When to Replace Tires
Is it time for your tires to hit the graveyard or can they go the extra mile? Here are some simple tips for tire health. The experts at Michelin, Pirelli and the Rubber Manufacturers Association give us the scoop on when to replace tires.
By Holly Reich
IT’S TIME TO HIT THE GRAVEYARD IF:
You see metal
If you see metal in your tires – even a glimmer – go directly to your nearest tire dealership and have them replaced. A glint of steel means you’ve waited way past the point of when to replace worn tires.
You See Lincoln’s Head
Tires are worn and unsafe with anything less than 2/32″ tread depth. Examine wear patterns by using the penny test in each tire groove on all four tires. If you can see the top of Abe Lincoln’s head when the edge of a penny is placed in the groove of the tire, the tires have come to the end of their useful life and should be replaced.
Your Car Pulls To One Side
If wear is uneven, alignment may be off. Improper alignment can accelerate tread wear and affect vehicle handling. Properly maintained tires usually wear at the same rate, so Michelin recommends changing all four tires on your car at the same time, whether your car is front, rear, or all-wheel drive. If you can only replace two, put the two newest tires on the rear. This can help you better handle hydroplaning or over-steering in emergencies.
Your Tires Are Six Years or Older
It is tough to predict when to replace tires based on their calendar age alone. However, the older a tire is, the more likely it is to have weak spots. While most tires will need replacement before they achieve six years, it is recommended that any tires in service six years or more (including spare tires) be replaced with new tires as a simple precaution.
It’s Winter and You Have Summer Tires
If you live in winter weather territory, then winter tires vastly improve traction on wet and icy surfaces. You’ll notice the difference immediately while driving on slick roads. When weather turns warm again, switch over to all-season or summer tires, which give a smoother ride on dry pavement. If you live in an area that has minimal days of frost, all-season tires are good for year-round driving.
You See Signs of Uneven Wear
Your tires may have irregular tread wear if there are rough patches or unusually smooth areas on the tread. Also check monthly to make sure there are no nails or other sharp objects in the tire.
Can Your Tires Go The Extra Mile? The Rubber Manufacturers Association and Pirelli Tire North America joined together in the campaign “Be Tire Smart – Play Your PART.” PART is an acronym for Pressure, Alignment, Rotation and Tread – the four key elements of tire care. Here are the details.
The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that properly inflated tires will improve vehicle fuel economy by 3.3 percent and save up to 12 cents per gallon at the pump.
Buy a tire pressure gauge. They are inexpensive and easy to find at any auto supply shop or general merchandise store like Target. Check your tire’s air pressure first thing in the morning, before you leave the house and while the tires are cold. Once you drive on the tires, they inflate due to heat and friction. They will give you an unreliable reading if you check them once they’re warm. Under-inflation is the leading cause of wear and tear on tires. “Tires are designed to operate when properly inflated with air,” add the Michelin gals. “Check your tire pressure every month and before any long trip. Fill them up to the recommended pressure in your owner’s manual or according to the placard on your driver’s door jamb. And always check your tires when they are cold.”
Misalignment of wheels in the front or rear can cause uneven and rapid tread-wear. Get semi-annual check-ups for alignment, or more often if your car dips into a particularly jarring pothole or bumps violently against a curb.
Regularly rotating your vehicle’s tires will help you achieve more uniform wear. Rotate tires every other oil change (every 6,000 – 10,000 miles) and don’t forget to include the spare if it’s full-size.
Advanced and unusual wear can reduce the ability of tread to grip the road in adverse conditions. Remember that your traction on wet roads, and even dry ones, depends entirely on the integrity of your tires’ tread.