As you probably know, tires are an important part of your vehicle — you literally cannot drive without them. They carry you to and from your desired destination and keep you safe in adverse weather conditions or on the roughest roads. But, like a good pair of shoes, they eventually become worn down and need to be replaced.
Here are a few indicators of when it's time to buy a new pair or two:
The tread is worn
The tread of a tire is the rubber on its circumference that makes contact with the road or the ground. As tires are used, the tread is worn off, reducing its overall traction and lifespan. An easy way to check the tread is to conduct a penny test.
Simply take a penny and, with President Lincoln's head pointed down, insert it into the grooves on your tire tread. If any part of Lincoln's head is hidden by the tire tread, your tires are fine. Otherwise, your treads are too shallow and it's time to replace your tires.
The pressure won't stay up
A punctured tire might not be immediately apparent, but it will inevitably lead to a flat tire that needs replacing. Staying cognizant of your tire pressure, however, can help you spot problems when they start, so you won’t have a scary blowout on the road.
Whether it's an obvious tear or a slow leak, a tire monitor is an affordable, easy-to-use way to check if it's time to make a trip to your local tire shop. And, unlike tradition tire pressure gauges, it doesn't require hopping out of your car and getting your hands dirty.
Your passengers become uncomfortable
Another good indicator of worn tires is ride comfort and the noises your car makes. You know how your vehicle rides best, but if you and your guests are experiencing heavy vibrations or need to yell over the loud rotations of your tires, that's a good sign your tires are very old and very close to the end of their lifespan.
If things are getting bumpy, talk to your mechanic about checking your vehicle's alignment and tire integrity.
The sidewalls are cracking
Your sidewalls will tell you almost everything you need to know to keep your tires in their best shape. Use your owner's manual to identify which numbers and letters stand for the size of the tire's sidewall, radius and wheel diameter, and check those regularly.
Numbers aside, sidewalls are also one of the clearest indicators of tire damage. Once you start seeing cracks, blisters, bumps or anything else strange, however, start shopping.
You've had them for more than six years
Regardless of tread wear, sidewalls, vibration or pressure, it's generally recommended you start checking your tires annually after five years. You can monitor the tire pressure and check for damage yourself, but a mechanic could help find any other problems.
After 10 years, however, you'll definitely need to replace your tires. You can check your model numbers with your tire manufacturer to be sure about how long they're expected to last.