How to Tell if You Need New Tires

September 15th, 2020 by

You rely on your vehicle to transport your family everywhere, from work to school to home. To keep your car, truck, or SUV running safely, you know you should replace your tires periodically. But when is the right time to upgrade your vehicle’s tires? Find out when to get new tires and how to test your tread.

Why Should You Replace Old Tires?

car with front flat tire

Image via Unsplash by Denny Müller

Although most tires are made to last for several thousand miles, they do wear out over time. As the tread wears down, your vehicle’s tires gradually become smoother. The lower your tread gets, the harder it is for your tires to grip the road. That means your vehicle could slip on the road, causing you to lose control and even become involved in an accident.

Low tire tread can also cause problems like:

  • Unsafe driving in the rain: Tread is designed to move water away from under the tires. When the tread is too worn down, your car could hydroplane as you drive through a puddle.
  • Poor grip in the snow: Tread is also supposed to help your tires grip surfaces that are covered in snow. Overly worn tread could make it tough to drive on snow or ice.
  • Flat tires: As tread wears down, tires lose mass and the rubber becomes thinner. Over time, tires become easier to puncture or damage, which can lead to flat tires.
  • A ticket or warning: Because bald tires can be a safety hazard, they’re illegal in most states. If you drive with a tread depth that’s less than 2/32 of an inch, you could get a ticket.

Signs You Need New Tires

In many cases, it’s easy to tell that you need new tires. If you notice any of these common warning signs, plan to replace your old tires as soon as possible.

You’ve Driven More Than 25,000 Miles

Tire quality can vary significantly, depending on the manufacturer and the model. Some are designed to last for about 25,000 miles, while others stay in great condition for 50,000 miles.

However, mileage isn’t the only factor to consider when deciding whether to buy new tires. The way you drive can also cause tire tread to wear down more quickly or last longer. For example, you may need to replace your tires sooner than the average driver if you tend to:

  • Take corners quickly.
  • Brake heavily.
  • Drive on rough surfaces.

Your Tires Are More Than 5 Years Old

Even if you drive safely or rarely take your vehicle out of the garage, you should still replace your tires regularly. After all, tires can fail due to age alone. Manufacturers often recommend replacing tires at least every six to 10 years. Check with your local service center or tire manufacturer to find out how old your tires are and if it’s time for a replacement.

Your Tires Are Cracked

Aside from the lines of the tread, the surface of your tires should remain smooth. If the surface appears cracked, then your tires are damaged and may not be safe for driving. Cracked rubber can signal advanced age, improper tire use, or substantial exposure to the elements. No matter the reason, you should plan to replace them right away.

You Hear Unusual Noises When You Drive

Some surfaces, such as gravel roads, make for noisy driving conditions, but if your tires make strange noises while driving on smooth surfaces, you could have a problem on your hands. Vibrations and repetitive noises can signal uneven wear, tire pressure issues, or misaligned wheels. Either way, you may need new tires to resolve the issue and stay safe on the road.

Your Tires Don’t Maintain Consistent Pressure

If the tire pressure light appears on your dashboard once, you could have a one-time issue, like a puncture. If the warning light keeps appearing, even after you add the right amount of air, you may need to replace your tires. Low tread can lead to tire pressure issues, which won’t go away until you install new tires.

Your Tires Show Uneven Wear

Ideally, your tires should show relatively even wear across the surface. If you notice that the tread on the left, right, or middle of your tires has worn down much more quickly than the rest of the surface, call your local service center.

Uneven wear often means that your tires aren’t inflated to the correct pressure or that your wheels are misaligned. If your tires show significantly uneven wear, it’s often safest to replace them and realign your wheels.

How to Test Tire Tread

If you aren’t sure whether it’s time to replace your tires, you can easily review the wear level. Use the two tests below to check your tire tread.

Try the Penny Test

If you have a penny on hand, you can test your tire tread in a few seconds. Hold the penny upside down and place it in one of the tire tread grooves.

  • If the tread reaches Lincoln’s forehead or further, your tires are likely safe and don’t need to be replaced just yet.
  • If the tread doesn’t reach Lincoln’s hair or forehead, the tread is probably shorter than 2/32 of an inch and should be replaced.

When you do this test, be sure to check all four tires. Since tires can show different levels of wear, it’s important to do the penny test to each one.

Look at the Tread Wear Bars

If you’ve ever looked at your tire tread, you know that it runs vertically around each tire. However, you might not have noticed that tires also have raised lines of rubber that run horizontally across each tire.

If these tread wear bars are visible, your tires probably don’t need immediate replacement. When they wear down enough that they’re even with the tread, it’s time for new tires.

Now you know how to tell when you need new tires. So what’s the next step? Use Sweeney Buick GMC’s handy tool to find new tires and keep your vehicle running safely.

Posted in Tips