Many drivers do not grasp a basic understanding of why it is imperative to keep their tires in excellent condition until it is too late and a tire explodes on the highway — leaving them in the dust! Accidents like these can cause serious injury and in some cases, death. Even in the best case scenario, the loud explosion and the extreme and sudden change in driving conditions will result in a panic attack and adrenaline rush; plus, your car will be filled with the hideous odor of a burning/exploded tire (quite possibly the most putrid smell known to man). Clearly, keeping on top of your tires’ condition and tread and wear wear will benefit you tremendously — simultaneously keeping you safe on the road while saving you the headache of breaking down (leaving you with no choice but to call one of those pesky tow truck drivers).
Regularly checking your tire’s tread depth to gauge how heavily it has been worn and checking the sides of your tires for potentially dangerous scuffs, cuts, and other damage will help you determine whether or not your tire needs to be replaced. The law requires that tire tread depth must be over 2/32” deep. There is an easy way to determine if you meet this requirement and all you need is a penny. Position the coin so that Lincoln’s head is upside-down and place it at the lowest point in between your tire treads. If part of Lincoln’s head is covered up, you have at least 2/32” of tread left. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, you will need to have your tire replaced. Run this test along the circumferential perimeter of your tire about 15” apart to check for even wear. Another way to check your tread is to look at the tire wear bars. These are small bridges in between tire treads that all new tires are manufactured with. The wear bars should be set deep inside the treads. If the wear bars are flush or level with the tire treads, it is time to replace your tires. The minimum tread requirement is 2/32”, but if you drive in a lot of rain or other hazardous driving conditions you may want to have a tread that is at least 4/32” deep. You can use a quarter for this test. Position the quarter so that Washington’s head is upside-down and place the quarter in between the tire treads at the deepest point. If you can see the top of Washington’s head, you have less than 4/42” of tread left and it is time to consider buying new tires.
While you are running penny and quarter tests, you should also check the side walls of your tires for any damage. Side wall damage occurs from driving improperly against a sidewalk, pothole, barrier, or any other structure and it is not uncommon. Problems arise if the damage is too deep. Check for cuts and gashes. If the damage is severe, it is more than cosmetic — it is problematic. Deep cuts can also lead to surprise tire bursts. Take your car to the mechanic and he or she will be able to tell you whether or not your tire needs to be replaced. You will also want to keep your eyes peeled for abnormal bubbles or bulges in the sidewall. The presence of bubbles or bulges means that the internal rim/wheel structure has been damaged (most likely from a collision with potholes or structures as exemplified above). Bubbles and bulges can be extremely dangerous because their presence means that the damaged wheel rim has allowed air to travel inside the tire into the tire’s thin and flexible outer layers. Not only will you definitely need a new tire in this scenario, you will unfortunately also need a new wheel or rim as well. Lastly, check the sides of your tires for cracking. If you see cracks that are blatantly apparent to the naked eye, this means that the tire is old or has dry rot (which can come from extreme weather conditions or temperatures). The normal life expectancy of a tire is 6 years, and manufacturers recommend replacement after 6-10 years, even if the tread is not great condition. Cracking on the surface of the tire is dangerous, frequently causing blow-outs. You will need to replace these tires before the damage becomes more perilous and more severe.