How Do You Know You Need New Tires?

Woman looking at car tire

If you drive your vehicle long enough, you'll eventually need to replace the tires. Knowing when it's time to make this change is very important, since having good quality tires can help you avoid accidents and maintain control of your vehicle.

Seven Signs You Need New Tires

Your Tires Are Old

According to TireRack, there is no set calendar age that indicates it's time to replace your tires. Environmental conditions like road salt and salt air, extreme temperatures, and direct sunlight exposure, can cause your tire to wear out more quickly, no matter how old they are. In general, if your tires that are more than six years old, you may need to replace them. If they are over 10 years old, there's an even higher likelihood that the rubber has degraded.

You Have Driven More Than the Recommended Amount

When you buy new tires, you'll see that they are rated for a certain number of miles. This varies, depending on the brand. If you don't have long wear tires or those that are approved for an extended period, reports that you'll mostly likely need to replace them around 40,000 miles.

Your Car Doesn't Handle As Well

If your car isn't handling as well as it used to, this change may indicate that your tires need to be replaced. Trouble driving on wet pavement and difficulty maintaining traction around curves can be signs of tire wear.

Your Tire's Sidewall is Bulging or Cracked

A bulge or raised area in the sidewall, or vertical edge, of your tire can indicate a weak spot. In time, this spot could lead to a tire blow-out, so it's very important to have it checked out right away. Cracked areas can also signal weakness.

Your Car Vibrates While Driving

Poor alignment can cause your car to vibrate, but unevenly worn tires can be another culprit. In addition, an internal problem in the tire can cause this type of behavior, so it's important to have your tires inspected and possibly replaced if this is happening.

You Don't Keep Your Tires Properly Inflated

Many newer cars have tire pressure monitoring systems to alert you that one or more tires is under inflated. If your car doesn't have this feature, it's important that you routinely check tire pressure on your own. Keep tires inflated to the psi recommended by the manufacturer. If you regularly drive with one or more tires under inflated, you may need to get new tires sooner than later. When your tires are under inflated, it places undue stress on the sidewalls of the tires, causing them to wear out sooner.

Your Tire Tread Is Insufficient

Your tire's tread must be a certain depth to provide proper traction for your car. If the tread depth is too low, your car won't handle well on the road. According to a commentary published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention, most states require a tread depth of 1/16 of an inch. However, there is a significant drop in traction if the tread depth is less than 1/8 inch. Most tires include wear bars that are exposed when your tread is less than 1/16 of an inch.

How to Check Your Tire Tread

penny test

If you aren't sure whether your tire has wear bars in the tread, you can use the "penny test" to check your tire tread. Here's how to do it:

  1. Find a penny, and orient it so Lincoln's head is facing down.
  2. Insert the penny into the tread of your tire.
  3. Check if you can see the top of Lincoln's head. If you can, it's time for new tires.

Part of Being a Safe Driver

Checking the condition of your tires and replacing them as needed is part of being a safe driver. Keeping good tires on your car means you'll be better able to control your vehicle and avoid accidents. If you notice signs of tire wear or damage, It's time to shop for new tires.

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How Do You Know You Need New Tires?