A Word About Tread
In most states, tires are legally worn out when they’re reduced to 2/32-inch of their remaining tread depth. For any newbies out there, we’ll cover the “penny test” now: To check your tread, snag a penny from a coin jar and place it into several tread grooves on your tires. If part of Honest Abe’s head is always covered, then your tires are still adequate. If not, then it’s probably time to think about getting some new rubber.
Tires typically last between 25,000 and 50,000 miles, depending on things like how much you drive and how meticulously you maintain your vehicle. Things like overinflation, underinflation and uneven vehicle alignment can lead to premature wear, making tire maintenance crucial to long-term use.
Common Tire Wear Patterns
- Center tread wear: Likely the result of overinflation, where the tire rides on its center tread.
- Outer tread wear: This is likely caused by underinflation, which causes the tire to make too much contact with the road while driving.
- Tread ribs develop rounded edges: This is called “feathering,” and it’s most commonly caused by improper toe-in setting. Feathering is also characterized by sharp edges forming on the opposite side of the rounded one.
- Inner/outer rib wear: If this is occurring, then your vehicle is likely in need of a wheel alignment.
- Dips in the tread: This is known as “cupping” and is typically indicative of bent or damaged suspension parts. Occasionally, a wheel alignment may also solve the issue.
When to Rotate
- Gauge It: We already mentioned the penny test, but you should also consider carrying a tire gauge and checking pressure at least once a month or, if it’s easier to remember, every time you stop to refuel. Doing so can help you nip over- or underinflation in the bud. Inspection is especially important in the winter, as cold weather can cause significant change in tire pressure.
- Buy Quality: Tires aren’t an area that you want to skimp on, so make sure you’re buying a quality set designed for your specific driving conditions. Nitto and Continental tires are considered among the best.
- Placement: Keep deeper treads in the back: Generally speaking, you want to ensure that your deeper treaded tires are in the rear of the vehicle; such tires grip the road and channel water better, making your car less susceptible to hydroplaning.
Written by Charles Norris:
Charlie won’t go anywhere without his Leatherman strapped to his belt. A loan officer by day, Charlie spends his free time restoring classic cars and writing about technology and engineering.