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How to Tell if It’s Time to Replace Tires on Your Car

A new tire sits next to a worn out one whose tread has degraded over time.

Tires don’t last forever, and changing them restores performance and safety. Some people might replace tires too often, while others don’t do it often enough. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA), only 19 percent of people check and adjust tire pressure properly, and roughly 700 people die in tire-related car crashes annually! Clearly, tires and tire maintenance are more important than many realize.

Tire maintenance will help your tires last as long as possible. The NHTSA recommends rotating your tires every 5,000 to 8,000 miles. This evens out wear patterns from the front and the rear that can be caused by steering and trailing axle differences, as well as torque distribution. Second, check and adjust your tires’ pressure at least once a month, and more often if possible. Finally, consider getting a wheel alignment done every year, as misaligned tires wear abnormally.

Rotating and checking your tires’ pressure only requires basic skills and tools. To rotate your car’s tires, use a jack, jack stands, a breaker bar, a torque wrench and a deep socket. To check and adjust tire pressure, use a tire gauge and a tire inflator. It should be checked when the tires are “cold,” or stationary for at least three hours. If you don’t want to go the DIY route, some tire installers offer complementary rotations after you get replacements, and some shops might check and adjust tire pressure for free.

Replace Tires if the DOT TIN Indicates They're Over Six Years Old

How Long Do Tires Last?

Tire maintenance is meant to prolong and maintain the life of a tire, not improve it. There are many factors that affect tire life, including type, use and age. At best, Consumer Reports claims, some high-performance summer tires can last up to 40,000 miles, and some all-season types can last up to 70,000 miles. Overloading, aggressive driving, racing and lack of maintenance will cause tires to wear out faster, though. There are three main reasons you need to replace tires.

1. Wear: Most state regulations require drivers to replace their tires when tread depth reaches 2/32 of an inch, but this isn’t enough to drive in rainy or in snowy conditions. According to studies completed by the American Automobile Association, hydroplaning can occur with tread depth under 4/32 of an inch, while traction in the snow can be limited when tread depth is under 6/32 of an inch.

2. Season: In some areas, consider dedicated snow tires. Summer tires aren’t designed to be used in frigid temperatures, even sans the fluffy stuff, and some all-season tires may not be “sticky” enough for winter roads. Fall and spring are good times to prepare for the coming season.

3. Age: Worn or not, tires age as soon as they are manufactured. The NHTSA recommends replacing tires that are 6 years old, while some manufacturers and automakers suggest 10 years as a maximum. You can easily determine how old your tires are by the Department of Transportation’s Tire Identification Number (TIN). The last four digits of the TIN indicate the week and year of manufacture.

By rotating your car’s tires at specific intervals and checking pressure on a monthly basis, you could extend their life and not have to replace them so soon. Don’t forget to check the often-ignored spare tire, either.

Check out all the steering and suspension parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on summer tires, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force.

Benjamin Jerew View All

Ben has been taking things apart since he was 5, and putting them back together again since he was 8. After dabbling in DIY repairs at home and on the farm, he found his calling in the CGCC Automobile Repair program. After he held his ASE CMAT for 10 years, Ben decided he needed a change. Now, he writes on automotive topics across the web and around the world, including new automotive technology, transportation legislation, emissions, fuel economy and auto repair.

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