When Should You Change Your Car’s Tires?

Change Your Car’s Tires

Your car’s tires are designed to carry out a number of important functions. First, it supports and properly distributes load throughout your vehicle. Second, it absorbs road shock forces to give you a more comfortable ride. Third, your car’s tires have treading that clear out water to improve grip and traction on the road. Lastly, tires function to maintain and change the direction of travel.

Collectively, these four functions keep you safe while driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2016 tire malfunction was a factor in 733 road fatalities. The NHTSA also reported that tire malfunction resulted in 11,000 car accidents each year.

How Long Do Car Tires Last?

Historians say the invention of the wheel was one of the turning points of innovation. However, creating a wheel is not as simple as carving a round object and rolling it down the road. Today’s tires are made of about 200 different components. These components are grouped into five categories:

  1. Natural rubber which is used for the car’s treading layers.
  2. Synthetic rubber added as a supportive component to treading.
  3. Carbon black and silica which improves durability and stability of the tires.
  4. Metallic and textile cables which used to add rigidity and give your tires its shape.
  5. Various chemical agents are added to provide key features such as grip and resistance.

However, the materials and amount of work that goes into manufacturing tires, they will not last forever. Tires are subject to wear and tear. Over time, they will have to be replaced.

Factors That Contribute To The Wear And Tear Of Your Car’s Tires

If you use your car everyday and travel long distances, expect its tires to be worn out within 10 years from its date of manufacture. In addition to the frequency of use, there are other factors that contribute to the wear and tear of your tires:

  • Road Conditions – Driving over potholes, sharp objects, tree branches, and rocks.
  • Mother Nature – Snow, rain and flooding conditions, prolonged exposure to the sun.
  • Driving Style – Frequent speeding followed by immediate braking.
  • Poor Tire Maintenance Practices – Lack of proper air pressure, failure to have tires aligned and rotated and failure to have new tires balanced.

A good number of these factors cannot be controlled. That’s why even with the best intentions, you have to be prepared to replace your tires when the time comes.

When Should You Change Your Car’s Tires?

The average lifespan of tires is five years. If your car has not acquired much mileage within five years, you could delay buying a new set of tires a few years more. However, if your “wheels” are 10 years old, you should buy new ones even if they still look like good tires.

You can tell if the car’s tires are starting to show the effects of wear and tear while driving. Experienced drivers might notice the following:

  • There is slight difficulty in steering the car; it feels “heavy” on one side.
  • ​The ride is not as smooth as before.
  • ​You feel a bit of wobble on the steering wheel.
  • You experience more vibrations as you are driving regardless of surface.

When you notice these instances while driving, bring the car to the side of the road and inspect the tires. Here are some tips on how to look for tire wear:

  • Check for uneven treading.
  • Assess if the car tread looks thin and shallow.
  • ​Look for objects embedded in the tire such as rocks or nails.
  • Inspect the valve caps and see if they look worse for wear.

You can run tests to know for sure if these are damaged and when to change tires:

  • Check the air pressure.
  • If it’s below the required psi, have it re-inflated at the nearest gas station. However if the pressure gauge still shows psi remains below the required level, it means there is serious damage to your car’s tires.
  • Use a tread depth gauge and refer to the following conditions:
    • If your tire’s tread depth is 2/32”, you should already replace it. At this level, your tire can no longer displace water. It will also be highly susceptible to punctures.
    • If you are driving in an area where rain and flooding is a concern, replace the tires when the tread depth is at 4/32”.
    • If your area is frequented by snow and you often experience slippery roads, you should replace the tires if the tread depth is measured at 5/32”.

One of the most popular ways to find out when to change tires is the “Abe Lincoln Penny Test”. You hold the penny between your thumb and forefinger and insert it between the grooves where the level of the tread is lowest. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, this means the tread is worn out.

The best way to know for sure that your car’s tires need to be replaced is to bring it to an auto repair shop. In addition to having trained professionals inspect your tires, they also use high tech equipment that can give you a precise diagnosis.

How To Choose The Right Tires For Your Car

The vehicle owner’s manual should have all the details and information you need to buy the right tires for your car. If there is no information in the manual, check the door on the driver’s side. The car manufacturer might have placed it there as a sticker.

Here are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about replacing your car’s tires:

1. “Is it okay to choose a tire size that is different from the one designated for my vehicle?”

No. It is highly recommended to buy only tires that match the dimensions stated in the tire information sheet. The size of the tires was selected by the manufacturer to give you maximum riding comfort and of course, driving safety.

2. “Will it be safe for me to buy different types of tires?”

Unless it is otherwise specified by the car manufacturer in the vehicle owner’s manual, always buy the same type of tires. Having the same tires will ensure maximum safety and all- around performance for your vehicle.

3. “How about if I buy tires of different speed ratings?”

Yes, you can buy tires that have different speed ratings. However, there are trade- offs you should be aware of.

Tires with higher speed rating have optimum grip, traction and top level braking power. The trade- off is its car tread life will be shorter. On the other hand, using tires with lower speed rating will not only reduce its maximum speed limit but it will also affect overall performance and handling.

If you must buy tires of different speed ratings, make sure the pair with the lowest speed ratings is installed in front. This will prevent over-steering and help you maintain better control over your car during sharp turns.

4. “Can you just replace one tire or two tires?”

Yes, you can replace just one or two tires. However, we recommend replacing all four tires. Even if the older ones are still good tires, they have already undergone wear and tear. Also, some dealers may give you attractive discounts if you buy an entirely new set of tires.

If you can only budget for one or two tires, make sure these are installed on the rear axle of your car to ensure better traction especially on wet roads.

5. “Can I buy second hand or used tires?”

No, regardless of what the owner says or how the tires look never buy second hand or used tires. The tires may have internal damage that is difficult to detect. You can never go wrong in buying brand new tires for your car.


If you start to notice difficulty in handling your car, don’t take any chances. Bring your car to an auto shop and ask them to inspect your tires. If the tire specialist says it is time to get a new set of tires, spare no expense and get the right ones for your car. The tire specialist is the best person to advise you when to change tires.

When your tires are in poor condition, driving on the road becomes a riskier proposition. You might suffer a blowout or lose control of your vehicle. Either way, these types of accidents have life-threatening consequences.

Keep in mind your tires are the only parts of the car that maintain direct contact with the road. If they are worn out, do not hesitate to buy a new set of tires.

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About the Author Jeff

Hey, I'm Jeff, thanks for visiting my website! I have been obsessed with LED light bars ever since they came out and over the last couple of years I have been testing and reviewing LED light bars. If you have any questions, please feel free to get in touch by clicking on our contact page.

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