when do i need new tires

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When Do I Have to Change Tires? Six Signs You Need New Tires

Your tires need to perform well and provide a safe grip in all situations. In order to achieve this, the tires require routine maintenance. How often do you service your tires and check them for problems? We have already covered the basics about tires, so this piece will go over warning signs that will tell you it’s time for a tire change. So, how do you know when it is time to change the tires?

1. Tread Depth

Image courtesy of tup wanders on Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Image courtesy of tup wanders on Flickr / CC BY 2.0

What constitutes a worn-down tire? In most states, you need to change your tires when they have around 2/32″ of remaining tread depth, which is the distance between the base of the groove and the top of the tread. Of course, if your tires receive more wear from inclement weather conditions, it is a good idea to change them before this point.

You can easily test your tread depth with a tool called a tread depth gauge.

  • Make sure you are reading in 32nds of an inch rather than millimeters, and test the gauge against a flat surface. It should reach zero when fully compressed.
  • Before positioning the tool, push the measuring scale as far as you can into the gauge. In a circumferential groove, press down on the tool’s base.
  • Repeat this process several times at different points for accuracy, and take the average of all readings.

The Penny Test

If you do not have a tread depth gauge, you can estimate the depth by using a penny or quarter. Here’s how it’s done: Place the coin into a tire groove, ensuring that the top of the image goes in first.

  • If the top of Lincoln’s head is covered, you have at least 2/32″ remaining.
  • If the top of Washington’s head on a quarter is covered, you have at least 4/32″, a good point to change the tires in rainy climates.
  • If the top of the Lincoln memorial is covered, you have more than 6/32″ remaining, which means you should consider replacements soon in snowy environments.

2. Tread Wear

How do you know when it is a good time to check the tread depth? If you look at the tread pattern on your tire, you may notice wear bars. These features will help you determine when it’s time to change your tires. Every tire sold in North America has wear bars, and you may also notice that each tire has a treadwear grade number printed on the sidewall.

These grades are given to tires by the tire manufacturer to indicate their expected longevity. Higher numbers indicate a longer lifespan, but your personal driving habits greatly impact the actual results. For instance, if you brake hard or tow heavy equipment frequently, you should not rely too heavily on that number.

3. Rubber Cracks

Pixabay.com / CC0 1.0.

Pixabay.com / CC0 1.0.

The elements are a major factor in your tires’ overall wear. Rough conditions like acid rain, particles on the road, ultraviolet rays and extreme temperatures erode the rubber, making cracks inevitable. Tires have anti-aging chemicals, but this protection does not last forever.

When your mechanic checks your tires, you may hear him talking about weather or ozone cracks, as this type is most common. These are basically surface cracks, only visible on the sidewalls and the base of the thread grooves. Such superficial cracks are not a problem, but it is time to change the tires when they descend deeper into the rubber. You can prevent cracking to some extent by driving the car regularly, as this maintains the rubber’s elasticity. Poor maintenance, as well as under- and over-inflation will lead to cracks sooner, so you should ensure that your tires are always properly inflated.

4. Bulges, Blisters and Bubbles

Take notice of any bulges or bubbles in your tires as these are signs of a serious issue. Bubbles indicate severe damage to the inner lining of the tire that can occur if you hit a curb or experience some kind of impact. If the tire is fairly new and there was no impact that would explain bulges, bubbles or blisters, it could also be a defect in the product. In either case, you need a replacement tire immediately. Be sure to check the warranty if your tires are new to avoid costly expenses.

5. Vibration

You may have experienced some vibration when driving your car after recently changing or rotating the tires. You should never ignore any kind of vibration from your car, no matter how fast or slow you are driving. You can usually sense vibrations through the steering wheel or the front portion of the vehicle. This is actually quite common after servicing your tires.

Should you experience any kind of vibration, you should bring your car to the mechanic, or check the following areas yourself:

  • The lug nuts – check their tightness. Should you decide to do this yourself, you can find the specific torque required in the vehicle’s manufacturer’s guide.
  • The tire pressure – checking the pressure of each tire may help fix the vibration issue.

The following checkups should be performed by a professional to ensure everything is in order:

  • The centering ring – it may not be properly installed.
  • The balancing weights – they may be amiss.
  • Tire and wheel balance check – Installers should conduct balance checks of the tires and wheels after a rotation or tire change.
  • Preexisting issues – another cause of vibration may be a preexisting issue with one or more tires.

6. Age & Season

Different parts of tires are made of different materials. Image courtesy of Oregon Department of Transportation on Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Different parts of tires are made of different materials. Image courtesy of Oregon Department of Transportation on Flickr / CC BY 2.0

For safety reasons, always pay attention to the age of your tires. As tires age, the treads can separate from the tire, leading to reduced traction. Prolonged exposure to heat, the way you store the car and how it is used can also impact tire quality and longevity.

Storing the vehicle in a covered garage protects the tires from the elements. Remember that not all tires are meant to handle the same amount of miles, but regular rotations will improve their longevity by enabling an even wearing of the treads.

Your tires might look great and still have a good grip, but if you live in a state with varying seasons, ensure that you always have tires best suited for the conditions of each season. This sometimes mean you will have two sets of tires – those that perform better during dry season and those that are specifically designed for better performance during rain and snow.


When was the last time your tires were serviced?


Your car is designed for safe transportation, and you never know when your tires might give out. To maintain a safe drive, never ignore these signs, and take care of your tires with regular checks for irregularities.

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  1. Ccvali

    Go to tirerack.com you can reeacrsh what fits your car as well as what is recommended for your car. You can also read reviews for what others like/dislike about certain tires. I would suggest looking for a lightweight wheel. It will lower the unsprung weight of each corner of your car and improve handling. You can also view your different wheel choices on the vehicle. I probably wouldn’t go over 18 in diameter. You don’t want to go too low profile with your tires or you could suffer rim damage or even suspension problems. Tirerack also can ship the tires and wheels already mounted and road force balanced so all you have to do is mount them when they arrive. They also have recommended installers all over the country where you can have the wheel/tire package installed if you don’t want to do it yourself. Good Luck!


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