Taking proper care of a vehicle is no small undertaking. Anyone who owns a car understands the high level of maintenance required to keep it running smoothly and safely. Since a car is so valuable, proper upkeep is a top priority for most car owners. Between oil changes, washes, battery replacements, tune-ups, inspections, and more, our cars can be one of our most costly investments. However, unless you are a car enthusiast, the average person may lack some valuable information regarding maintenance. A common question we hear time and time again is, “how often do cars need new tires?”
Truth be told, there’s no single, precise answer. Although there are some general guidelines to follow regarding tires, there are many factors that can impact their longevity. In this article, we’ll provide all the information you need to know regarding tire replacement and upkeep.
First, we’ll explain one of the most important aspects of tire safety: tread. Then, we’ll continue by outlining the additional factors that affect a tire’s lifespan. Next, we’ll go over some preservation methods to help keep your tires running smoothly. Finally, we’ll conclude by discussing how and where to replace your tires.
What Is Tread and How to Measure It?
When answering the question, “how often do cars need new tires?” the most significant factor is the tread. Tread is the pattern of grooves and ridges that form the surface of a tire. Not only does tread increase a vehicle’s traction on the road, but it also deflects water from underneath the tire while driving in wet conditions.
A tire’s tread is a vital safety component. If the tread becomes worn down, tires will lose traction while braking and won’t properly grip the road while driving in rain, snow, and ice. Regardless of tire quality, tread inevitably wears down over time. Below, we have outlined a few methods of measuring tread.
Inspect the Tread Wear Bars
The first way to measure a tire’s tread is to inspect the tread wear bars. The tread wear bars are small rubber bridges in the grooves between the ridges. If they are level with the tread pattern, it means the tire has 1/16th of an inch of tread remaining and the tires should be immediately replaced.
The Quarter Test
The second method of measuring tread is referred to as the “quarter test.” To perform the quarter test, insert a quarter into the center of the tread between two ridges with the head of the coin facing toward you. If you can see the top of Washington’s head or the space above the head, the tread is overly worn down and must be replaced.
This test can also indicate when a tire’s tread is in decent condition. If you only see some of Washington’s hair, replacing your tires is not a priority, but should be done within the near future. If part of the forehead is covered, the tread is sufficient and the tires do not yet require replacement. This test is an excellent way to answer the question, “How often do cars need new tires?”
The final way to calculate a tire’s tread is to use a depth gauge. These are easy to use, relatively inexpensive, and can be purchased at any auto part store. Using a depth gauge will provide a more accurate assessment than the DYI tests mentioned above, so we recommend using this method.
How Often Do Cars Need New Tires?
Unfortunately, there is no definite end-date to the life of a tire. Different tires vary based on design, size, thickness, material compound, and more. However, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that most tires have an average lifespan of somewhere between 25,000 and 50,000 miles. They also claim, regardless of how often tires are used, you should replace them a minimum of once every six years.
For a more specific estimate based on make and model, drivers should refer to their owner’s manual. There are numerous factors to consider when asking, “How often do cars need new tires?” Below, we’ve listed some factors with the greatest impact on tire longevity.
First, different tires will naturally respond differently to normal wear and tear. For instance, tires can vary based on the nature of their compounds. Tires made from softer compounds will have excellent braking performance and responsiveness but will wear down more quickly than tires made from hard compounds.
Next, road texture plays perhaps the most obvious role in the lifespan of a tire. Vehicles that are regularly driven on rough, uneven roads will naturally require tire replacement more frequently than cars typically driven on smoother surfaces. Heavy exposure to UV light is another factor that can speed up the wearing process. We encourage car owners residing in hot, sunny climates to replace their tires closer to once every four years as opposed to the average six years.
The next influencer is the frequency of use. Surprisingly, tires that are used more frequently actually tend to last longer. Motion causes oil to circulate within the tires, lubricating the internal rubber to prevent drying and cracking. The final influential factors on how often do cars need new tires is outlined below.
Performing consistent maintenance is one of the most important things you can do for your tires. A simple inspection from your local tire shop could make the difference between a smooth, 200-mile road trip versus a major blowout halfway to your destination. Aside from worn out treads, there are many additional issues that a tire inspection can reveal. For instance, cuts and slashes, visible wires, and damage to sidewalls can all be detrimental if not addressed immediately.
Irregular wearing is also a common problem that can decrease the life of a tire. More importantly, uneven wear can be a sign of bigger issues, such as improper wheel alignment or problems with suspension. By having your tires professionally inspected, you’ll have a better indication of how soon they’ll require replacement, plus you’ll be taking a proactive approach to addressing future problems.
How often do cars need new tires can depend greatly on maintenance procedures. The following actions should be performed regularly to achieve optimal tire longevity:
After all tire rotations, changes, or major impacts, tires should be balanced. Tire balancing will ensure an even load distribution and prevent uneven wear. Next, the inflation level should be checked on a monthly basis. Even when your car isn’t in use, air is always escaping and can cause dangerously low tire pressure. Also, air heats and expands while driving which can cause over-inflation and result in surface cracks. Tires that are too flat or too full can be equally detrimental. Finally, cleaning your tires regularly will prevent materials such as dust and salt from causing the rubber to deteriorate prematurely.
How and Where to Get Your Tires Changed
Now that we’ve answered the question, “how often do cars need new tires?” you should be able to determine if it’s time for an upgrade. With so many options to choose from, it will be helpful to educate yourself on tire codes before making a final selection. Having information on the estimated tread life, load index, and speed rate (among other factors) will allow you to choose tires that optimize your car’s performance.
Also, different car models have different needs, so you may want to consult your vehicle’s manufacturer for guidance. They can provide you with additional information on which tire styles will function best with your specific car. Although it will be an expensive purchase, it’s important to invest in top-quality tires to ensure longevity and safety.
It’s also important to mount the same kind of tires on all the wheels of your vehicle. Make certain they are the same size, type, load, and speed rating. When you’re finally ready to pull the trigger, you can have your tires replaced at your vehicle manufacturer’s service center, or at a local tire workshop.
Owning a vehicle is both useful and satisfying, but also an enormous responsibility. The average American spends an astonishing 17,600 minutes in their car each year, so ensuring its safety is vital. Tire quality plays a huge role in protecting you and your passengers, plus contributes to the overall longevity of your car. “How often do cars need new tires?” is a question that every car owner should know the answer to.
Although tires do not have an exact lifespan, being knowledgeable about the factors that impact their durability is of utmost importance. Monitoring tire treads, remaining mindful of sources of wear and tear, engaging in consistent maintenance procedures, and having your tires professionally inspected are all important practices that will aid you in timely tire replacement. Also, maintaining awareness of the age and mileage of your tires can alert you when it’s potentially time for an upgrade. By following these guidelines, we’re confident you will have a long and happy relationship with your tires.