The quality of your car’s tires can be drastically impacted by changes in temperature, run-ins with potholes and rough roads, not to mention good ole time. Like shoes, clothes, and even appliances, tires don’t last forever. However, unlike your favorite pair of shoes or your refrigerator, a tire that calls it quits can lead to a dangerous situation—you could lose control of your car or get stranded on the side of the road! Help avoid an unexpected tire failure by learning how to tell if you need new tires with this handy checklist of questions.
Tire Inspection Checklist
How much tread depth is left?
Without a good amount of tread depth, your tires can’t grip wet roads like they were designed to do. The less tread depth your tires have, the longer it will take you to stop and the greater your chances of hydroplaning.
So how do you know if you have a “good” amount of tread depth? You can measure it! Tread depth is measured in 32nds of an inch, and new tires typically come with 10/32″ or 11/32″ of tread. The U.S. Department of Transportation advises that drivers replace their tires at 2/32″, and some states even require it by law.
You can use a tread depth gauge (available for less than $5 online), or even a penny to check if you’ve hit the 2/32″ mark. Place a penny into the tire tread with Lincoln’s head facing down towards the ground. If the top of his head is covered up, your tread is more than 2/32″. You may be in the clear for now! If you can see Lincoln’s whole noggin’, it’s a sure sign your tires don’t have a safe amount of tread. Talk with your local tire shop about getting new tires.
How do the tires look?
Though you might not have the trained eye of a mechanic, sometimes you can spot an issue with your tires just by giving them a “once over.” Are there any signs of tears, bulges, cracks, blisters, or other damage to the tire? Anything embedded in the rubber?
In particular, check your tires’ sidewalls for signs of wear. Cracks and bulges can signal that a tire blowout is near or that your tire has a slow leak—two situations that could put your safety at risk. If you notice anything unusual, talk to your mechanic. Your tire might need a simple patch, or need to be replaced.
How do the tires handle?
How does your car react to the road when you’re driving? Does it seem to pull to one side? Wobble under normal driving conditions? Too much shivering and shaking isn’t a sign that your car is coming down with a cold—it could be trying to communicate with you! There might be something fishy going on inside one of your tires, things could be misaligned, or your shock absorbers may be worn. Even if your tires are fine, continued vibration could cause them to have problems soon enough. Let your mechanic take your car for a spin and do a quick inspection.
How long have you had the tires?
The health of your tires can deteriorate over time even if you only drive a few miles each day. Older tires are more likely to fail than newer ones, writes the Tire Safety Group, as rubber naturally degrades as time passes. Factors like sunlight, heat, and ice, can all speed up the process. Eventually, a tire will simply fall apart, just like an old rubber band!
The lifespan of a tire depends on its age, but also the number of miles it’s driven. “If you drive a typical number of miles,” writes Edmunds, “somewhere around 12,000-15,000 miles annually,” your tire tread could wear in as little as three to four years—long before the rubber breaks down. Think about how many miles you’ve put on your tires, as well as their overall age. According to the Tire Safety Group, most tires are no longer safe for use six years from the manufacture date, regardless of how they’ve been driven on or stored.
Play it safe, not sorry
When it comes to your car’s most important safety feature, it’s better to be safe than sorry. You never know what the road ahead may have in store for your car. You can do your best to prepare for the unexpected by caring for your tires, but also by having a roadside assistance plan—just in case! Whether it’s a flat tire or dead battery, Direct Auto Insurance’s Roadside Assistance program will be there for you. Call 1-877-GO-DIRECT to learn more or stop by your nearest Direct Auto location today!