How long do tires remain safe?

An easy way to know when you need new tires is to check the tread depth with a penny. Credit: Bridgestone Tire

How long do tires remain safe?

When customers shop for tires, they generally look at both price and tread life. The life of the tread is what will keep your tire in contact with the road longer and is vital for your safety. Tires can start to drop in handling and stopping distance when they’re only halfway through their lifespan — which is alarming when you think of how many worn tires are out on the roads.

When tires wear down they lose the depth of the tread pattern, which means they can’t grip the road as well in wet conditions. But there are many other dangers associated with tires that are bald and, surprisingly, these risks increase even when your tires are only half as worn as they could be.

Bald tires cause poor handling

The most obvious problem with bald tires is that they’ll have no tread to push away water or grip in snow. The lack of traction could make your vehicle slide on corners or hydroplane in wet conditions. Bald tires could also increase the distance it takes your vehicle to stop on wet roads and reduce handling on dry roads.

Bald tires a blowout risk

The balder your tire is, the thinner and closer to a blowout it is, especially on the highway. Risking a blowout when you’re driving at highway speeds could be dangerous as you could lose control of the vehicle.

How long should tires last?

How much use you get out of your tires depends on a lot of factors. Theoretically, you should get 50,000 miles from the tires that come with any new vehicle. This means with a typical number of miles, somewhere around 12,000-15,000 miles annually, you should get three to four years out of the tread. But so many factors affect the wear of a tire including its quality, its treadwear rating, whether it is a performance summer tire or an all-season tire, the type of vehicle it’s mounted on and the way it’s driven. Checking the wall of your tire will give you a lot of information about the kind of tire you’re using and how long it might be expected to last. In addition, performance tires will wear out faster as will tires on the car you drive like it’s stolen.

Also, the actual compound can wear out on tires you keep in storage. Mostly the tread will wear out long before the rubber does. But if you have a car you only drive on weekends, you have tires in storage, or haven’t replaced your spare tire in upwards of five years, the rubber could become brittle and crack.

How bald is too bald?

You should monitor your tread depth closely once it reaches 4/32 inch deep. Here’s how to assess the tread on your tires:

4/32″ or deeper Good

3/32″ Replace Tires Soon

2/32″ or less Replace Tires Now

A simple way to check your tires at home is to use a penny. Insert a penny into the grooves with Lincoln’s head down. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, you need to replace your tires.

Manufacturers have made bald tires easier to spot by placing a series of molded horizontal bars at the base of the grooves. This is the point at which your tires will fail a safety check.

Keeping an eye on the wear of your tires is just basic vehicle maintenance — as well as checking the tire pressure once a month. Keeping them at the right pressure will help you get the most wear out of them and will keep you safer.

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