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Baldness epidemic?

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WASHINGTON—One of every eight vehicles in the U.S. has at least one bald tire, according to the latest survey from the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), up from one in 10 just two years ago,

The RMA did not offer any specific reasons for the worsening condition, but a spokesman alluded to the recession and deferred maintenance.

The RMA said the survey results reflect the findings of a 2011 RMA survey that showed 64 percent of motorists did not know how to check tire tread depth and 9 percent said they never even tried to.

Bald tires cannot grip the road, leading to increased vehicle stopping distances and hydroplaning, resulting in loss of vehicle control, RMA Senior Vice President Dan Zielinski said.

“Checking tire tread is easy and inexpensive to do,” Mr. Zielinski said. “All you need is a penny.”

The “penny test” involves inserting a penny upside down into a tire's tread. If the entire top of Lincoln's head is visible, it's time to buy a new tire, he said.

The survey covered 5,300 vehicles and was conducted at tire retailers in 18 cities, where the tire techs collected the data. The stores involved were: Firestone Complete Auto Care; Discount Tire Co.; Dunn Tire Co.; Goodyear Auto Service Centers and Just Tires; Jack Williams Tire; Les Schwab Tire; Midas Muffler locations; Sullivan Tire Co.; and Tires Plus.

The new survey was part of the RMA's ongoing consumer education program, “Be Tire Smart—Play Your PART.”

PART is an acronym that refers to the four crucial aspects of tire care and maintenance: Pressure, Alignment, Rotation, and Tread.

The RMA reminded motorists that prematurely worn tires can result from a number of reasons:

c Pressure: Underinflation is the leading cause of tire wear. Check tire pressure monthly; use the correct inflation pressure for your vehicle (locate sticker on driver's door or refer to owner's manual); and check tires before you drive or wait three hours afterward;

c Alignment: Misalignment of wheels in the front or rear can cause uneven and rapid treadwear;

c Rotation: Regularly rotating tires (every 5,000-8,000 miles) will help achieve more uniform wear; and

c Tread: Advanced and unusual wear can reduce the ability of a tire's tread to grip the road in adverse conditions. Use the “penny test” to check tread depth.
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