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Automotive

(BPT) - A growing number of children are not content to keep all their efforts inside the classroom or play video games. They seek out different outlets like sports - especially soccer, which makes the largest youth sports organization in America - in order to learn, socialize and have fun.

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Automobile Spring Cleaning

(Photo courtesy of Tami Sisson.)

According to data from the U.S. Census, nearly six out of 10 children between the ages of 6 and 17 are involved in at least one after school extra-curricular activity. Children are stepping out to stay active, but they need some help to get there - literally. Even world-class soccer players on English Premier League champion Chelsea FC once needed parents to drive them around.

However, before kids can even hit the soccer field, the vehicles that get them there need to run smoothly, especially the tires. "With all the soccer practices and games, parents are putting a lot of extra miles on their tires," says Pat Keating, senior manager, technical engineering for Yokohama Tire Corporation, manufacturer of a variety of tires for passenger cars, SUVs, buses and trucks. "Taking just five minutes a month to check your tires can make a world of difference in how well they perform."

"The reason to check your tires monthly is to make sure they are properly inflated and the tread depth is still good. For example, the Rubber Manufacturers Association reports a car can lose up to 2 pounds per-square-inch (psi) each month under normal driving conditions, and up to 2 psi for every 10 degrees F temperature drop. A tire that is underinflated by only 8 psi can reduce fuel economy by up to 2 percent, which means higher gas bill at the pump and fewer funds for soccer league fees, new equipment or jerseys."

It's best to check your tires when they are cold, which means at least four hours since the vehicle was driven. Use a reliable tire gauge and make sure the valve is free of debris and water. The correct tire pressure is actually specified by the manufacturer of the vehicle, not the tire manufacturer. You can find the proper inflation levels on a placard on the inside of the car door or in the owner's manual.

Keating offers more tips for parents so they can get the most out of their tires year-round:

* Check your tread depth by placing a penny upside down into a tread groove. If you can see all of Lincoln's head, your tire's tread has worn down to the legal limit and you need to buy new tires.

* Tires must be replaced when the tread is worn down to 2/32 of an inch (the lowest legal limit). It's best to replace them before they reach 2/32 depending on your drive (geographically and type of streets).

* Rotating your tires regularly promotes even wear of the tread. Tires should be rotated every 5,000 to 8,000 miles.

* Check your alignment at least once a year or sooner, especially if the vehicle is pulling to one side. This will help avoid uneven wear on tire tread. Tire balance should also be monitored.

"Tires influence braking, steering, comfort, handling and even fuel efficiency," adds Keating." You can't play soccer without a ball, and you can't drive without tires. They are the only part of a vehicle that actually touches the road so maintaining them well is essential."

Having the right tires is also as important as having the right equipment in sports, Keating reports. "Certain tires offer specific benefits, so it's imperative to find the tire that fits your car's requirements. Case in point would be the GEOLANDAR A/T G015, a new tire that's coming out soon. It's specifically engineered for SUVs, crossovers, vans and pick-up trucks with its increased durability and ability to perform well on a variety of road surfaces."

Help your kids kick off their season right by giving your tires some extra care. Tire maintenance is one extra-curricular activity you can't afford to miss.

For more tire information, care and safety tips visit www.yokohamatire.com/tires-101 or www.rma.org.

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