Time and Money Tell Tire Replacement Tale

by Don Elliott on July 6, 2012

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. With a footprint about the size of a notepad, tires needs to perform exactly as designed to achieve maximum performance as part of the car’s operating system and used car value.

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, something that should be addressed as soon as possible, even if the tires are not yet ready for replacement. Unusual wear in the center of the tire or on the edges 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.

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 to visually indicate that the tire is no longer safe and must be replaced.  When the wear bar is flush with the surface of the tread, the tire is due for replacement at your local auto repair shop.

An old trick for checking the depth of your tires tread is to use a coin as a measuring device. 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. Measure the tread at several points across and around the tire.

When the tires are down to 2/32”, they are not safe now and you should take your vehicle to your trusted automotive repair business. 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”, indicating that it is time to start shopping for new tires.

Safercar.gov, the website sponsored by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), points out that tires can wear because of age as well as use. Tires have a minimum lifespan of about 6 years. The maximum lifespan is 10 years. Even though it is not on the road, the same lifetime limits apply to the spare tire.

Checking the age of your tires is easy. On the sidewall, there is a tire identification number that begins with the letters “DOT”. The last 4 digits of the ID number are the week and year that the tire was manufactured. Be aware that it may take time for the tires to get to market after the manufactured date. The tire-aging clock starts on the manufactured date, not the date the tires were purchased.

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