When to Replace Tires

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How Do I Know It’s Time to Replace My Tires?

Why Is It Important to Inspect Your Tires Periodically?

Tires are an important factor in your car's safety and contribute to less effective steering, accelerating and braking as they approach the end of their life. Damaged or worn tires can increase the risk of an accident or breakdown that could leave you stranded. Tires that show damage or wear should be replaced immediately. Fortunately, tires are one of the simplest parts of your car to inspect.

Step by Step: How to Inspect Your Tires

Tap each step to check off which ones you've completed

  1. Inspect the tread depth and check for cracked treads.

    As tires wear, the tread depth decreases. You can check the tire manufacturer's specifications for minimum tread depth, and a tire tread depth gauge is only a couple dollars.
    You can also place a penny in the tire tread with Abraham Lincoln's head upside down. If you can see the top of Abe's head (his hairline), it's time to replace your tires. This is sometimes called the 2/32-inch rule. If your tire has tread wear indicators, check the little bar between the tread and see if it's flush with the tread; if it is, then it's time for a tire replacement.

  2. Inspect the tread pattern.

    Inspect the contact surface of the tire, determining if the wear pattern is even. Tires that show uneven wear may help diagnose a maintenance or mechanical problem.

  3. Inspect the sidewall.

    Over- and underinflation can damage the sidewall in addition to abrasions while driving (contact with curbs, etc.).

  4. Repeat these steps for all four tires.
  5. Additional Tips:
    1. Tire wear patterns can indicate various problems with your tires or suspension.
    2. Rapid wear at the center of the tread may indicate overinflation.
    3. Rapid wear at the shoulder (outer areas) of the tread may indicate underinflation.
    4. Wear along one edge may indicate steering or suspension problems, or may be caused by excessive cornering speed.
    5. Bald spots or uneven wear patterns at the edge of the tire may indicate an unbalanced wheel, or mechanical issues with your suspension.Bald spots or uneven wear patterns at the edge of the tire may indicate an unbalanced wheel or mechanical issues with your suspension.
    6. Tread wear indicators on the tire are nubs or bars between tread patterns, but the design varies by manufacturer.

What Tools Do I Need to Inspect My Tires?

You only need your eyeballs and a little bit of knowledge, although a tread depth gauge is useful and inexpensive, and a penny is also handy and less expensive.