Tire Tread Indicates Time for New Tires

by Don Elliott on August 2, 2011

Knowing when it is time to buy new tires for your car, truck, or SUV is a tricky thing. Expert auto repair shops will point out unusual wear or reduced tire tread as part of a regular service routine.  Often it takes a flat tire or blow out to point out the obvious—it’s time to invest in a new set of tires!

Tires are an integral part of the operating efficiency of your vehicle. Engine performance, driving stability, noise, ride comfort, and safety are dependent on a proper set of tires. It is necessary for tires to perform exactly as designed for maximum performance as part of the car’s operating system.

Measuring tire tread is the easiest way to identify tire problems that will require replacement. Uneven wear across the tire is an indication of an alignment problem. This should be addressed as soon as possible, even if the tires are not yet ready for replacement. Unusual wear in the center or edge of the tire can be a sign of under or over-inflated tires. Following the vehicle manufacturer’s guidance for proper inflation levels will help to prolong the life of the tires, improve gas mileage, and assure a safe ride.

Following the advice of your tire center, automotive repair shop, or car dealer’s service facility is a good idea. They will be able to give you an idea of when new tires will be needed, if not during this trip to their auto repair shop.

In most states, tires are legally worn out when the tread depth is 2/32” or less. Tires sold in North America are required to have a “wear bar” molded into the tire across the tread. This visually indicates the tire is no longer safe and must be replaced.

An old trick is to use a coin as a measuring device for checking the depth of your tire tread. It is 2/32” of an inch from the outer edge of a penny to the top of Lincoln’s head. If any part of Lincoln’s head is covered by tire tread, the tire is legally safe. You should measure the tire tread at several different points on the tire.

Tires down to 2/32” are considered unsafe. A better measure of tire tread is to use a quarter. The distance between the top of Washington’s head and the edge of the coin is 4/32” long, indicating that it is time to start shopping for new tires.

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