Now that winter is (hopefully) behind us, it's time to switch out the winter tires! So now seems like a good time to ask - how do you know when it's time to buy new tires?
In general, you should be checking the air pressure and doing a visual inspection of your tires once a month. With normal wear and tear, tires should be replaced at least every six years. But if you spend more time in your car than the average commuter or frequently drive over rough terrain, you may need to replace your tires sooner.
Here's what to look for when you're inspecting your tires:
Check the tread wear. The main function of your tire treads is to avoid hydroplaning by diverting water from under the tires. The more worn the tread, the less traction you have on wet roads.
There are a few ways you can check the tread wear on your tires. One of the most popular is the "penny" method. Insert a penny with the Queen's head facing down between the treads of your tire. If you can see the Queen's whole head, that means your tread is worn down to 1.6mm (2/32"), and it's time to replace your tire. Since our penny has been discontinued, it might be tricky to find one for this test!
Fortunately, there are other ways to check your tread depth. You can purchase a tire tread gauge to check your tread depth or you can check for the tread wear bars on your tires, which run perpendicular to your treads. The more worn your treads, the more visible the tread wear bars become. Once the tread wear bars are flush with the treads themselves, it's time to get new tires.
All that said, waiting until the treads are worn down to 1.6mm is similar to waiting until your car is running on fumes before filling up the tank. To maintain good handling and traction on wet roads, some experts suggest replacing your tires when the tread depth is 3mm (4/32") rather than the standard "Queen's head" measurement of 1.6mm (2/32").
Check the sidewalls. If you see any bulges in your sidewalls, that's an indication that the rigid interior of your tires has been damaged (by going over a particularly deep pothole, for example) and air is pushing against the flexible exterior of your tires. A bulge or wave in your sidewall could mean that a blow-out is imminent, so be sure and take your car in as soon as possible for a tire change.
Cracks or cuts in the sidewalls present a similar problem - the rubber may be drying out or your tire could be developing a leak. Avoid getting a flat by replacing any cracked or cut tires.
Note any changes in handling, traction or vibration. If you feel like it's taking longer to come to a stop or that your car isn't handling well in wet conditions, your tires might be the culprit. Similarly, if you're noticing a marked increase in vibration when you drive, it could be that your tires are aligned incorrectly or that your shocks aren't working properly - but it could also be a problem with the tires themselves. When in doubt, get your tires inspected.
For more information about replacing your tires and how to choose new ones, visit BeTireSmart.ca. And if you're switching out your winter tires, check out our post about how to store your tires when they're not in use.
When's the last time you replaced your tires?
- Rose R.