There are various factors to consider when answering the question of how often to change car tires. Tires should be changed between 40,000 and 70,000 miles on average. Safety is a priority here, so the $750 cost is worth it. Don’t skip on tire replacement.
Today’s car owners don’t know as much about car maintenance as they did in the past. Our grandparents, for example, took classes at school about car repair. Many did basic work themselves. Nowadays, many of us don’t even know how often we should change our tires.
This blog answers the question as well as takes on a few points about tire conditions and the costs of repair and replacement.
When Should I Change my Tires?
Changing the tires on a car (at roughly 45,000 miles) is an important part of any vehicle maintenance plan. The easiest way to know when to change the tires is to wait for your mechanic to tell you when you get the oil changed and the car inspected.
However, waiting for the mechanic to inform you could put you in a dangerous spot. It’s better if you know how to do a quick check yourself.
Here are the questions you may find yourself asking:
- When should I replace my tires?
- Why should I replace my tires?
- Who should replace my tires?
- How do I know what tires to put on my car?
There are two factors that come into play when having this conversation: tire wear and tire age.
The wear of a tire occurs as the heavy vehicle navigates roadways for miles and miles. Along the way, friction and literal bumps in the road take their toll on the tire. If the tread is uneven, there’s a tire problem to be addressed. If the tire tread is low, call your mechanic.
Tire age is also a concern. Tires are not designed to last forever. In fact, many of us don’t even think about tires until ours is flat, punctured, or not providing enough traction to get us from point A to point B in a safe manner.
Tires have a date of production listed on the wall. This can help identify if tires are expiring. Normally, tires should be replaced between six and ten years of use if no other problems exist.
The experts know best. If you have a gut feeling that your tires are fading, and fast, call up a mechanic and schedule a quick inspection. You’ll thank yourself for it later.
Are My Tires Bad? The Penny Test.
The penny test clues drivers in as to how well their tires are holding up. This can be a useful hack if you’re interested in knowing if it’s time to change your tires.
Find a penny and stick it in the tread. The penny goes in head first.
If you can see Honest Abe’s head, the tire tread is too low, and tire replacement is required.
Beyond this visual test, some drivers can tell the tires are going bad based on the vehicle’s performance. If the car seems to be floating on the road, drifting, or spinning out in wet conditions, the tires are not gripping the road correctly. Replace them.
How Long Can I Drive on Bad Tires?
If you’re wondering why you should replace your tires, you need to be cognizant that if you have an accident because your tires are bad, that’s 100% your fault. The insurance company and the law will deem you liable for driving a dangerous car.
In other words, you should not drive a car on bad tires. Instead, you should take the bus until you can figure out a way to get the car to the shop for tire replacement. The average cost for four new tires is about $750, but can be more for big trucks, SUVS, and foreign makes.
If you don’t replace your tires in a timely fashion, there are consequences:
- Road grip is reduced
- Blowouts could ruin your day, leaving you stuck on the shoulder
- Stopping the vehicle becomes hazardous as brakes don’t operate as designed
- Other wheel, car, and steering problems could develop, resulting in costly repairs
Statistic: Every year, over 11,000 wrecks occur due to bad tires.
Why is my Tire Going Flat?
Ruined tires don’t usually happen out of nowhere. Instead, the process comes over time. The cause of a bad tire is to be considered in answering the question, “How long do tires last?”
First of all, tires are designed to make it anywhere from 40,000 miles to 70,000 miles. If you’re thinking of owning a car for 200,000 miles, that’s 3-5 tire changes until the vehicle is off to the junkyard.
Factors that lead to tire replacement:
- Potholes, speedbumps, nails on the road, broken glass on the street, etc.
- Extreme weather conditions (heat, blizzards, sub-zero temperatures)
- Reckless driving (too fast, too hard on the brakes, etc.)
- Excessive high speed driving
- A combination thereof
These factors don’t operate independently of one another. If you speed every day, slam on the brake’s like nobody’s business, and live in a city like Chicago with hot summers and freezing winters, don’t be surprised if you’re finding yourself at the tire shop more often than most.
Signs You Should Change Your Car Tires
The first step to changing your car tires is recognizing that the time has come for tire replacement.
Here are some tips to help you know it is time to make the call.
- Tread depth is compromised. A new tire has good tread. A bad (unsafe) tire has a tread of less than 2/32.” Remember the penny test can help you with this one!
- Bubbles are another indication that something is wrong with the title. Bumps and bulges show weak points in the tire’s design. It’s time for a replacement.
- Shaking. If your car is vibrating when you drive, the problem could be the tires (although it could be something else). Have a mechanic advise you on the tire condition before making your next move.
- Cuts or slashes. Obviously a slashed tire isn’t getting you anywhere. However, a tire that looks cracked or cut up is an indication that you need to call a mechanic all the same. These marks are usually a result of breakdown due to weather (sun, salt, temperature, etc.)
- Punctures are bad news, too. If you run over a large nail, the tire is going to need more than a patch. You’ll be looking at a replacement.
- Other damage. It doesn’t always take a professional to know the tire is in sorry shape. If there’s a problem with the valve, hubcap, or wheel, you should act quickly.
Knowing what to look for is only half the battle.
Selecting New Tires for Your Vehicle
Buying new tires for your vehicle, once you’ve identified that there is a need, can pose another challenge. It’s hard to know which tires are right for your ride.
Take stock of your unique situation to begin. How do you drive? Aggressively or cautiously? What’s the weather like where you live? Do you do more highway driving or more city driving? All of these questions can help you find the right tires for the job.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the decision, just talk to the tire shop professionals. Just be careful they don’t pressure you into something more than you need (nobody needs snow tires in Miami).
Here, we present a brief cheat sheet on tire types:
- Highway or Touring: for vehicles that stick to paved roads. They are known to last years.
- Sport: race car drivers love these tires.
- Mud: if you live in a forest or near a swamp, mud tires might fit the bill.
- All-terrain: great for city streets and mountain highway driving
- Run flat: special tires that last a little longer if a flat occurs. They’re more expensive so they’re often found on SUVs or luxury marques.
- Snow and winter: in snowy cities like Chicago, they’re a hit come December.
- All-season or all-weather: basically these tires are good for many situations and climates.
People who really care about their rides often keep two sets of tires. For example, if they live in Miami, but drive to Colorado every winter, they may have all-season tires for home and snow tires for Denver.
A Guide on How Tires Are Rated
The ultimate authority on tire ratings is the NHTSA.
Treadwear grades are based on a scale where 100 means the normal life, and 3000 means three times it.
Traction is also rated. AA is the top score. A, B, and C are the next levels.
Date of Tire Codes reveal how old the tire is. Ask your mechanic for further advice.
Temperature is also graded with A, B, and C. A is the best score.
What about used tires? Some people love to buy used products, but used tires aren’t highly recommended in most cases. It’s a huge risk. You could save a little money upfront, but you’ll be replacing those tires sooner than you would new ones.
There’s also repair costs to consider. A used tire is more likely to blow out while you’re on the expressway. That means a dangerous situation that could result in a wreck. At best, you’ll be calling for roadside assistance. The few pennies saved aren’t usually worth it in the end.
Tire Replacement FAQs
Here are the questions commonly asked when discussing tire replacement.
How Often Should Tires be Changed?
Tires should be changed more often than most people think. The average car owner puts 15,000 miles on a car in a year. If you’re going at this rate, you can expect to replace your tires every three years or so. If you’re putting more miles on the car, try to change the tires at 45,000.
This figure isn’t specific to any type of car, so you should rely on a professional for advice. When you get your oil changed, request a tire inspection. The mechanic will give you a report on the condition of the tires.
Usually, this report comes in traffic signals. If you’re on red or yellow, replace the tires.
When should I Replace the Spare Tire?
When talking about tire care, it’s an important point that we shouldn’t forget about the spare tire in the trunk or on the back of the vehicle.
Remember that these old tires do expire. Also keep in mind that most modern cars come with donut tires as spares. Some car experts recommend tossing the donut and replacing it with a full size tire if possible. A donut can only be driven fifty miles at 55 MPH or less.
Do Front Tires Wear Out Faster?
Mechanics love to debate which tires wear out faster on vehicles. Some say that it depends on if there is front-wheel drive or rear-wheel drive. The truth is that most cars require front wheel replacement sooner.
This is because the front of the vehicle is heavier thanks to the engine components.
If you have an all-wheel drive car, you should have all four tires replaced at the same time. In other vehicles, you may be able to get away with replacing just two wheels.
One tip that helps is staying up to date on your tire rotations semiannually (or 6,000 to 8,000 miles).
The Wheels in the Sky Keep on Turning
The truth is the wheels on the car require your constant attention. Check them before every ride. You never know when you could have a flat, puncture, or bad tread.
If you have an old car, though, these wheel replacement cars might be the final straw. Instead of investing in new wheels, just send the car to the junkyard and start over.