Tires are one of those all-important parts of a vehicle that most of us (true gear heads excepted) tend to forget about until we have a flat or a blowout. And since almost all new cars come equipped with a tire pressure warning light, it’s especially easy to put off checking the wear on our tires – until it’s too late.
So, when did you last replace your tires? Do you remember? You must have it written down somewhere. Check in the glove box; there might be a service record. But even if you know the precise date you last took your car to the shop, that still doesn’t answer the question: How often should you replace your tires?
Well, like most things in life, it depends. But luckily, it isn’t hard to figure out. In this article, we’ll share with you everything we know about taking care of your tires.
Some Things to Think About: How Often Should You Replace Your Tires?
The short answer is every six years. But this number can be bigger or much, much smaller depending on a number of different variables. Car and Driver says that on average you should “at least get your tires inspected every six years, and absolutely replace them after 10.”
And Edmunds says that you can expect your tires to go bald in as little as 3-4 years, at which point you should definitely swap them out for new ones.
So how do you know what’s right for you and your car? How often should you replace your tires? Here are some factors that may affect the answer.
- The tires you choose. Tires are an expensive investment. And while your first impulse might be to go with the cheaper brand, a higher quality tire will always give you more bang for your buck. Different tires are rated for different miles, and good tires can be guaranteed for as much as 70,000 miles.
- The roads you drive. Rough surfaces like gravel, dirt, or very pocked asphalt will wear down average tires much more quickly than smooth pavement. If you often find yourself on tracks or other not-all-there roads, think about getting all-terrain tires or mudders for your vehicle.
- How you drive. We see you, speed racer. Revving to seven, giving your engine maximum torque, and cornering at top speed might be fun, but it takes a massive toll on your tires. So if your rubber soles come directly from the dealership and not the Nascar garage, take it easy on the road.
- Suspension and alignment. If your “suspension geometry” is off, it can cause your tires to wear unevenly. You might notice that one side of your tire is almost gone, while the other still looks brand new after 5 years. You can avoid this issue by getting regular suspension tune ups and alignment checks.
- Age. You might think that the tires on your weekend-only vehicle will last you into retirement. But the truth is that, even if your tires have day one tread on them, they should still be replaced at least every 6 years. Even if you never use them, the rubber in your tires will begin to break down after a while and increase your risk of a pop.
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How to Tell if Your Tires Need Replacing
While we can’t give you a super straightforward answer as to how often you should replace your tires, we can teach you the telltale signs to look for that will let you know it’s time.
- The penny test. It’s time to change your tires if the tread has worn down to 2/32 of an inch. You can easily measure this by inserting a penny into any crevice along the surface of the tire. If you can see the top of Abraham Lincoln’s head, it’s time to change your tires!
- Age of the tire. Did you know that tires have an expiration date? Every tire has printed on the side 4 digits which tell you the week and year it was manufactured. “2605” means that your tire was made in the 26th week of 2005. If your tires have been on the road for more than ten years, get them replaced.
- Visible cracks. Exposure to sunlight, heat, cold, as well as regular use will wear out the rubber material itself in your tire and cause it to break. If you see cracks, tears, or chips in your tire, it’s a sign that they’re on their last legs.
- Vibrations. If you feel shuddering, vibration, or other strange sensations in your steering wheel while driving, it could be an indication that your tires are wearing unevenly. If one tire has more tread than another, it will have a better grip on the road and will pull the other tires after it, causing the vibration. But if you replace your tires and still feel the vibration, get an appointment with your mechanic.
- Professional advice. If your trusted mechanic or favorite oil-change specialist tells you your tires are looking worn out, listen to them. They know what they’re talking about.
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How to Extend the Life of Your Tires
Nothing lasts forever. But with regular maintenance and some careful driving, you can help your tires to reach their full potential.
- Get the right tires for your lifestyle. If you have a long commute that keeps you on freeways and city streets, get touring tires. If you like to go off-roading on the weekends, get all-terrain. If you live in a climate that has freezing winters and blistering summers, get seasonal tires and swap them out when the weather changes. Tires that do the special job they’re designed to do will last the longest.
- Rotate your tires. Les Schwab recommends you do this every 5,000 miles. Unless you have a perfectly balanced car, your front and back tires will wear unevenly. But rotating them helps to distribute the wear and help the tires age at the same rate.
- Check your air pressure. Over- or under-inflated tires wear unevenly, and will make handling and braking difficult, which then forces your tires to do more work. Keeping your tires properly inflated works wonders on the lifespan of your tires.
- Keep up with regular maintenance. On top of regular rotations, make sure to check your alignment every 6 months. Not only does bad alignment affect the wear on your tires (doesn’t everything?) but it also wreaks havoc on fuel efficiency, and makes your vehicle more difficult to drive overall.
- Drive safely. If you want to help your tires help you, take care when accelerating, go easy on the brakes, and observe the speed limit at all times. The nicer you are to your tires, the longer they’ll last.
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