Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

How Can I Tell If I Need New Tires?

Measuring the tread with a penny

Your tires keep you firmly planted on the road. They help ensure your safety when driving in rainy, snowy, hot, or sunny conditions. When your tires are worn, you don’t have the same traction as when they were new. How do you know when it's time to have them replaced?

At what point is a tire considered worn out?

The actual measurement that indicates a tire has lived its useful life is 2/32nds of an inch. Unless you have a tread depth gauge, it’s hard to know if your tires have more than that. Here’s a test you can do yourself to check if your tires are worn out and need replacement:

  • Place a penny in the grooves of your tire tread with Lincoln’s head pointed down.

  • Check if any part of Lincoln’s head is still covered by tread.

  • If it is not covered at all, you have 2/32nd or less tread remaining.

  • Check multiple spots around the tires. If any spot doesn’t cover part of Lincoln’s head, replace the tires on your car.

Other reasons your tires should be replaced

Your tires may not be worn out, but there are other problems that may require their replacement, such as:

Weathering is a major factor for your tires. They are constantly exposed to the elements, both heat and cold, including ice, snow, and water. Rubber is a natural material and does break down. Common signs of weathering are fine cracks in the sidewall and cracks in between tread blocks in the tire tread. Anytime there are cracks in your tire that expose the underlying metal or fabric cords, your tires should be replaced immediately.

Bulging occurs in a tire most commonly by impact. It can happen when hitting a curb or a pothole, and can also occur from a manufacturing defect. A bulge happens when air gets between the inner liner of the tire and the outer layers of fabric or rubber, and an air pocket forms at that weakened spot. Because it is weakened, a tire with a bulge should be replaced as soon as possible.

Vibration is a symptom that can occur in many instances of tire problems from tire balancing issues to an out-of-round problem. One tire problem that can cause a vibration is when the belts or cords in a tire separate, causing the tire to become misshapen. A separated tire is usually not visible to the naked eye, but when put on a tire balancing machine, it is quite noticeable. The driving feel with a separated tire is often described as "lumpy" at low speeds and becomes a high frequency vibration at highway speeds. A separated tire needs to be replaced.

Leaking tires may need to be replaced in some situations. A hole or puncture in the tire tread can be patched in many cases, however, a hole in the sidewall of the tire cannot be repaired safely and repair not permitted by the Department of Transportation. If a hole in your tire is too close to the sidewall or is too large to be patched, you will need to replace the tire.

Warning: If you ever see metal or fabric cords exposed from the sidewall or tread of your tires, replace them immediately. A tire with cords exposed is at risk of impending blowout or loss of air.

Tires should always be replaced as a set of four in all wheel drive vehicles, and as a pair or complete set in two wheel drive vehicles, whether front or rear wheel drive. It is best to ensure all four tires have equal amounts of tread remaining.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
Icon-warranty_badge-02

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

More related articles

How to Buy Fuel Treatments
Adding a fuel additive to your gas tank when you fill up is one way to clean vital engine parts of deposits, improve the performance of your engine,...
Insurance Requirements for Car Registration in Kentucky
The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet requires that all drivers in Kentucky carry liability automotive insurance, or “financial responsibility” in order to operate a vehicle legally and maintain vehicle...
Veteran and Military Driver Laws and Benefits in Idaho
The state of Idaho offers a number of benefits and perks for those Americans who have either served in an Armed Forces branch in the...


Related questions

Q: I have dry rot on all 4 tires on my 2007 Toyota Corolla. I bought the car several months ago and dealership said they would replac

Hello, thank you for writing in. Having the two front tires is typically priority for a couple of reasons. One being the front tires support the engine and transmission, meaning they hold a majority of the weight. The vehicle is...

Q: What does the tire pressure monitor system (TPMS) Warning Light mean?

The tire pressure monitor system (TPMS) Warning Light is located on the instrument panel. The TPMS warning light can illuminate for two reasons: 1. There is an issue with the TPMS that needs to be resolved. 2. A spare tire...

Q: Shuddering and noise from the right front tire area

Hello. The suspension system contains rubber bushings that help dampen the vibrations caused by an uneven road surface. Badly worn bushings or ball joints can cause noises and vibrations during vehicle operation. To have this checked, enlist the help of...