How to Know Whether Your Car Needs New Tires
No one likes having to pay for an expensive all-new set of tires. However, driving on tires that are too old and worn-out can be a serious safety hazard. Not only does it put you at risk for a blow-out, but old, worn-down tire treads won’t grip the road nearly as well, making snowy winter road conditions more dangerous. So, how often should you change your tires? How do you know whether your car’s tires are too old, or whether they’ve still got some use in them? Here’s a few guidelines for how to know whether your car needs new tires.
Rule of Thumb
How old is your car? How old are its tires? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommends replacing your tires every six years, and your car’s owners manual will also have recommendations for your specific vehicle. If you bought your car used, you might not know when the previous owner replaced the tires, so in that case, you can find out how old they are by checking the tire sidewall markings. All tires have a DOT label on them, and this code will include the date they were manufactured. The last four numbers of the DOT code represent this date: the first two digits indicate which week of the year they were made, and the last two tell you the year.
Check the Tread Wear
Even if your tires are newer than six years old, they can still get worn down faster than normal if they’re overinflated, underinflated, or if the car’s wheels are out of alignment. So you should always examine the actual tread in addition to the date, if you’re not sure whether your car needs new tires. There are a few different ways to do this. One is to look at the tread wear bars. Look between the ridges of the tread — the tread wear bars are the little rubber bridges in the groove between them. If they’re still well beneath the rest of the tread, you’ve got some time. If these bars are level with the rest of the tread pattern, your tires are too worn out to be safe!
Another way to measure your tread wear is to use the penny test. Take a penny, hold it with Lincoln’s head upside down, and insert it into the center of the tire tread, between two of the ridges. If you can see the very top of Lincoln’s head, your tires are unsafe and you should replace them as soon as possible. If only some of his hair is visible, it’s not as urgent, but it’s time to start shopping around for new tires in the near future. If the penny is hidden up to or past Lincoln’s forehead, the tires are still in good shape.