Figuring out the lifespan of your tires isn’t as simple as determining how long you’ve had them. You also need to pay attention to more than just the tread depth. Learn what makes tires wear out and how to tell when you need new ones.
Why Does Tire Tread Matter?
There are two main reasons why you should worry about the tread on your tires:
- Safety: Tires are a vehicle’s single most important safety system. The condition of the tread determines how fast your car accelerates—and how effectively it brakes. If your tires are wearing out, the tread may not be able to handle wet or icy conditions.
- Legal reasons: Driving with worn-out tire tread is illegal because of the safety issues associated with bald tires. Illinois, along with most other states, requires a tread depth of at least 2/32”.
Why Do Tires Wear Out?
The mileage you can expect from your tires depends on a combination of factors, including:
- Road conditions: Roadways aren’t perfect. Driving over potholes, speed bumps, loose rocks, and sharp objects can increase tire wear. Hitting curbs and other obstacles also shortens the lifespan of your tires, as does driving through oil, road salt, and other chemicals.
- Driving habits: Peeling out and skidding to a stop increases friction between your tires and the road, which wears out the rubber faster. Going over the tire’s speed capacity or load index could also cause catastrophic failure.
- Improper inflation: If the pressure is too low, more of the rubber comes in contact with the road, which could cause rapid, uneven tread wear. If the pressure is too high, the tire could overheat at high speeds, increasing the risk of a blowout.
- Neglected maintenance: Have your tires rotated, aligned, and balanced every time you get an oil change. If you swap out your tires for different seasons, store the unused ones in a cool, dry place until you need them again.
- Improper use: Driving with winter tires in the summer or summer tires on snowy, icy roads will wear them out sooner. Mixing tire types and combining incompatible wheel and rim sizes are also bad ideas. In addition, driving faster than 50 miles per hour with a spare is not recommended, as this could damage the rest of your tires.
How to Tell If You Need New Tires
Even with excellent care and maintenance, you will need new tires eventually. Keep an eye out for these signs:
- Low tread: The easiest way to tell that you need new tires is by examining the tread. You know it’s time for a replacement if the rubber has worn below the recommended tread depth of 2/32”. Most new tires have wear bars built into them. These indicators run perpendicular to the tread so you can tell at a glance when the tires are wearing out.
- The penny test: If you can’t locate the wear bars, conduct a penny test. Insert the coin somewhere on the tread with Lincoln facing downward. If part of his head is covered, your tires still have some life left in them. However, if Lincoln’s entire head is visible above the groove, your tire is worn out and needs to be replaced. Repeat this test in several places on all four tires to find out if they pass or fail.
- Uneven wear: If you have neglected to rotate your tires, the tread may be wearing unevenly. If a single spot fails the penny test, the tire needs to be replaced. Make sure your wheels are properly aligned to help prevent uneven wear in the future.
- Visual damage: The tread isn’t the only part of a tire that can wear out. Act quickly if you notice cracked or bulging sidewalls or cords peeking through the rubber. These problems can increase the risk of a blowout or fire, making the tire unsafe for driving.
- The feel of your tires: Pay attention to how your tires feel as you drive. A rough ride may indicate tire damage or excessive wear. If you often get stuck when driving on icy roads, your tires may lack sufficient grip, making winter driving a hazard until you replace your tires.
- Age: Even if you don’t drive much, exposure to temperature fluctuations and UV rays can cause structural changes in a rubber tire. Therefore, regardless of tread wear, many manufacturers recommend getting new tires after six to 10 years. You should also replace your spare tire every 10 years, even if you’ve never used it.
The collision repair specialists at B&L Automotive Repairs offer expert wheel alignment and computerized tire mounting and balancing to help your tires last as long as possible. For more information about our services, or to schedule collision repair in Chicago, please call us at (773) 463-1622 or contact us online.