Is it Time for New Tires?

Close up new tyres on shelve in tire shop

Tire tread plays a vital role in how your vehicle responds on the road—and your safety. Good tread allows your tires to grip the road better, which is especially important when driving in slippery conditions, like rain or snow. However, many drivers let their tires wear more than they should. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that around 11,000 car accidents occur annually because of worn tires. But how do you know when your tires are worn and need to be replaced?

What’s the Purpose of Tire Tread?

Before we answer that, let’s go over how tire tread works. One of the main roles of tire tread is to move water. The channels in the tread act as passages for water to escape from underneath the tire. The deeper the tread, the deeper the channel—and the more water that can be emptied.

When enough water can’t escape from underneath the tire, it causes the tire to ride on the water rather than the road. This is what’s known as “hydroplaning.” If you’ve ever experienced it, it can be extremely unsettling! The tire can’t make contact on the road and instead “floats” on the water, with little traction. This can cause the vehicle to slide, which can be very dangerous.

When Should Tires Be Replaced?

How often your tires will need replacement depends on how much you drive and your driving habits, but there’s an easy way to check your tire tread depth at home.

Tire manufacturers are required to mold a treadwear bar into the tire. This bar is visible across the tread once the tire is worn down to 2/32 of an inch. You can measure your tread depth by taking a US penny and inserting it upside-down into the tread of the tire. If the tread doesn’t come up to Abraham Lincoln’s head, then your tires are worn below 2/32 of an inch.

Studies have shown there is a significant difference in stopping distances in wet conditions with tires that have a proper amount of tread. For example, in controlled wet conditions, a vehicle with 4/32 of an inch of tread traveling at highway speeds was able to stop in about 85 feet less distance than the same car with tires that had 2/32 of an inch of tread. That could easily be the difference between a safe stop and hitting the car in front of you!

How can you gauge 4/32 of an inch? Similar to the penny test, take a US quarter and insert it upside down in the tread. If it cover’s George Washington’s head, you have more than 4/32 of an inch of tread left.

Other Signs You Need to Replace Your Tires

Tread depth isn’t the only indication of when it’s time to replace your tires.

Since tires are made of rubber and endlessly exposed to heat, cold, rain, and snow, they can break down over time. When checking your tires for tread depth, look at their overall condition. Do you see any fine cracks in the sidewall or in between the tread blocks? This is a sign of weathering (which can expose the internal materials of the tires to the elements) and they should be replaced as soon as possible. Some other signs your tires need to be replaced include:

  • Bulging
  • Odd or excessive vibration
  • Old tires – Most tire manufacturers recommend tire replacements at 5-6 years, with an absolute replacement timeline of 10 years, regardless of the condition or tread depth.

Stay Safe by Keeping an Eye on Your Tires

Although it’s easy to overlook our tires, having them in good condition with the proper amount of tread is one of the most important factors for the safety of your vehicle. Worn tires are also more susceptible to punctures and blowouts than tires with good tread. Another thing to keep an eye on is your tire pressure. Check your tire pressure monthly to ensure you have the right amount of air in them. This is also a perfect time to do a quick visual inspection for cracks, bulging, low tread, or other types of wear.

If you feel uncomfortable with inspecting your tires yourself, or you need new tires, visit EuroCar Service! We can assist you with all your tire needs, including inspections, replacement, balancing, alignments, and rotation. Whether you have a BMW, Audi, Land Rover, Mercedes, Mini-Cooper, Saab, Jaguar, Volkswagen, Volvo, Smart Car, or Fiat, we have the perfect tires for your vehicle. Give us a call at (206) 527-8828 or request your appointment online.