How do I know when it's time to buy new tires?
The best way to know whether or not it’s time to buy new tires for your vehicle is to have them inspected by a trained professional, but there are many ways to check yourself. To meet legal safety standards, a tire’s tread needs to be a least 2/32” deep. If the tires do not meet the 2/32” standard or are close to not meeting it, you should replace your tires. Tires should also be free of sidewall damage and irregular wear for optimal performance and safety.
You can check your tires on your own through a visual inspection. Start with the tread—the grooves around the tire that make contact with the road surface. Make sure the tire tread is deep enough and that it’s worn evenly all the way around without any irregularities. All DOT-regulated tires feature built-in treadwear indicators called “wear bars” that will help you see when the tread is getting low. These indicators can be found in various places throughout the tread and will appear when the tread is worn to one-sixteenth of an inch. You should also examine the sidewall of each tire to ensure there is no visible damage.
Another simple way to determine the tread depth on your tires is by performing the penny test on multiple areas around each tire. This test can be performed in your own driveway in just a few minutes.
If your tires pass these tests, you may not need to buy new tires just yet. It’s a good idea to reassess the tread every few thousand miles or once a month, and even more often if you’re putting a lot of wear on your vehicle or driving for long distances.
How to determine correct tire size
Once you know it’s time to buy tires, the next question you’ll need to answer is what size tires are correct for your vehicle. You can find this information in a few different places: on a placard inside your car’s doorjamb or gas tank hatch, in your owner’s manual, or on the sidewall of your current tires. If you’re unsure of how to read tire measurements from your tire walls, this article walks you through the steps.
How do I know which tires are a good fit for my car?
Next, you’ll need to decide which tires will work the best for your particular needs and driving preferences. Start by assessing your driving habits. Do you typically stick to city and highway driving or do you hear the call of off-roading adventures? Do you live in a mild climate or will you be slogging through snow and slush come cold weather? Are you fuel conscious?
Once you have a good idea of what’s important to you and your vehicle’s driving needs, you can match up your driving style with your perfect tire type. The following is a quick look at tire types:
All-season tires are built for the average driver. They’re capable of performing in a variety of road and weather conditions. All-season tires perform well in warm weather, but are not intended to provide the extreme grip or sportiness of a summer tire. They are also capable of managing light winter conditions, but not extreme cold, snow and ice.
Summer tires work best on high-performance vehicles and are designed to offer both speed and agility. With more tread surface in contact with the road, summer tires offer better braking, corner-handling, and control than most other tires. But they’re not as gas-friendly as many tires and though they’re great at handling wet conditions, the shallower tread depth on summer tires mean they are not intended to heavy winter weather.
Winter and snow tires
Winter tires are built to withstand freezing temperatures, slush, snow and icy road conditions. They offer wide tread gaps to trek through the snow and offer optimal winter traction, which can be necessary for drivers who must travel on unpredictable roads. However, they should only be used in cold weather conditions as tread will wear away quicker in warm conditions.
Do I have to replace all four tires at once?
Another question many people buying tires have is whether or not they need to replace all four tires at once. The simple answer is yes. Since your tires affect the performance and handling of your vehicle, it’s important for them to be as identical as possible. If your tires don’t match, it’s possible that one end of your vehicle won’t be able to respond as quickly as the other, making it difficult to control.
Your tires are what keep your vehicle connected to the road, so having an even surface is vital.
If you must only replace one or two tires, select tires that are similar to what is currently installed on your vehicle. You should only consider tires that are within the same category as your existing tires. New tires should only be installed on the rear axle.
Which are better, new or used tires?
While it seems like there is some advantage to buying used tires—namely a lower price point—there are a lot of risks associated with it as well. Since you don’t know the history of the tires, it can be difficult to know whether or not they’ve been previously patched because of puncture or tears, which can mean the tire is more prone to leaks or blowouts. Used tires might also have uneven wear which can compromise their handling and safety and lead them to needing to be replaced much sooner than new tires.
It is best to only replace tires with new tires of the same category, brand, size, and speed rating.
What should I ask the dealer?
Once you know the general type and size of tire you want, it’s important to also know what to ask the dealer to make certain you’re choosing the best tire option for your vehicle. You’ll want to see if tire rotation and balancing come along with your new tires or if you can add on the maintenance service. And you should ask the dealer to outline each manufacturer’s warranty and replacement options to make certain your new investment is protected in the long run. Be sure to ask about any specials they might be offering.
With these tire buying tips in hand, you should be well on your way to making a confident decision when it comes to picking out new tires.