If you’re not certain when to get new tires, you may never notice the warning signs. Knowing the signs you need new tires might save unnecessary headaches and expenditures. Although many people aren’t car or tire experts, these tips and pieces of advice will help anyone know when it’s time to get new tires.
Inspect the Treads
This is the easiest step to take when you want to determine when to replace car tires. The treads are the grooves on the tires, usually formed to create unique impressions. The general rule of thumb when inspecting tire treads is that they should be no lower than 1/6 of an inch. Since, like me, you probably can’t eyeball fractions of an inch, you can use a simple trick if you think it’s time to replace tires. This trick involves a common penny.
Take the penny and hold it upside down, so Abraham Lincoln’s head is facing down. Put the penny in the gap between the treads to determine where on the penny the tops of the treads meet. If you can’t see Lincoln’s forehead or hair, then your tires are probably all right. If, however, you can see Lincoln’s hair and forehead, and only the very top of the penny is obscured, then you need new tires. Alternatively, tire tread depth gauges can be had only a few bucks. Here’s one that does the job just as good as any.
Treads are crucial to safety when you’re driving. If your treads are worn or bald, then they might have trouble gripping the road. This could lead to hydroplaning or even accidents.
Know the Age of Your Tires
While you don’t have to celebrate your tires’ birthday every year, it is important to note when you purchased your tires. Tire and vehicle manufacturers generally recommend replacing tires that are between 6-10 years old, no matter if the treadwear is still good. This is mainly due to the fact that the rubber compounds in a tire deteriorate over time and lose their effectiveness and makes them more likely to fail.
To determine how old your tires are, check the tire’s DOT Tire Identification Number (TIN) on the sidewall. Look at the last four digits in the TIN. These indicate the week and year that the tire was made. So if the TIN ends in 0814, it means that tire was manufactured in the eighth week of 2014. So you’re probably thinking now: “how old are my tires?” Just go in the garage and check… you know you want to.
Also, if you’re the type who saves every product purchase receipt, don’t waste your time digging through your files since the date on the receipt won’t be accurate for this purpose simply because you won’t know how long the tire was sitting in a warehouse before it was mounted on your vehicle.
Understand the Damage Inflicted by the Elements
Depending on where you live, the elements might shorten the lifespan of your tires. Climate varies from region to region, and so does the effects it has on your tires. The elements might fade the color or cause cracks and splits in the rubber. In most cases, such damage is superficial and not worth your attention or concern. In some climates, however, these effects might prove detrimental. For example, the cracking and splitting might indicate structural, not superficial, damage caused by the weather.
Knowing When the Air Pressure is Low
Filled tires are round all around. Tires with low air pressure, on the other hand, tend to appear flatter near the ground. This is a sign that your air pressure is low. To remedy this, fill the tire with air, but keep an eye on it. If you discover that it’s low again in a day or two, or even in a week, this might be a sign that the tire is slowly losing air.
Besides the obvious embedded screw or nail, a cracked or broken valve stem could cause this, as well as a rim leak. In some cases, you might not have to replace your tires, but you should seek a mechanic who can repair the valve stem or rim leak. Most any major tire service center such as Discount Tire or Les Schwab will offer to inspect your tires and fix the leak for free (if the tire can be saved).
Pay Attention When You’re Driving
If you feel thumps when you’re driving, or if you hear thumping sounds, there’s a good chance your tire pressure is low or you have a flat. Pull over at your earliest convenience and check the tires for bulges or flattened areas. They may simply require an increase in air pressure, or as mentioned above, they might have a leak due to a nail or screw or have compromised valve stems or rim leaks.
Many of today’s newer cars have tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) which alerts you when the tire pressure on any of your tires falls below a certain PSI so read your owner’s manual to understand how it works.
The signs you need new tires are important to remember. Learning to keep an eye on your tires, and when to spot potentially hazardous conditions, could save you money, or it might even prevent an accident. Remember, however, that when you do replace your tires, it’s better to replace both on the same axle or even all four at once. Regular tire rotations and wheel alignments will also help prolong your tire life. Not only are good tires necessary for safer driving conditions, they also lower gas use and, in turn, reduce your weekly fuel costs. Keep that in mind and happy driving.