Responsible car owners understand that worn-out tires are unsafe to use. But while they change their tires regularly, many of them often wonder precisely when they ought to do it. Should you wait until your tires start wearing out?
On average, you should change your tires every 6 years. However, you need to replace them if the steering wheel vibrates as you drive or when the tire tread gets worn down. Also, if you notice cuts, deep cracks, bulges, punctures, or you drive the tire until it’s flat, consider getting new tires.
To find out more on when to change your tires, the signs to watch out for, and how to maintain your tires in good condition, keep reading.
How To Tell When To Change Your Tires
Generally, new tires can cover a distance of 25,000 to 50,000 miles (40233.6 to 80467.2 km) before you need to replace them. Exactly how long they last typically depends on their construction.
Those made using soft compounds deliver higher responsiveness plus braking performance. Unfortunately, these tires wear down rather fast.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, NHTSA, recommends that you replace your tires every 6 years, the number of miles covered notwithstanding. This is because tires degrade even when not in use due to changes in the rubber and other components brought about by storage, environmental conditions, and service.
Your car’s manual also features recommendations on how often and exactly how you need to replace the tires for your specific model.
That said, the frequency of tire changes largely depends on several factors:
- Your car type
- How you drive
- Where you drive
- Tire quality
- Frequency of tire rotations
- How well you care for your tires
This means that poor maintenance, overloading, heavy braking, driving on rough road surfaces, and driving fast around corners can all cause your tires to wear down significantly.
Worn-Out Tires: The Signs
Several indicators can inform you of the need to replace your tires. These include:
- Worn out tire tread: Worn tires usually feature tread wear bars between the treads or running across the tires. Tread is the grooves and ridges found on tire surfaces, and it enhances your vehicle’s traction and helps divert water away from the tires during wet conditions. With time, tread gradually wears down, becomes less effective, and the car tends to slide when it rains. Its stability control systems also become inefficient.
- Steering wheel vibrations: If your steering wheel vibrates or the car shakes when driving, it could mean your tires are unbalanced or unevenly worn out. Rotating the tires regularly can fix the balance issue, but you’d need to replace the worn-out tires if the vibrations persist. Rotating between the front and rear axles also helps make the tires wear out evenly, as most cars wear out their front tires faster.
- Defective tires: Tires that sport deep cracks, sidewall punctures, cuts, or bulges are not safe to use. Also, if you drive your tires until they go flat, this causes tire damage, and you need to consider replacing them.
- Flat spots: Parking your car for months on end without movement could cause the tires to form flat spots, which often happens in the cold season. The flat spots cause the vehicle to vibrate as you drive, but they tend to disappear once the car warms up. However, in extreme cases, you might need to get replacement tires.
In a nutshell, any suspicious tire performance issues, including vibrations or failure to maintain proper inflation pressure, are a cause for concern. If they occur, consult a tire service professional.
How To Test Your Tires for Wear
New tires consist of between 9/32″ to 11/32″ (7.14 to 8.7 mm) tread material. When the tread on your tires goes down to 2/32″ (1.5 mm), your car is no longer safe to drive. As such, you need to do regular checks and measurements to arrest the situation before the tread depth gets below 4/32″ (3.2 mm).
To take proper measurements, use a tire gauge.
Measuring Tread Depth Using a Coin
You can also measure your tires’ tread depth using a Washington quarter or penny as follows:
- Place the quarter inside a large groove with the head facing down.
- If the quarter fits inside such that the tread covers George Washington’s head, you have more than 4/32″ (3.2 mm) of tread material remaining. However, if the top of the head is the same level as the tread surface, then you have around 4/32″ tread material left.
- If you can view the top of the head quite well, you need to replace the tires immediately. In this instance, you will find it challenging to put the quarter in the tread.
How to Buy the Right Tires
When buying new tires:
- Make sure to select tires that boast a good tread life rating. You will find the rating on your tire’s sidewall. The rating covers the tire’s tread wear or relative wear rate, heat resistance, and traction performance.
- Buy the right size of tires. The new tires should be the same size as the original tires. To ensure you pick the correct tire size, check your vehicle’s manual. You can also get the information from the Tire and Loading Information Label printed on the driver’s door edge.
- Have a professional balance your new tires and align the wheels. This helps to maintain your vehicle’s safety and prolongs your tires’ lifespan.
Tips on Maintaining Your Tires
Proper tire maintenance extends their lifespan and enhances your safety. It also saves you money since you won’t need to replace the tires as often. On the other hand, poor tire maintenance can cause a blowout, flat tire, or the tread to come off.
To ensure that your tires remain in tiptop condition, follow the below guidelines:
- Have a qualified mechanic perform regular tire rotations on your car to prevent irregular wear.
- Check all tires’ pressure at least once per month and maintain it at the recommended specs.
- Check your vehicle’s manual for your tires’ recommended inflation pressure since excessive or minimal tire pressure can lead to uneven or extreme wear.
- In between standard tire changes, take your tires, including the spare tire, for professional annual check-ups.
- Start planning on investing in new tires once the tread on your current tires wears down to around 4/32″ (3.2 mm).
- Replace the tires even earlier if your car sports winter tires as they become rather ineffective in snowy conditions.
- It’s advisable to replace all four tires simultaneously plus the spare tire. For best results, use the same brand as well.
- If unsure about the age of your tires, check the Tire Identification Number or DOT on the tire’s surface.
Tip: Inflating your tires correctly could save you up to 11 cents per gallon (128 oz) of fuel and extend the life of your tires by about 4,700 miles (7563.9 km).
With issues like tire replacement, it’s always best to play it safe. But if you know the warning signs to look out for, you’re a step ahead. This is because the signs give you a rough estimate of the time you have before you need to change the tires.
And if the signs call for immediate action, such as bald tires or worn down tread, be sure to replace the tires asap. Your life and the safety of anyone on board depends on your vehicle having properly maintained tires.
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