When should you buy new tires? There’s a lot of inaccurate “common sense” knowledge out there that focuses only on tread depth resulting in a lot of unsafe vehicles on the road. So I looked deeper into this topic and decided to create this video to help you decide if you need new tires. For those interested, I’ve included the links to my sources at the end of this post below.
The tread depth is not the only indicator to use to determine if a tire should be replaced. There are actually 3 things to consider when making this decision. The tire’s condition, age and your usage conditions.
Tires are often an overlooked part of car maintenance yet it is also one of the most important parts of a safe, functioning vehicle. Tires are the only thing keeping your vehicle, you and your family connected to the road. Can you imagine flying in an airplane with one damaged wing? No. So why would you risk driving on unsafe tires that won’t allow you to steer, stop or accelerate properly, or worse, could blowout unexpectedly. You can get into an accident where people can get seriously injured.
On the other hand, even if you don’t get into an accident, a violent tire blowout can cause thousands of dollars of damage to your vehicle. Look at the damage done by a tire blowout on the SUV in the video below. It’s not one of the worst but still something you want to avoid. Find links to the full footage and the repair work done on this SUV in our video description.
So when should you replace your tires? Let’s go over the 3 things to consider. Frakking Creations. Showing you the good stuff on when to replace your tires.
Before we begin, just note that this video has sections so, if needed, use the chapters function to skip to the section of interest.
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Tire Condition, the first thing to consider. A general rule of thumb is to replace the tire if it is showing signs of degradation or damage. The following conditions indicate that your tires should be replaced: Prominent bulges, cracks, cuts, signs of trauma, objects embedded in the sidewall, excessive uneven wear, flat spots or when less than 3 mm (4/32”) of tread is remaining. For any kind of damage, even if it is less severe, it is a warning that your tire could be compromised and you should start inspecting it more often if you continue to drive with it. If you are not sure, just get it checked by a tire professional to be sure.
Don’t agree or want to know why? Let’s take a deeper look…
Tire Condition deeper look - Degradation and Damage (Bulges, blisters, cuts, warping)
A tire with bulges, blisters, cuts or warping indicates that the internal structure of the tire has been compromised and weakened. This could be caused by physical trauma of hitting potholes, curbs or something sharp, driving with under or over inflated tires or the tire itself could just be worn from use and the elements. They need replacing even if the tread is in great condition.
Cracks and dry rot show that the rubber in the tire is starting to degrade and weaken. It can be caused by UV from sunlight, extreme cold or heat, ozone or solvents, harsh detergents or other chemicals getting on the tires.
Tire Condition deeper look - Degradation and Damage (Extreme tread wear, flat spots)
If the tread wear on your tire is unusual or not even and the difference is drastic, it is probably time to replace your tires. It could be a sign that the tires have been driven underinflated or overinflated too long or that your vehicle needs wheel alignment work or the wheels need to be re-balanced.
Flat spots from skidding on the tire or from storing a vehicle too long thereby causing the tire to deform permanently make a tire unbalanced and should be replaced as this is unsafe and could also cause damage to your vehicle. Tires worn unevenly or tires that are unbalanced could cause vibrations in the steering wheel when you are driving but this could also be caused by poor alignment. Time to bring your vehicle to a tire professional to get it figured out.
Highway or high-speed driving, driving with a heavy load or hitting any bumps or potholes on the road or any emergency maneuvers you make while driving can cause a compromised tire to blowout unexpectedly.
If your tires are exhibiting any of the above tire conditions I talked about, it could be time to get new tires. Plus, anytime there is sidewall damage or when the interior cords or metal belt are showing, it is also time to replace. If you choose not to, at the very least start inspecting it regularly and frequently. This is so that if there is a drastic change or things change for the worse you will catch it sooner and can get it taken care of before anything bad happens. If nothing is done, it is a ticking time bomb where you never know when it could blowout resulting in an accident.
Tire Condition deeper look - Tread depth
A lot people that have something to say about this will recommend a tire be replaced at 1.6mm (2/32”) of tread depth remaining. Common advice to use coins to test tread depth is also near this limit. In Canada, US, UK and other countries, this tread depth is the minimum requirement to meet legal safety standards for road use. That’s not saying that it is safe to do so. This limit is not supposed to be used to determine when to change a tire since tires have become potentially dangerous long before this limit.
Tires at this state of wear will have degraded performance for stopping, steering and accelerating. This is especially true in wet or winter conditions. That’s why it is recommended to change tires when they reach 3 mm (4/32”) of wear. BUT… if you drive in winter conditions the minimum increases to 4 mm (5/32”). So, even All-Season tires used in the Winter with less than this amount of tread remaining should be replaced for safe driving. This is recommended by both Transport Canada and Nokian Tyres.
Checkout this Tire Rack video comparing tire depths and stopping distance required in wet conditions traveling at 70 mph. It is eye opening to see how much more distance is required to stop.
Tire Condition deeper look - How do you check for tread depth?
How do you check for tread depth? All DOT regulated tires have wear bars or wear indicators in the grooves of the tires. There are usually 6 indicators in each groove around the whole tire. These indicators tell you there is 1.6 mm (2/32”) tread depth remaining when the bar is the same height as the tread. These bars are only good for telling you once you’ve reached the legal but unsafe limit so it’s important to use something more accurate.
Take the guesswork out and stop using coins or other hacks and buy a proper tire depth gauge. A digital one like this is very accurate, worth it for your safety and definitely an important tool for every car owner. Besides, when using the coin method, it only tells you when you are long overdue for new tires.
Look for our video on how to check tire tread depth using this digital tread depth gauge.
Checkout our video on how to use it here!
Tire age, the second thing to consider. If the tire passes the physical inspection and is older than 5 years, it is time to start inspecting it more regularly to monitor for any degradation so you don’t get a sudden tire failure one day. Transport Canada recommends that tires are inspected at least once a month, but you will have to do this more frequently if the tire is older than 5 years. This is because no matter how good a tire looks or even if it has a lot of tread remaining, the rubber in the tire is starting to get old. This makes the old rubber compound harder, less flexible and with less grip. This makes the tire more prone to cracks, dry rot, and failure from hard impacts like hitting potholes, speed bumps or high stress from high-speed or high load driving including emergency maneuvers
Tire manufacturers recommend tires be replaced between 5 to 6 years of age, but, no matter what condition, tires should never be used after 10 years of age. And… if you didn’t know already, this also applies to spare tires and tires that have been stored and not used much.
Tire Age - How do you check the age of a tire?
All DOT certified tires have a date code printed on them. It’s a four-digit code indicating the date of manufacture. The last 2 digits indicate the year and the first 2 digits indicate the week in the year.
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Usage conditions, the third thing to consider. We already know now how tire condition and age plays into deciding when a tire needs to be replaced. So how does usage play into this? Things that you do to your tires can speed up its degradation or put more stress on it, thereby causing an old or compromised tire to fail sooner. Parking outdoors in harsh UV or extreme cold or hot climate exposure, driving aggressively or at high speeds, driving with heavy loads or on rough terrain, hitting potholes, getting harsh chemicals or oils on the tires, driving with under or over-inflated tires, not rotating tires and driving with alignment issues can all cause a tire to degrade faster and potentially fail earlier than expected.
So, in deciding when to replace your tires, you also need to assess your usage conditions when taking into account the condition and age of a tire. Someone that gives you advice where they were able to drive on a tire with bulges or large cracks for many months without issues does not necessarily translate or apply to you. Their usage and your usage conditions can vary a lot, plus there are many other variables that make the scenarios different. In general, the harder you are going to push your tires, the sooner you should replace them when they meet the replacement criteria I talked about already.
Buy car tire tools here
In the end it’s always up to you when you decide to replace your tires. Everyone’s situation and priorities are different so consider all the points I talked about and decide if it’s time to change your tires.
Until that time comes, start checking your current tires regularly for signs of damage, degradation and excessive or uneven wear. Make sure to inspect the tread and both sidewalls as the inner sidewall is equally important. To make your tires last longer, make sure to check and set the tire pressure according to your vehicle’s requirements, rotate your tires regularly and make sure your vehicle’s wheel alignment is good!
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