Now we’re not saying you should discriminate just because your tires are gettin’ up there, but if you’ve had them on for six years, you should seriously consider getting them replaced – even if you’ve had your car serviced regularly. The older a car is, it’s more likely to have spots that are weaker, plus you may have regular wear-and-tear damages that can get more dangerous over time, like a nail in your tire or a small leak. We recommend that tires 6 years and over, including spare tires (which should never be driven on longer than necessary), should be replaced.
So many of us, especially us living in the endless summer California weather, have summer tires. This is standard for most car models especially ones without AWD. HOWEVER. If you take regular road trips up to Big Bear or to the mountains, or you happen to live in a wintery climate, winter tires seriously improve the traction of your vehicle in slick situations whether it’s rain, snow, or ice. Switching between summer and winter tires depending on the climate is an important key, or you can opt for all-season tires if you’re an LA native and can get away with the same conditions for year-round driving with anonymous road trips to unknown destinations.
Tires are categorized as unsafe and too heavily worn when tire-treads are less than 2/32”. How do you measure such a random number? Use a penny. Scope out each tire by checking for wear patterns by sticking it into each tire groove one at a time for each tire. Place the penny’s edge facing upright in the groove of the tire. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, the tires are too worn and need an upgrade. You should also be checking regularly for unusually rough or smooth patches, nails, and other sharp objects that could be wedged inside – especially if you have to fill one of them more than the other, it means there is likely a small leak in the tire.
If your car starts veering to one side as you’re driving, this means your alignment is off, because the wear is uneven on your tires. Not only is this dangerous for risk of flat tires, but tires that aren’t properly aligned can actually speed up the process of wear and tear on your tires and also adversely affects the handling of your car. Tires that are rotated in service simultaneously and properly tend to have the same wear time. It’s recommended to change all four of them at the same time because of this – even if it’s front, rear, or AWD. *But, if you can only afford to buy two tires now, and two in a couple months, put the new ones on the back for over-steering or dealing with hydroplaning.
If you can see even the tiniest tinge of metal gleaming back at you, this means you ignored the six year AND the penny rule, and you’ve been driving on them waaaaay too long. Seriously. Take them to the shop and get them replaced. Even the slightest bit of visible steel is a no-no and they should’ve been replaced already! Another trick is to scope out the wear bars, which come on all tires. Once your tread matches the wear bar or rests below it, you need to replace them.
According to the Pirelli Tire of North America who paired with the Rubber Manufacturers Association, the four most important elements of caring for your tires are Pressure, Alignment, Rotation and Tread – or – PART. Here’s the breakdown for analyzing each element:
Pressure: Properly inflated tires can improve your EPA fuel economy up to 3.3% and save up to 12 cents / gallon, along with having obvious safety bonuses. You can start with buying a tire pressure gauge to check the tires while they’re cold, take it to the service station to fill with air, ensure you’re not under-inflating them, and fill them with the recommended pressure in your owner’s manual or listed on your driver’s door.
(You can see our step-by-step guide to checking tire pressure here)
Alignment: Wheels that are misaligned can cause seriously fast wear down on your tires and make them uneven, which makes them unsafe to drive on – especially at high speeds. Ensure your tires are aligned by getting check-ups every 6 months, before a road trip, or if you happen to fall victim to a seriously steep pothole.
Rotation: Same as the alignment, you want to get your tires rotated about every other oil change, or 6,000 – 10,000 miles, which includes checking your spare tire. By rotating them each year, you’re ensuring they get equal wear.
Tread: If your car is worn down, has some bald spots, rough patches, or a rusty nail, you can severely reduce the tire’s ability to grip the road, especially during any weather changes. Keep in mind that your traction is due 100% to what your tire treads look like, so even if it’s the first rain of the season and only a little bit slick, you can end up in a scary situation!