after death.  Keep originals of wills with your local registrar of wills or your attorney.

Deciding on a safe and convenient location is an issue.  You may want to consider renting a safe deposit box in a bank far enough away from your home so it is not likely to be affected by the same disaster that strikes your home (for instance, bank vaults have been flooded). Keep the key to the safe deposit box in your evacuation box.

Home safes and fire boxes

Safes and fire boxes can be convenient places to store important papers.  However, some disasters, such as hurricanes, floods, or tornadoes, could destroy your home.  Usually, it's better to store original papers in a safe deposit box or at another location well away from your home.

If you have time...

Some disasters, such as tornadoes or earthquakes, strike with little or no warning.  Others, such as floods or hurricanes, may allow some time to prepare.  If there is enough time, you could take the following actions:

  • Decide what household items you would put on a very short priority list.  For example, imagine you could take only one suitcase or pack a single carload.  What would you take?  Involve the whole family in this discussion.  Take jewelry and other small valuables.
  • Take irreplaceable heirlooms, mementos, and photos.
  • Don't bother with replaceable items such as televisions, furniture, computers, and clothing (except what you need to wear for a few days).
  • Be sure, however, to take a battery-powered radio and spare batteries so you can stay informed.
  • Take important papers and computer disks if you have a home business.

Whew! These are a lot of ideas.  You may not be able to do everything that is suggested---that's OK.  Do what you can.  Taking even limited action now will go a long way toward preparing you financially before a disaster strikes.




Homebuyers: How To Save Thousands of Dollars When You Buy

"When you analyze those successful homebuyers who have the experience to purchase the home they want for thousands of dollars below a seller’s asking price, some common denominators emerge."

If you’re like most homebuyers, you have two primary considerations in mind when you start looking for a home. First, you want to find a home that perfectly meets your needs and desires, and secondly, you want to purchase this home for the lowest possible price.

When you analyze those successful homebuyers who have been able to purchase the home they want for thousands of dollars below a seller’s asking price, some common denominators emerge. Although your agents negotiating skills are important, there are three additional key factors that must come into play long before you ever submit an offer.

These Steps Will Help You Save Thousands When You Buy a Home

Make sure you know what you want . . . As simple as this sounds, many home buyers don't have a firm idea in their heads before they go out searching for a home. In fact, when you go shopping for a place to live, there are actually two homes competing for your attention: the one that meets your needs, and the one that fulfills your desires. Obviously, your goal is to find one home that does both. But in the real world, this situation doesn't always occur.

When you're looking at homes, you'll find that you fall in love with one or another home for entirely different reasons. Is it better to buy the 4 bedroom home with room for your family to grow, or the one with the big eat in kitchen that romances you with thoughts of big weekend family brunches? What's more important: a big backyard, or proximity to your child's school? Far too often people buy a home for the wrong reasons, and then regret their decision when the home doesn't meet their needs.

Don't shop with stars in your eyes: satisfy your needs first. If you're lucky, you'll find a home that does this and also fulfills your desires. The important thing is to understand the difference before you get caught up in the excitement of looking.

Find out if your agent offers a “Buyer Profile System” or "Househunting Service", which takes the guesswork out of finding just the right home that matches your needs. This type of program will cross-match your criteria with ALL available homes on the market and supply you with printed information on an ongoing basis. A program like this helps homeowners take off their rose colored glasses and, affordably, move into the home of their dreams.

To help you develop your homebuying strategy, use this form:

What do I absolutely NEED in my next home:

  1. ______________________________

  2. ______________________________

  3. ______________________________

  4. ______________________________

  5. ______________________________

What would I absolutely LOVE in my next home:

  1. _______________________________

  2. _______________________________

  3. _______________________________

  4. _______________________________

  5. _______________________________

How Sellers Set Their Asking Price

For you to understand how much to offer for a home you’re interested in, it’s important for you to know how sellers price their homes. Here are 4 common strategies you’ll start to recognize when you begin to view homes:

1. Clearly Overpriced:

Every seller wants to realize the most amount of money they can for their home, and real estate agents know this. If more than one agent is competing for your listing, an easy way to win the battle is to over inflate the value of your home. This is done far too often, with many homes that are priced 10- 20% over their true market value.

This is not in your best interest, because in most cases the market won't be fooled. As a result, your home could languish on the market for months, leaving you with a couple of important drawbacks:

  • your home is likely to be labelled as a "troubled" house by other agents, leading to a lower than fair market price when an offer is finally made

  • you have been greatly inconvenienced with having to constantly have your home in "showing" condition . . . for nothing. These homes often expire off the market, forcing you to go through the listing process all over again.

2. Somewhat Overpriced:

About 3/4 of the homes on the market are 5-10% overpriced. These homes will also sit on the market longer than they should. There is usually one of two factors at play here: either you believe in your heart that your home is really worth this much despite what the market has indicated (after all, there's a lot of emotion caught up in this issue), OR you've left some room for negotiating. Either way, this strategy will cost you both in terms of time on the market and ultimate price received

3. Priced Correctly at Market Value

Some sellers understand that real estate is part of the capitalistic system of supply and demand and will carefully and realistically price their homes based on a thorough analysis of other homes on the market. These competitively priced homes usually sell within a reasonable time frame and very close to the asking price.

4. Priced Below the Fair Market Value

Some sellers are motivated by a quick sale. These homes attract multiple offers and sell fast - usually in a few days - at, or above, the asking price. Be cautious that the agent suggesting this method is doing so with your best interest in mind.





Things You Need to Know About Automobile Tire Care and Safety

Tires are designed and built with great care to provide thousands of miles of excellent service. But for maximum benefit, they must be maintained properly.

The most important factors in tire care are:

  • Proper Inflation Pressure
  • Proper Vehicle Loading
  • Regular Inspection
  • Good Driving Habits
  • Vehicle Conditions

The Benefits of Proper Inflation

With the right amount of air pressure, your tires wear longer, save fuel and help prevent accidents. The "right amount" of air is the pressure specified by the vehicle manufacturer for the front and rear tires on your particular model car or light truck. The correct air pressure is shown on the tire placard (or sticker) attached to the vehicle door edge, door post, glove box door or fuel door. If your vehicle doesn't have a placard, check the owner's manual or consult with the vehicle manufacturer, tire manufacturer or your local tire dealer for the proper inflation.

The tire placard tells you the maximum vehicle load, the cold tire pressures and the tire size recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.

If you don't take proper care of your tires, the results can be serious. Most tire companies are either supplying a handbook or are molding a safety warning right onto the tire sidewall. A typical warning is shown.

Serious injury may result from tire failure due to underinflation / overloading. Follow owner's manual or tire placard in vehicle. Explosion of tire/rim assembly. Only specially trained persons should mount tires.

As you see, it points out that serious injury may result from tire failure due to underinflation or overloading. Motorists are strongly advised to follow the vehicle owner's manual or the tire placard in the vehicle for proper inflation and loading.

Never try to mount your own tires. Only specially trained persons should mount or demount tires. An explosion of a tire and wheel assembly can result from improper or careless mounting procedures.

If you do mount your own tires, make sure you have the right equipment, the right training and the right information before proceeding. Always use a restraining device when mounting a tire on a rim, and be sure to stay back from the tire when inflating it. Make sure to follow the inflation instructions.

Always replace a tire with another tire of exactly the same bead diameter designation and suffix letters. For example: A 16" tire goes on a 16" rim. Never mount a 16" tire on a 16.5" rim. A 16.5" tire goes on a 16.5" rim. Never mount a 16.5" tire on a 16" rim.

While it is possible to pass a 16" diameter tire over the lip or flanges of a 16.5" size diameter rim, it cannot be inflated enough to position itself against the rim flange. If an attempt is made to seat the tire bead by inflating, the tire bead will break with explosive force and could cause serious injury or death.

Remember, mounting and demounting tires and wheels should be left to skilled professionals who are aware of the safety hazards involved and who have the proper tools and equipment to do the job safely.

Your Own Tire Pressure Gauge

Tires must be properly inflated. Use an accurate tire pressure gauge to determine your tire pressure. You can't tell when tires are "low," or underinflated, just by looking. Air meters at service stations may be inaccurate due to exposure or abuse. You should have your own personal tire gauge to be sure. Purchase an accurate tire gauge from your tire dealer, auto supply store or other retailer.

Inflation Tips

Check tire inflation pressure (including the spare) at least once a month and before every long trip. Tires must be checked when they are cold; that is, before they have been run a mile. If you must drive over one mile for air, before you leave home, measure the cold inflation pressure of each tire and record the actual underinflation amount for each tire.

Upon arriving at the service station, measure each tire's inflation again and then inflate the warm tire to a level that is equal to this warm pressure, plus the cold underinflation amount.


Tires lose air normally through the process of permeation. Changes in outdoor temperature can affect the rate at which your tire loses air. This change is more pronounced in hot weather. Generally speaking, a tire will lose one or two pounds of air per month in cool weather, and even more in warmer weather. Underinflation is the leading cause of tire failure, so check inflation pressure regularly.

Never "bleed" or reduce air pressure when tires are hot. It is normal for pressures to build up as a result of driving.

Make sure all tire valves and extensions are equipped with valve caps with rubber gaskets to keep out dirt and moisture. Have a new valve stem assembly installed whenever a tire is replaced. Underinflation or overloading creates excessive heat, and can lead to tire failure, which could result in vehicle damage and/or serious injury or death. Proper inflation extends tire life and saves fuel. Maintain the inflation pressure listed in the vehicle owner's manual or on the tire placard.

Proper Vehicle Loading

In addition to showing the vehicle manufacturer's recommended cold inflation pressure, the tire placard also shows the maximum load of the vehicle. Do not overload your vehicle. Remember, baggage carried on top of any vehicle counts as additional load.

If you are towing a trailer, remember that some of the weight of the loaded trailer transfers to the towing vehicle. That reduces the load which can safely be placed in the towing vehicle. The only sure way to prevent overload is to weigh, axle by axle, the fully loaded vehicle on reliable platform scales.

Inspect Your Tires Regularly

At least once a month, inspect your tires closely for signs of uneven wear.

Uneven wear patterns may be caused by improper inflation pressures, misalignment, improper balance or suspension neglect. If not corrected, further tire damage will occur.

Most likely, the cause can be corrected at your tire dealer or other service facility. If you find a problem and correct it in time, your tires may be able to continue in service.

Certain uneven wear patterns may indicate that the tire has suffered internal structural damage and requires the immediate attention of your tire dealer.

When the tread is worn down to one-sixteenth of an inch, tires must be replaced. Built-in treadwear indicators, or "wear bars", which look like narrow strips of smooth rubber across the tread, will appear on the tire when that point of wear is reached. When you see these wear bars, the tire is worn out and it's time to replace it.

Inspect your tires frequently. Look for any stones, bits of glass, metal or other foreign objects wedged in the tread. These may work deeper into the tire and cause air loss.

If any tire continually needs more air, have it taken off the vehicle and checked to find out why it is leaking. Damage to the tire, wheel or valve may be the problem.

Good Driving Habits

The way you drive has a great deal to do with your tire mileage and safety. So cultivate good driving habits for your own benefit.

  • Observe posted speed limits.
  • Avoid fast starts, stops and turns.
  • Avoid potholes and objects on the road.
  • Do not run over curbs or hit the tire against the curb when parking.
When You're Stuck

The forces created by a rapidly spinning tire can cause an explosion by literally tearing the tire apart. These forces impact the whole tire structure and can rupture the entire casing. Some vehicles are capable of bringing a tire to this failing point in 3 to 5 seconds.

When stuck on ice, snow, mud or wet grass, the vehicle should be rocked gently back and forth by repeatedly shifting the gear lever from drive to reverse on automatic transmissions, or reverse to second on manual transmissions. This should be done with the least amount of wheel spinning. If that doesn't free the vehicle, get a tow.

Highway Hazards

No matter how carefully you drive, there is always a possibility that you may eventually have a puncture and wind up with a flat on the highway. Drive slowly to the closest safe area out of traffic. This may further damage the flat tire, but your safety is more important.

Follow the vehicle manufacturer's instructions for jacking up the vehicle, taking off the wheel and putting on the spare. Then drive to a place where the flat tire can be inspected for possible repair or replacement.

After a tire has received a severe impact, such as hitting a curb or pothole, you must have it removed from the wheel and inspected both inside and out for impact damage.

An impact-damaged tire may appear serviceable on the outside, but can fail later after the road hazard injury.

Spare Care

Many late-model vehicles are equipped with temporary spare tires and wheels which are different from your regular tires and wheels. Some may require higher inflation pressure, or the use of special canisters to inflate the tire.

You may operate a vehicle with such a tire within the limits indicated on the tire's sidewall, until it is convenient to repair the disabled tire or replace it with one of the same size designation and construction as the other tires on the vehicle.

Always check the inflation in your spare tire every time you check all the others. A spare tire with no air in it is no help to you in an emergency. If you have an inflatable spare, be sure to check the aerosol air inflation pressure canister to be sure it has not been damaged. If so, have it checked by an expert.

Remember, improper mounting and overinflation may damage the tire or wheel and can result in an explosion that could cause serious injury and death.

Aerosol Inflators

Do not depend on tire aerosol sealants and inflators to fix a damaged tire permanently. These products are designed to provide only a temporary, emergency repair to help get you off the road and to the nearest tire repair facility.

Some aerosol products of this type use flammable gases, such as butane, propane or isobutane, as propellants. Follow all directions and precautions printed on the canister when using these products. Be sure to inform tire service personnel that you have used a flammable aerosol to inflate your tire.

Vehicle Conditions Affecting Tires

There is a close working relationship between your tires and several mechanical systems in your vehicle. Tires, wheels, brakes, shock absorbers, drive train, steering and suspension systems must all function together to give you a comfortable ride and good tire mileage.


An unbalanced wheel and tire assembly may create an annoying vibration when you drive on a smooth road and may result in irregular treadwear.


Misalignment of wheels in the front or rear, improperly operating brakes or shock absorbers, bent wheels, worn bushings and other mechanical problems cause uneven and rapid treadwear and should be corrected by a qualified mechanic. Front-wheel-drive vehicles, and those with independent rear suspension, require special attention with alignment of all four wheels.

These systems should be checked periodically as specified by the vehicle owner's manual or whenever you have an indication of trouble.

A bad jolt, such as hitting a pothole, can throw your front end out of alignment even if you had it checked an hour earlier. Such an impact can also bend the rim, causing a loss of air pressure, and damage your tires with little or no visible external indication.

Tire Rotation

Sometimes irregular tire wear can be corrected by rotating your tires. Consult your car owner's manual, the tire manufacturer or your tire dealer for the appropriate pattern for your vehicle.

If your tires show uneven wear, ask your tire dealer to check for and correct any misalignment, imbalance or other mechanical problem involved before rotation.

Sometimes front and rear tires on a vehicle use different pressures. After rotation, adjust individual tire air pressure to the figures recommended by the vehicle manufacturer for the new locations -- front or rear -- as shown on the tire placard in the vehicle.

The purpose of regularly rotating tires is to achieve more uniform wear for all tires on a vehicle. Before rotating your tires, always refer to your individual owner's manual for rotation recommendations. If no rotation period is specified, tires should be rotated approximately every 6,000 miles.

However, rotate your tires earlier if signs of irregular or uneven tire wear arise, and have the vehicle checked by a qualified technician to determine the cause of the wear problem. The first rotation is most important.

The Sidewall Story

Your tire contains very useful information molded into the sidewall. It shows the name of the tire, its size, whether it is tubeless or tube type, the maximum load and maximum inflation, the important safety warning and much other information.

Passenger Tires

Here is information about the sidewall of a popular "P-metric," speed-rated auto tire. "P" stands for passenger, "215" represents the width of the tire in millimeters; "65" is the ratio of height to width; "H" is the speed rating; "R" means radial; and "15" is the diameter of the wheel in inches. Some speed-rated tires carry a Service Description, instead of showing the speed symbol in the size designation. The Service Description, 89H in this example, consists of the load index (89) and speed symbol (H).


The treadwear grade is a comparative rating based on the wear rate of the tire when tested under controlled conditions on a specified government test track.

A tire graded 200 would wear twice as long on the government test course under specified test conditions as one graded 100.

It is wrong to link treadwear grades with your projected tire mileage. The relative performance of tires depends upon the actual conditions of their use and may vary due to driving habits, service practices, differences in road characteristics and climate.


Traction grades, from highest to lowest, are A, B and C. They represent the tire's ability to stop on wet pavement as measured under controlled conditions on specified government test surfaces of asphalt and concrete.


The temperature grades, from highest to lowest, are A, B and C. These represent the tire's resistance to the generation of heat when tested under controlled conditions on a specified indoor laboratory test wheel.

Replacement Tire Selection

IMPORTANT: Always check the vehicle manufacturer's recommendation before replacing a tire with a different size and/or construction.

When buying new tires, be sure your name, address and tire identification number are recorded and returned to the tire manufacturer or its record-keeping designee. Tire registration will ensure that you will be notified promptly in the event the tire manufacturer needs to contact you.

When tires need to be replaced, don't guess what tire is right for your vehicle.

For the answer, first look at the tire placard. As you will see, that placard tells you the size of the tires which were on the vehicle as original equipment.

Tires should always be replaced with the same size designation, or approved options, as recommended by the automobile or tire manufacturer. Never choose a smaller size, with less load-carrying capacity than the size on the tire placard. Always have tires mounted with the same size and construction designations on the same axle. It is recommended that all four tires be of the same size, speed rating and construction (radial or non-radial). However, in some cases, the vehicle manufacturer may require different-sized tires for the front and rear axles. When two radial tires are used with two non-radials, put the radials on the rear axle.

Speed Ratings

Some tires are now marked with letters to indicate their speed rating, based on laboratory tests which relate to performance on the road. Tires may be marked with one of eight speed symbols, M, S, T, U, H, V, Z or W, to identify the particular tire's speed rating.

When replacement of tires is required, consult the vehicle manual for proper size and speed rating (if required).

If the vehicle manual specifies speed-rated tires, the replacement tires must have the same or higher speed rating to maintain vehicle speed capability.

If tires with different speed ratings are mounted on the same vehicle, the tire or tires with the lowest rating will limit the tire-related vehicle speed.

Tire speed ratings do not imply that vehicles can be safely driven at the maximum speed for which the tire is rated, particularly under adverse road and weather conditions, or if the vehicle has unusual characteristics. Never operate a vehicle in an unsafe or unlawful manner.

Types of Tire Construction

Tires should be of the same size, construction (radial, non- radial) and speed rating, unless specified otherwise by the vehicle manufacturer. Tires influence vehicle handling and stability.

Match tire size designations in pairs on an axle (or four tires in dual application), except for use of a temporary spare tire.

If radial and non-radial tires are used on a vehicle, put radials on the rear. If radial and non-radial tires are used on a vehicle equipped with dual rear tires, the radials may be used on either axle. Never mix radial and non-radial on the same axle except for use of a temporary spare tire.

Snow tires should be applied in pairs (or as duals) to the drive axle (whether front or rear) or to all positions. Never put non-radial snow tires on the rear if radials are on the front, except when the vehicle has duals on the rear. If studded tires are used on the front axle, they must also be used on the rear axle.

Match all tire sizes and constructions on four-wheel-drive vehicles.


Here are some things you should know about cold-weather driving.

How Cold Temperature Affects Tires

Every time the outside temperature drops 10 degrees Fahrenheit, the air pressure inside your tires goes down about one or two pounds per square inch.

You should check your tire pressures frequently during cold weather and add the necessary air to keep them at recommended levels of inflation at all times.

Never reduce tire pressures in an attempt to increase traction on snow or ice. It does not work and your tires will be so seriously underinflated that driving will damage them.

If one of the drive wheels becomes stuck, the centrifugal forces created by a rapidly spinning tire can cause an explosion by literally tearing the tire apart. Never exceed the 35 mph indicated speedometer speed or stand near the spinning tire.

If your vehicle is stuck and a tow truck is not readily available, gently rock your vehicle back and forth, repeatedly shifting the gear lever from drive to reverse on automatic transmissions, or reverse to second on manual transmissions, while applying gentle pressure to the accelerator. Caution: If you have an anti-lock braking system (ABS) in your car, follow the operational instructions in your owner's manual.

Snow Tires

In snowy areas, many cities and counties have "snow emergency" regulations which are invoked during heavy snowfalls. Check with authorities for the rules in your area. Under some rules, motorists are subject to fines if they block traffic and do not have snow tires on their vehicles.

You can avoid this by equipping your vehicle with snow tires marked with "MS," "M&S," and "M+S" on the sidewall. The letters "M" and "S" stand for mud and snow.

If you change to snow tires, be sure they are the same size construction type as the other tires on the vehicle.

Snow tires should be used in pairs (or as duals) on the rear axle or on all four wheel positions. If purchasing 2 new tires it is recommended that you install them on the back of the car. If you install a high traction tire on the front drive axle, you are leaving the lighter end of the vehicle (the rear) with no traction improvement. Most tire manufacturers recommend that front wheel drive vehicles have all four tires of equal traction. In all cases, install new tires on the rear axle. If your front tires lose grip first, your vehicle will tend to lose control by going straight, even in a turn. This is understeer, which can be controlled by slowing down and steering in the direction of the turn...this will allow your car to come back into line.  But if the rear tires lose grip first, your vehicle, could spin, which is oversteer and more difficult to control, this requires you to make quick, precise steering corrections in the opposite direction of the turn, not a natural reaction. It is easier to control understeer than oversteer.

In areas where heavy snowfalls are frequent, many drivers carry chains for use in emergencies, or have their tire dealer apply studded snow tires. When studded snow tires are mounted on the front axle, studded tires also must be placed on the rear axle. Most states have time limits on the use of studs or ban them altogether. Before installing studded tires, check the regulations in your area. If you use chains, make sure they are the proper size and type for your tires, otherwise they may damage the tire sidewall and cause tire failure.


When you have a question about tires, or a problem, consult your tire dealer. The dealer is the best source of general information and professional service on tires.

Your dealer has service manuals, wall charts and other industry publications on tire load and inflation, tire repair and tire replacement. Your dealer can provide you with the replacement tires your vehicle needs, balance your tires and repair damaged tires which are repairable. Let the dealer inspect your tires periodically and diagnose any problem you may have.

Loss of Tire Pressure

When you discover a tire losing air, it must be removed from the wheel by an expert for complete internal inspection to be sure it is not damaged. Tires run even short distances while severely underinflated may be damaged beyond repair.

Punctures up to 1/4 inch, when confined to the tread, may be repaired by trained personnel. These tires must be removed from the wheel, inspected and repaired, using industry-approved methods which call for an inside repair unit and a plug.

Plugs vs. Patches

A PLUG BY ITSELF IS AN UNACCEPTABLE REPAIR. The repair material used - for example, a "combination patch and plug" repair - must seal the inner liner and fill the injury to be considered a permanent repair. Never use a tube in a tubeless tire as a substitute for a proper repair.

Individual tire manufacturers may differ on whether the speed category applies to speed-rated tires that have been repaired. Consult the tire manufacturer for recommendations.

Serviceable Tire Injuries

Injuries larger than 1/4 inch must be referred to a full service repair facility. No repairs to the sidewall of a tire should be made without consulting the tire manufacturer. After a tire has been repaired, check for leaks or other damage not detected at the time of repair. Improper repairs can cause sudden tire failure.

Air loss due to punctures can ruin tires that might have been saved had they been removed in time for proper repair. Gradual air loss raises a tire's operating temperature. This can cause some of the components to separate, or damage the tire body in ways that create rapid or sudden air loss.

Such internal damage may not always be readily apparent, and rapid loss of air may still occur despite later installation of a proper repair.


Tires should be stored upright and in a dry, cool place, away from sunlight and sources of ozone, such as electric motors.

However, if you must store tires flat (one on top of the other), make sure you don't stack too many on top of each other. Too much weight can damage the bottom tire.

Also be sure to allow air to circulate around all sides of the tires, including underneath, to prevent moisture damage.

If storing tires outdoors, protect them with an opaque waterproof covering and elevate them from the ground. Do not store tires on black asphalt, other heat absorbent surfaces, snow covered ground or sand.