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How to Know When to Replace Tires?

Uneven shoulder tread wear

"When to change the tires on your car?" is a common question on search engines. So, do you know the signs telling you to replace your tires?

Let's take a look at what you need to keep an eye out for when you wish to replace tire sets! We will guide you through everything you need to know about tire tread wear, its causes, and what you need to do to lengthen the tire's usability as much as possible.

Keep Track of Tire Tread Wear

The question arises: when to replace car tires? There is actually a logical, numerical estimate that you can follow. See, when it comes to car tire tread depth, new tires are usually manufactured with a 10/32" starting tread (other tires can have more). They are considered worn-out when the tread depth reaches 2/32".

The tricky part is actually reaching the wear bars at 2/32" - which is the legal limit in most US states. You should replace your tires if the tread depth is less than this as problems can arise, leading to uneven and premature wear formations, which shortens the tires' service life.

The whole tire, or rather the entire footprint should have the same tread wear manner. External factors can influence this and, as a result, the tread wears weirdly. From patchy wear and cupping to one-sided wear, the way a tire wears will give you insight into the different tire- and vehicle-related issues. This is all thanks to tire wear patterns.

Tires that reach the wear bars and which feature uneven wear need to be replaced. They will no longer provide traction on the road surface or on various all terrain situations, depending on the tire type.

Tire Tread Life Expectancy Chart:

tire tread life expectancy chart

The Tread Depth Of New Tires

The usual tread depth on new tires is 10/32". However, that is only the new car tire tread depth, it is not true for all tire types. New tread depth depends on the tire's performing capabilities. Tire replacements are sold with varying starting treads. New tire tread depth on a touring tire is not the same as it is on off-road tires.

As we have mentioned before, the new tire depth of passenger cars is 10/32". Off-road tire replacement depth can reach up to 16/32". Still, replacing a tire set in both cases should be done at 2/32" at the latest. To maximize safety you should replace your tires and change them when they reach this point.

Fun fact: Commercial tires can reach even deeper tread depth. A new tire change should happen sooner on such tires, usually at around 4/32" at least.

Will Your Tires Pass the Penny Test?

When to get new tires is another question drivers might ask. Knowing how long are tires good for is crucial. Therefore, you will need to know how to measure the tread depth.

You can go the pricey way and purchase a tire tread gauge. They will give you a more accurate reading. However, if you don't wish to bother with one, the tire penny test might be the best option for you.

The penny tire test, or just the penny test, only needs ... well, a penny. In other words, you can use a penny to check if your vehicle's tires need replacing. Lincoln's head will be your guide and measuring tool!

This method of tread reading will have you place the penny into the tread groove upside down. As long as the tread covers Lincoln's head, you are good. But, if you can see Lincoln's head, then you need new tires.

How to know you need new tires is easily figured out if you know how to measure tire depth.

Tire Replacement Indicator Technologies

Apart from the tire tread gauge and the penny test, some tire brands offer various tire wear indicators along the tread patterns. In other words, the tread depth of a new tire will show numbers, symbols, or phrases that wear away with use.

As a result, drivers are able to visually follow the wear along the tread area. When the tire tread depth to replace car tire sets is reached, the footprint will no longer have the original tread depth indicators.

One such example is General Tires. On some of their models, the center rib features the words "Replacement Tire Monitor", which is perfectly readable on the tread depth on a new tire. With use, the tire replacement miles are reached, and only "Replace Tire" will be visible on the rib. A change of tire sets is necessary at this time.

General Tire's "Replacement Tire Monitoring" technology on the tread pattern

This Is Why Tire Age Matters

When to change tires is also influenced by the tire DOT number. When you ask tire brands how often to change tires, their answer will be every six years. However, to do that, you need to know the tire replacement age.

The tire expiration date or DOT number is located on the tire's sidewall. It is a multi-digit number, but you only need the last four digits. These show the week and year when the tire was manufactured. So, if your tires state 2121 that means it was manufactured on the 21st week of 2021.

Keep in mind that tires often take multiple months to reach the replacement tire market. So, when replacing your tires you don't have to look for the current year.

Worn Out Tires and Driving Safety

When you need to change your tires, you will notice a dip in vehicle performance. Worn-out tread designs will cause problems during the drive. From traction to fuel efficiency and other factors, replace tires when you notice these problems.

In most cases, you will need to replace a tire because it is worn out. Tire replacement mileage varies, but when you experience one of the following issues, we recommend replacing tire sets.

Losing Traction

All season tires, winter tires, and even summer tires will start losing traction as their tread wears out. Tire wear affects the footprint's grip on the road surface. As sipes and other tread elements wear away, tires will first lose their ice and snow traction, and then they won't offer grip in wet conditions.

Their hydroplaning resistance will also suffer. It will be time for a tire replacement when the car starts to skid on wet roads. This also applies to grip on different road conditions, including all terrain and mud terrain tires. Therefore, be careful, adjust your driving habits, and look into getting the tires changed.

Sluggish Steering and Poor Braking

The lower the tread left on the tire, the worse its controllability will be. Tire treads are in constant contact with the road, and they are responsible for optimizing the vehicle's handling and performance.

When you notice the tires are not responding well to steering instructions, it is time to replace your tires. Additionally, braking distances can also suffer when tires wear out. This ties in with traction, as the worn-out footprint is not able to provide the necessary road grip.

The bigger problem is that this will greatly impact your driving style. If you are used to quick and sharp responses, the tire's slower handling can easily lead to accidents.

Increased Vulnerability to Puncture

Apart from the lack of snow and wet grip, tires will also be more vulnerable to external damage. Road hazards, including potholes, nails, and glass, will have easier access to the tire's casing - leading to damage. A flat tire will be inevitable.

Most visible damage can be repaired, but the problems come when the damage is not eye-catching. Sidewall punctures, larger cuts, and slow leaks are also dangerous. You will need a tire replacement when any damage harms the tire.

Road vibrations will also be more permanent during its performance. When the tread depth reaches the wear bars, the tire set will not be able to offer a comfortable ride anymore.

Tire puncture

Factors That Accelerate Tire Tread Wear

While most tires have specified lifespans, other external factors can also significantly shorten their usability. Some of them are preventable, as they depend on tire maintenance, but others cannot be helped.

Road Hazard

Road hazard is a big issue. Unfortunately, often if you are without a spare tire, you will be stranded on the side of the road. Road hazard damage includes potholes, obstacles, nails, glass, speed bumps, or curb damage. While these are accidental situations, when they happen at slow speeds, the hard done will not be as serious.

Vehicle Issues

Neglecting tire rotations, tire balancing, and the vehicle's alignment will shorten the tire's service life. They will result in accelerated and irregular wear formations. Therefore, different vehicle problems will result in you having to change your tire sets sooner. When rotating your tires, be sure to not forget the spare tire either.

Driving Style

You will need to replace your tires quickly if your driving habits are reckless. Aggressive acceleration, sharp turns, and harsh braking will wear away the footprint. Running over speed bumps at high speeds, or driving at high speeds for an extended time will also significantly increase the tread wear rate.

Tire Pressure

Incorrect air pressure levels will also lead to uneven wear. The correct air pressure the tire needs is noted on the sidewall, as well as in the vehicle's owner's manual. Overinflating tires will wear the center tread away, while underinflation will wear away the shoulder areas. Keep the tires at the correct pressure in order to optimize the footprint's surface contact.

Not Using the Correct Tires

Driving tires above their speed rating, using winter tires in summer, using touring tires off-road, etc. - none of these are good ideas. When tires are not used in the conditions they are not intended for, they will have accelerated tread wear. Replace your tires and use ones that offer the performance your vehicle needs to ensure their longevity.

Visible Signs That You Have a Worn Tire

How often to replace tires will greatly depend on their quality. Visual inspection is an excellent way to notice when tires no longer offer the necessary traction and performance. There are specific signs that show when tires need to be replaced. So, what are they?

Signs of a Worn Tire:

  • Uneven tread wear
  • Tire bubbles, bulges, and other damage
  • Road vibrations
  • Vehicle problems

Sidewall bubble, tire cord issues, uneven wear

Uneven Tread Wear

Visual inspection is a great way to see if the tread is wearing in an uneven manner or not.  Uneven tire wear is the most common tire replacement reason. However, you also need to check the tread depth. Anything above 2/32" is great, just keep an eye on it. Therefore, inspect the tread depth and wear manner regularly to ensure your driving safety. Be sure to check the spare tires as well. When it reaches critical levels, switch to 10/32" tires, which is the tread depth for new tires.

Tire Bubbles, Bulges, and Other Damage

Various types of damage will cause the tires to be unusable. Sidewall bubbles and bulges are visible signs of internal failure. Cuts and cracks can significantly shorten the tire's service life, by causing tire failure. Unfortunately, road hazards can suddenly cut off the tire's usability. However, these issues can form over time or suddenly, but both types make the tires unusable.

Road Vibrations

The uneven and low tread will result in excessive vibration levels felt in the vehicle's cabin. When such issues become noticeable, and the issue is not vehicle-related, replace your tires as it means their service life is coming to an end.

Vehicle Problems

Tire alignment, rotations, and balancing should be checked at a tire shop. They can significantly reduce the tire's lifespan as they cause irregular wear across the footprint. Damaged valve caps can also cause slow air leaks, which makes tires run under-inflated. It will also cause moisture, dirt, and small debris to enter the tire, resulting in damage from the inside.

Inspecting tires

How to Choose New Tires for Your Vehicle?

There are different factors you need to consider when purchasing new tires.

Where will the tires be used? What do you expect from the tires? What does the tire size you need to offer for your vehicle?

These are all questions you need to ask. You need to make sure the tires fit your needs. You will need to decide between summer, winter, and all season tires, as well as the terrain performance they offer. Touring, highway, off-road, and performance tires are also categories you need to think about.

Be sure to also check the tires' DOT code when shopping around. While an older DOT number does not necessarily mean the tire is bad, it can be a deciding factor between two tire models. Newer DOT numbers mean that the tires will last longer, at least based on NHTSA guidelines.

Often, budget is the biggest obstacle when the tires' replacement is needed. Learn how to find cheap tires or find great deals on top-tier brands at Priority Tire.

Should You Replace All Four Tires at Once?

While it is not technically necessary to change tire models four at a time, it is recommended. Tires mounted on one vehicle will wear in a similar manner, therefore, they will reach the end of their lifespan at about the same time.

However, if you do not wish to change four tires, replacing two tires together is also a good option. Place the new tires on the rear axle to get the best performance and traction. Just keep in mind to preferable keep the four tires the same brand, even if you do not change all of them.

Of course, we also need to mention mixing tires in this section. New tires mileage is important, and we wish to get the best deals for them. So, if we find great prices on different tire brands or models, the temptation to get a mixed set is present. While sometimes it is acceptable to mix tire brands on the same vehicle, there are also downsides to it and it is completely out of the question with certain vehicle types.

Tire Replacement Times

The average time to change a tire is between 5-15 minutes. That means that if you are looking to replace a tire set, the car will be in the shot for about an hour. However, tire change time depends on multiple factors such as the tire size and vehicle type.

Additionally, an at-home auto tire replacement will take longer than a professional one will. Hence, the average tire change time at home is between 15 to 30 minutes. As most average drivers do not own the necessary machinery, DIY tire replacement time will be longer.

How Much Is It to Replace a Car Tire?

To change tires cost money, unfortunately. A full set of tire replacement costs depends on the tire garage you decide to visit. However, be ready to pay around $15-$60 per tire for mounting and balancing. This is an additional cost to the replacement tires drivers need to purchase.

4 tires stacked

Where to Replace Tire Sets?

Need your tires changed, but don't know where to start? Come to Priority Tire!

Our website offers one of the largest selections of replacement tires for versatile vehicle types, with the possibility of matching rear and front passenger tire pairs with just a few clicks. Find the best prices for budget-friendly and top-tier tires alike, and get the best quality tires shipped to your door.

Frequently Asked Questions

When Do You Need New Tires?

You will need new tires when the tread depth reaches 2/32". Proper care will lengthen the tire set's service life, but the legal limit set by most states is when wear reaches tread bars. The tire lifespan will reach its end at that time.

How Often Do You Need New Tires?

You will need new tires after about every six years. Basic tire maintenance will help to optimize the tire's tread wear rate and manner, however, when the tread depth reaches 2/32" they need to be replaced. Additionally, changing the tires after 6 years is a good idea as the rubber can become rigid.

Do I Need to Replace TPMS When Replacing Tires?

While you do not need to replace the TPMS when replacing tires, it is convenient to do so. In order to change the TPMS, the tires need to be removed from the wheels. Therefore, if you do not change them when the tires are replaced, you will need to unmount the tires when you do so.

How Much Is the Average Tire Mileage?

The average tire mileage is about 50,000 to 60,000 miles. However, this is not set in stone, as it greatly depends on additional factors. Tire brand quality, performance categories, season, and how often the tires are used significantly influence the tires' usability.