Ever wondered if there is a standard, short answer to how often to change your tires? Unfortunately, that answer is, no. Tire life expectancy depends on your driving habits, vehicle and tires.
Your goal should be to replace tires before the tread gets too worn down. Those tire grooves are designed to let water escape from underneath and improve your traction. The tread should be deep enough so that water can be diverted through the grooves. When the tread wears down, you risk reduced traction to the road.
If the treads on your tires reach 2/32 inch of depth, the tire is considered bald. Consumer Reports recommends you shop for tires when the tread starts to approach 4/32 inch in depth.
The best way to know when to replace your tires is to have a professional do an inspection. You can also watch for these warning signs as an indicator that your tires need replaced.
Look for “tread wear” bars If you look closely, you will see small horizontal bridges between the grooves of your tires. When your tread wears down, the horizontal bars become closer to being flush with the tire treads. Tires should be replaced before they reach this point.
Make note of any bubbles or bumps in the side wall Any type of bulge in a tire’s side wall indicates serious trouble. Have things inspected immediately, even if the tread isn’t worn.
Check for uneven wear in the tread Uneven tread wear could indicate improper wheel alignment or that your tires need rotated. Again, if you notice this, get it checked out.
Use the penny test There is 1/16 inch (2/32 inch) between the edge of a penny and the top of Lincoln’s head. Stick an upside-down penny into your tire groove. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, your tires need replaced. However, you should replace your tires well before the tread gets this worn. Since tires often don’t wear evenly, be sure to stick the penny into several spots. There are also special tread depth gauges you can purchase and use to measure your treads.
Replace aging tires Many experts recommend you replace tires at least every six years, regardless of use. Check your owner’s manual and talk to a tire professional to learn when your specific tires need replaced.