If you’re like most vehicle owners, you’ve probably spent more than a little time stressing out about purchasing new tires. The sheer number of tire manufacturers and suppliers alone can make buying new tires a pretty daunting task for even the most well-seasoned automotive experts! Luckily, we here at Classic Autobody are happy to help break this process down by addressing some of the most frequently asked questions about tire buying. With the rainy season quickly approaching, there’s no better time to get serious about taking care of your tires!
When do I need to buy new tires?
If you take care of your tires by driving carefully (no harsh braking or accelerating) and performing routine maintenance (sustaining proper tire pressure and alignment), they can last for 5,000 to 70,000 miles. So before you rush into a tire showroom, inspect your tires for signs of significant tread wear, sidewall cracks, and bulging or discoloration. If you see any of these things, you should look for new tires. Also, if your tires are over 10 years old but seemingly undamaged, you should still consider buying new ones because rubber breaks down with time and exposure to oxygen.
When do tires become worn out and unsafe to drive?
The best way to determine if your tires are worn out and in need of replacement is to measure the tire treads. All tires are built with treads, or grooves in the surface of the tire. Their primary purpose is to siphon up water from wet ground in order to sustain the tire’s firm grip on the road. This helps prevent hydroplaning, a dangerous condition that occurs when light rain mixes with oil residue on the road’s surface, causing the driver to lose control of their vehicle. New tires start out with grooves of about 10/32 of an inch deep. Throughout most of the United States, tires are legally considered bald, or unsafe to drive with, when one or more grooves have worn down to 2/32 of an inch deep. To identify this dangerous balding, tires are built with molded horizontal bars at the base of the grooves. When you have a bald tire, these wear bars are swamped by the surrounding tread to warn you that you need to replace the tire as soon as possible. But bald tires aren’t the only thing you need to look out for. Worn tires can be just as hazardous as bald tires, especially during the winter if you’re driving in rain and snow. In fact, if you know you’ll be driving in inclement weather, it’s highly recommended that you replace tires with so much as a 4/32 inch groove. Checking your grooves for proper depth is actually pretty easy. If you have a tread-depth gauge, you can just stick it in the main groove to measure the level of wear. You can also go the more thrifty route by using a penny and a quarter. The top of Lincoln’s head to the edge of the penny measures about 2/32 inches, while the top of Washington’s head to the edge of a quarter measures about 4/32.
What type of tire(s) should I buy?
The two most important things to consider are tire type and tire size. Luckily, you can rely on your car’s manufacturer and the experts at your local tire shop to help with this! In your vehicle’s owner’s manual, you should be able to find your manufacturer’s tire type and size recommendations. Some examples of tire types are all-season tires, high-performance tires, winter tires, and off-road tires. If you have a standard four-wheel drive, you’ll probably want all-season tires because they work well on most roads and in most weather conditions. If you’re planning on doing a lot of driving in inclement weather this rainy season, you might want to consider winter tires because they are designed for durability in wet, icy, and snowy conditions. Understanding the tire size is less important because that information comes in the form of a multi-digit code etched into the tire’s sidewall. Both your owner’s manual and your tire dealer can help you identify these digits and unpack their meaning. All you really need to know is that the tire code reveals the size and conditional specifications of your vehicle’s tires. You’ll want to tell your tire dealer things like what conditions you’ll be driving in, what kind of handling you’re interested in, and how much tread you want, and they will be able to take it from there.
How many tires should I buy?
The answer to this question depends on the tire damage you’re dealing with. If only one tire is bald or worn, you should be looking for a singular replacement tire of the same brand, model, size, and speed rating as the others. If you have a pair of bald or worn tires, they should be replaced with a new pair that perfectly or closely matches the surviving tires. If all four tires are bald or wearing down, you can either replace them with a set matching the original, or, if you want a smoother ride, better handling, or longer treadwear, you can review the various tire categories to see what best fits your needs.
What’s the proper inflation pressure for my tires?
NEVER under-inflate! Consult your owner’s manual for the proper tire inflation of your specific vehicle. NEVER over-inflate! Tires should not exceed the maximum pressure noted on your tire’s sidewall. If a tire is wearing on the outer edges, this is a sign that it is under-inflated, whereas if it’s wearing in the center, it is likely over-inflated. When in doubt, always go for more pressure than less!
Why should I spend so much time, energy, and money on my tires?
Taking care of your tires is essentially the highest form of self-care! If you’re a driver, you know that wielding a 4000 pound plus vehicle is no laughing matter. It goes without saying that things can go very wrong, very quickly. That’s where your tires come in. Your tires are the buffer between you, your vehicle, and the road. They are vitally important, and the right ones can not only protect you from harm but prevent it from happening in the first place.