When is the best time to replace tires?
Deciding when to replace your tires is a key decision for any vehicle owner, with many factors to be considered. It is an important choice to make as having the correct information about replacing your tires at the right time can keep you safe while driving on the road. The full list of factors to consider are detailed below.
Replacement due to age of your tires
Naturally, the longer the number of years the tires have been used on the road, the more worn they become. While basic overall care of the tires and vehicle may increase the lifespan of your tires, it is recommended that you shouldn’t wait longer than 10 years before replacing them, solely as a safety precaution even if there are no visible signs of wear.
You should also be aware of the real age of your tires, as some models will be worn a good amount even before they are installed on a vehicle, so knowing the genuine age of your tires can be crucial.
How to tell the age of your tires
There is a very simple method to determine this. Every tire produced in the year 2000 or later is required by the US Department of Transportation to contain a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN). This number is the key to determining the age of your tire. The week and year your tire was produced is found in the final four digits of the VIN, with the first two digits of the four being the number of week in the year it was made, with the final two digits being the year of creation (i.e. 2202 is the 22nd week of the year 2002).
The same format as above can be applied to tires produced prior to the year 2000. However, instead of having the final two digits of the VIN to indicate the year like the new tires have, older models simply just had a singular digit to identify which year in that decade that tire was made (i.e. 334 would be the 33rd week of the 4th year of that decade).
It should also be noted that the VIN can be located on both sides of the sidewall, so if it appears one sided has faded or is not legible then you should try and check the opposite side of the tire.
Replacement depending on miles driven
A very common way of deciding when it's best to replace your tires is to look at the mileage done on them. Most drivers might reasonably expect at least 50,000 miles from stock or original-equipment new tires, and quality replacement tires. Of course this tire mileage or lifespan can vary a lot between tire brands and models and vehicle types. Tires running on 4x4s or off-road vehicles will typically have more aggressive treads to handle the rougher terrain, and these will wear down faster than all season tires. Different tire brands and models may also have different expected lifespans and this is often reflected in the mileage warranties or tread-life warranties offered by brands. The bottom line is that tires' expected lifespan can vary so much depending on what you drive, how you drive, and where you drive. So this should never be relied on 100 percent in deciding the best time to replace your tires.
Replacement due to tire condition
There are multiple ways in which the condition of your tires should be monitored and checked.
First, the tire should be checked for any cuts, bulges or damage in any form incurred to the tread or sidewall of the tire. If any disturbances to the condition of the tire are located, the tire should be replaced as soon as possible to avoid potential accidents on the road.
The second and important way to determine the wear of the tire is to analyse the tread depth. By law, any tire on the road cannot have a tread depth below 2/32”, so if you find your depth to be equal or less to this figure, then your tires must be replaced immediately. If your tires are found to be 3/32” or less, while they will still hold you steady on a dry road surface, you should think about replacing them soon. If you wish to be safe in rainy conditions, the ideal minimum tread depth is 4/32”, whereas snowy or icy conditions could require at least 5/32” depth of tread for maximum traction.
Depending on the weather and your travel plans, it is recommended that you check your tire tread depth every month. There are several ways to do this. A popular method is using your spare change. By simply placing a penny in the centre of your tire with Lincoln’s head facing down, you can deduce that if the rubber is level with the top of his head, you should consider changing your tires immediately as your tread depth is very low, with the rule of thumb being the less you can see of his head the better.
How road conditions influence tire replacement
The condition of the road you are travelling on will have a great impact on your decision to replace your tires. For example, if you are driving in more off-road conditions, then you are more susceptible to punctures, cuts and bulges around your tire which will consequently substantially reduce the lifespan of your tire. You should measure your tire tread depth per the road conditions for the current season, while also being prepared for a change in climate. Furthermore, if you are planning on taking a long journey across many types of terrain, be prepared to locate the best type of tire for your journey (e.g. a car with city tires may need to consider changing to an all-terrain if they are planning on going more off-road).
The vehicle you drive can determine how often you need to replace tires
The type of vehicle you own will not only change the type of tire you need, but also contribute to the lifespan of your tires. For example, a truck being used to haul a large load around the country will wear down its tires significantly quicker than the average passenger car user, because of the sheer difference in mileage. However, considering the average road user in the US clocks around 13,474 miles per year, this would work out that around after four years of average use with average care, the tyres will have done around 50,000 miles which can be considered an adequate lifespan.
Replacement after damage to tires
If your tires have been subject to an accident or incident of any kind, they should be checked for damage to avoid further destruction to the tire and potentially another accident occurring from driving with a tire which is not road-worthy. Any cuts or bulges in the central strip or sidewalls of the tires should be located, with a replacement tire being ordered immediately. When accidents or incidents happen, this is always the right time to replace your tires.
Other signs tires need replacing
There are also some signs to look out for which could indicate that there is a problem of some sort with your tire. If you are struggling to gain traction in wet or icy conditions, this would indicate that your tire tread depth is too low, and you should check to make sure they meet US road safety standards. Another potential fault warning is if you begin to hear noise coming from the tires of your vehicle. A pounding sound could indicate a flat spot in the tire which would cause it to need to be replaced, while a constant humming noise will likely mean you have a severed tread, which could be the result of a suspension problem. If the tread is severed, the tire must be removed and replaced as soon as possible. If you feel a bumping sensation while driving, this is likely a result of a bulge in the tire due to pressurised air coming through because of a separation of the internal belts.