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Ever wonder when to replace your worn car tires? The performance of your car tires is critical to the safety, performance and efficiency of your vehicle; about 65% of fatalities annually may have been caused by tire failures. Most tires are designed to provide similar performance throughout their lives. However, at some point they start to lose performance in terms of their traction and braking ability. Here are a few tips that should help you decide if it is time to start shopping for a new set of tires and avoid spending more than necessary.

1. Understand that the primary function of tread on a tire is to divert water from beneath the tire to improve traction and avoid hydroplaning on wet roads. Tires become unsafe when they’re worn, and once the tread is down to 1/16th of an inch (1.6mm), the tire is no longer safe.

2. Look at the tread pattern. All tires sold in the United States and other countries have what are called “tread wear bars.” These are small bridges that form between your treads. Look at the tread pattern and you’ll see the beginnings of these bars start to form between the treads, or running across the tires. As the tires wear, these bars will become flush (level or even) with the tire’s tread. At this point, it’s time to replace the tires.

3. Check the tread by using the “coin test. Take a 50c coin and place it the center of the tread (at the thickest part of the tire).

  • If you can see the emblem of South Africa, replace the tires immediately.
  • If emblem of South Africa touching the tire, it is time to go shopping for tires.
  • If the emblem is in the grove, your tires do not need replacing yet.

4. Use a tread depth indicator or gauge.You can use a special tread depth indicator or gauge tool to measure your tire’s tread. If you don’t already own one, the gauge is cheap to purchase from us and it’s easy to use.

  • You may be able to find a downloadable tread depth gauge by searching online.
  • Alternatively, it might be easier to pop in to your regular tire place and ask them to check it for you; likely they’ll do this for free if you’re regular customer.

5. Make note of any irregular tread wear.This could indicate a wheel misalignment, the need for a tire rotation, or both. Uneven tread wear is a sign that you need to take your car in for servicing.

  • If uneven tire wear is extreme or if tires wear out much faster than expected, have a competent tire workshop check your suspension and correct it as necessary before replacing tires. Improper alignment or worn suspension parts can dramatically shorten a tire’s life.
  • It is a good idea to rotate your tires from front to rear in pairs. Take both front tires and move them to the rear and vice versa.

6. Check for any abnormal bulges or “bubbles” in the sidewall.A sidewall bulge indicates that the rigid internal frame of the tire has been damaged and cracked, allowing air pressure to reach the flexible outer layers of the tire. Such damage could be caused by driving through a large pothole or over a curb, or by driving with low tire pressure. Continuing to drive on a tire that has a sidewall bulge is dangerous. The structural integrity of the tire has been significantly reduced, greatly increasing the likelihood of a sudden failure or blowout at highway speeds, which could cause a serious accident. Any tires with sidewall bulges should be replaced immediately, regardless of the tread status.

7. Replace the tires at least every 6 years. If you’re not sure, the minimum replacement time that is recommended by the AA is six years regardless of use, with 10 years being the maximum service life for tires. Check your owner’s manual for specific recommendations related to your car. And always err on the side of caution if you suspect your vehicle has tires that are over six years of age.AA

8. Notice a vibration in the steering wheel.If your tires are worn unevenly, you may feel a vibration in the steering wheel when you are driving. Your tires probably need to be rebalanced. If that doesn’t stop the vibration, more than likely the tire is damaged.

  • Vibrations may also be caused by tires that are “cupped,” meaning they have a cupped or scalloped appearance around the tire. This occurs when tires haven’t been rotated regularly.

9. Check for dry rot. If you see little cracks all over your tires, it means that the rubber is breaking down. Tires with dry rot can fall apart, separating from the steel belt causing damage to the exterior of the car.