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Q: How Can I Tell if I Need New Tires?

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How can I tell if I need new tires?

A: There are several several visual cues and f...

There are several several visual cues and factors that can help you determine if it is time to replace a tire.

The first, and most important visual cue, is the tread depth of the tire. The tread is the pattern on the tire that serves as the primary contact point between the vehicle and the road, it’s depth the remaining thickness before it must be replaced. As a vehicle rolls on the ground, the tread on it’s tires wears down as it contacts the road, similar to the way that the soles on our shoes wear as we walk. Once the tires have worn beyond a certain point, the performance of the tires will begin suffer, and the tires must be replaced.

A simple method for determining if the tread is still at an acceptable level is the penny test. Take a regular Lincoln penny, and insert it upside down, with Abe Lincoln’s head down, into the tread of a tire. When you insert the penny, the tread should completely cover Abe Lincoln’s head. If it does not, then you have below 1/16 inch of tread depth remaining, and the tire should be replaced.

Some tires also come equipped with wear bars to help identify when they need to be replaced. Wear bars are indicators built into the tread of the tire that become visible once the tire tread has worn beyond a certain point, that point usually being 1/16 of an inch.

Other indicators that a tire may need replacing are be visual signs of damage to the tire’s sidewalls. If the sidewalls have any cracks, cuts, or bulges, then the sidewall of the tire has been weakened and the tire should be replaced. The tire’s sidewall is responsible for holding the weight of the vehicle, and can be susceptible to blowing out if weakened.

A few other factors that may help determine if a tire needs to replace are it’s age, and it’s exposure to the elements. Older tires, even ones with an acceptable level of remaining tread may become brittle or hardened, reducing their traction. Sometimes to unsafe levels. Excessive exposure to the elements, such as sunlight or rough terrain, may also cause tires to become brittle, and can reduce their performance, or cause cracks or tears to develop on the sidewalls.

A quick visual inspection of all four tires, searching for any of the indicators listed above should help determine if a tire needs to be replaced. When replacing tires, it is usually recommended to replace all four if possible, to ensure the best performance and life of the tires.

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