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7 Steps to Find Tire Wear

Ever wonder when to replace your worn car tires? The performance of your car tires is critical to the safety, performance and efficiency of your vehicle.

Step 1) Primary Tire Function:

  • Understand that the primary function of tread on a tire is to divert water from beneath the tire to improve traction and avoid hydroplaning on wet roads.
  • Tires become unsafe when they’re worn, and once the tread is down to 1/16th of an inch (1.6mm), the tire is no longer safe.

Step 2) Look at the tread pattern:

  • All tires sold in the North America and other countries have what are called “tread wear bars”. These are small bridges that form between your treads.
  • Look at the tread pattern and you’ll see the beginnings of these bars start to form between the treads, or running across the tires.
  • As the tires wear, these bars will become flush (level or even) with the tire’s tread. At this point, it’s time to replace the tires.

Step 3) The Penny Test:

  • Take a penny, and place it upside down with the head facing you in the center of the tread (at the thickest part of the tire).
  • If you can see the very top of the head or the copper above it, replace the tires immediately.
  • If the hair on the top of the head is partially visible, it is time to go shopping for tires.
  • If you cannot see the hair on the top of the head (if the coin is inserted enough that the tire tread is at least as deep as his forehead), your tires do not need replacing yet.

Step 4) Use a tread depth indicator or gauge:

  • If you don’t already own one, the gauge is cheap to purchase from an auto parts dealer and it’s easy to use.
  • Alternatively, it might be easier to pop in to your regular tire place and ask them to check it for you; likely they’ll do this for free if you’re regular customer.

Step 5) Know the legal requirements:

  • Worn tires should be replaced as a matter of common sense to assure safety, but in some jurisdictions, there are also legal requirements to replace worn tires.
  • Tires are considered to be legally worn out when they have worn down to 1/16″ (1.6mm) of their remaining tread depth.

Step 6) Make note of any irregular tread wear:

  • This could indicate a wheel misalignment, the need for a tire rotation, or both.
  • Uneven tread wear is a sign that you need to take your car in for servicing.
  • It is a good idea to rotate your tires from front to rear in pairs. Take both front tires and move them to the rear and vice versa.

Step 7) Replace the tires at least every 6 years:

  • If you’re not sure, the minimum replacement time that is recommended is six years regardless of use, with 10 years being the maximum service life for tires.
  • Check your owner’s manual for specific recommendations related to your car.
  • And always check if you suspect your vehicle has tires that are over six years of age.
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