Some things aren’t at the top of our minds. In our go-go-go lives, we’re not really thinking about our tire condition, of all things. But honestly? We should be.
Tires are vital to driving safely. They affect how your car moves, breaks, fuel efficiency, and overall comfort. Neglecting maintenance, especially timely replacement, can lead to disaster — for yourself and others.
So, how to tell if your tires need replacing, you ask? Read below to find out.
The Short Answer
It’s no secret tires are key to on-the-road safety, and vehicle owners should know when tires need replacing.
How often do you need to change tires? Age is crucial, and replacement should generally happen every 6 years. Other typical signs include air bubbles, if your car vibrates while driving, any breakage or cracks, and if the tread is too shallow.
What You Should Look At
There are quite a few ways vehicle owners can gauge a tire’s condition. In fact, we suggest looking at all the following when doing so! They may be great age-wise, but that doesn’t mean other problem areas have cropped up.
Most tires have a maximum service life of 10 years, but you should replace your car tires every 6 years by safety standards.
If you’re unsure how old they are, there is a 4-digit code printed on the sidewall that gives you all the info you need.
Decoding the Sidewall
A car tire will have a 4-digit code on the wall of each one. The first two numbers are the week it was manufactured, and the last two are the year. So, if the code reads 14/12, it was made on the 14th week of 2012.
If you’ve recently hit a pothole or curb, check for bulging.
Bulging happens when air is caught between the outer layers (rubber, fabric, metal) and the inner liner. This air forms a pocket, indicating a weakened area.
Not addressing this issue right away could cause a major blowout, resulting in worse damage and potential injury.
3. Tread Depth
An easy way to tell if it’s a tire’s time to go is examining tread depth. 2/32nds of an inch depth is the point where a tire is unusable.
If you own a depth gauge, you can check your car with that. But if you don’t? No worries, there’s another quick way known as the penny test.
The Penny Test
- Put a penny in the tread groove. Have Lincoln turned upside down and facing you.
- If you see the top of his head or space above, you need a replacement.
Easy, right? And remember — check several points as tires don’t wear evenly.
Sometimes, the tire belts separate or shift. If this is the case, you won’t visibly see the issue, but you’ll certainly feel it. This shifting will cause your vehicle to vibrate.
If you feel your car omitting high-frequency vibrations cruising down the highway and slugging along at lower speeds, it’s likely the belts have separated. Get this checked right away!
When a professional mechanic mounts your car on a balancing machine, they can confirm the issue. You’ll definitely need tire replacement for this.
Your car is exposed to a barrage of elements — like ice, snow, water, heat, and the cold — day in and out. Since your tire is made of rubber, a natural material, it’ll break down after some time.
It’s your job to understand the signs. Common indicators include:
- Cracks in the sidewall
- Breakage between tread blocks
This decay exposes the inner materials to the elements, which is dangerous and warrants immediate replacement.
Consider checking the next blog – How Long Does It Take To Install New Tires
The following tips are great to keep in mind for tire longevity and when you go in for replacement.
Rotate Your Tires
If you want to extend tire life as much as possible, it’s best to get them rotated about every 7,500 miles (or about 6 months).
Rotation gives them a chance to wear evenly.
Replace According to Wheel Drive
If your vehicle has an all-wheel or 4-wheel drive, you should get all 4 replaced. In cars with two-wheel-drive, you need to replace the pair (rear-drive or front) at a minimum.
Replacing your tires may feel like a huge pain, but risking yourself and your vehicle is an even bigger one. Thankfully, there are quite a few easy ways you can inspect them on your own.
Age, breakage, air pockets, vehicle vibration, and worn treads are all how to tell if your tires need replacing. If you’re noticing any of these issues, it’s time to bring your car to a trusted mechanic.
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