8 Signs Your Tires Need to be Replaced

It’s said that in life, the only things that are certain are death and taxes. For car owners, you can add a few things to that list including oil changes, brake pad changes, and tire replacements. Tires are the most important safety system on your car since they’re the only parts that actually make contact with the road or ground. And since they’re so crucial, you should always keep your car equipped with tires that are up to the challenge.

It's estimated that around 10% of the cars on the road right now in the US have one tire or more that needs to be replaced. Do you know if your car is in that category? Here’s how you can tell if your vehicle’s tires need to be replaced.

Warning Signs You Need New Tires

1. They Simply Don’t Grip

Some tires can be brand new but feel like you’re driving on ice, even when the road’s perfectly dry. What’s most important for tires is that you feel safe while you’re behind the wheel. A car equipped with summer-only tires won’t perform well in wintery conditions, even when the tires are brand new. If the tires your vehicle has on it right now don’t get you the grip you need to feel confident, change them.

2. An Ill-Placed Puncture

Most punctures in the tread section can be repaired, and only the combination plug-patch is an approved repair according to the Tire industry Association. But some punctures are in an area that flexes too much, near the shoulder, or in the sidewall and can’t be safely repaired. As well, punctures that are more than ¼-inch in diameter or close enough that the patches will overlap just aren’t going to work. Unfortunately, a puncture in the wrong place condemns a tire to being replaced.

3. The Tread is Worn Down

The most prevalent indicator for when your car needs a new tire is tread depth. Evenly worn, your car should always have at least 2/32nds of an inch tread depth remaining in all sections on the tire – more is even better. This measurement is taken from the wear bars – a small section between tread blocks that’s raised slightly.

Take measurements across the tread and around the circumference. If your tread is at or below 2/32nds, it’s time to replace the tires.

4. Uneven Tread Wear

Mechanical issues will affect your car’s tires. If the alignment is out of spec, there are loose steering parts, or you have worn suspension components, it can put added strain on your tires or change the angle at which they touch the road. If that’s the case on your vehicle, you may notice an inside or outside shoulder has much more wear than the center tread section or a condition known as feathering where the tread blocks wear in an odd shape. As well, over-inflated or under-inflated tires can wear the center section or the shoulders respectively.

5. Bulges or Cuts

Nicks and scratches in the rubber are no big deal, but a bulge or a cut is. A bulge happens when air gets between the inner liner and the outer rubber layers, usually caused by curb impact or a death-defying pothole. Cuts can be anything from road debris to vandalism, and a cut that’s deeper than the outer layer is too deep to be driven on safely.

6. Cracks Between Tread Blocks

As tires age, the rubber dries out. Cracks are normal to see as fine lines between the tread blocks, on the shoulder, and on the sidewalls. It’s known as dry-rot, and it’s spurred on primarily by the sun’s UV rays. When those cracks get wider and wider, to the point where you can either peel bits of rubber off or get the ballpoint of a pen in it, the tire should definitely be replaced.

7. Steel or Fabric Cords are Showing

Inside your tire, Kevlar, cotton, or synthetic fabric strands are used to help it maintain its shape and reinforce its strength. Steel cords are crucial for helping keep the tire in the right shape as well as provide rigidity in key areas like the bead. These are structural components in the tire, and if you can see them, there’s a big problem with the tire. Odds are you’ve already missed the earlier warning signs and the tire is in dangerous, unsafe condition to be driven on.

8. They’re Expired

Did you know that tires have an expiry date? Unlike produce at the grocery store, they aren’t necessarily going to go bad immediately afterward though. Tires “expire” six years after their manufacture date. On the sidewall of every tire, you’ll find a small four-digit number near the bead. The first two digits are the week of manufacture during the year and the last two digits represent the year it was made. For example, a manufacture code of 2719 would indicate the tire was made the 27th week of the year – likely the first week of July – of 2019. If your tires are more than six years past their manufacture date, expect that the time to change them is nearing. If your tires are over 10 years old, most tire companies won’t even touch the tire for mount / dismount or repair.

How to Know If Your Tires Are Still Good

If your tires pass with flying colors according to these signs, there’s one final check to ensure they’re still good. Take a good, old-fashioned American penny and insert it between the tread blocks. Turn it so Lincoln’s head is pointed toward the tire, and look across the tread. Can you see the top of Lincoln’s dome? If so, your tires are worn out. If the top of his head is covered by the tire tread, they still have at least 2/32nds of an inch remaining on the tread.

Your safety, and that of your passengers, rides on your tires. If you aren’t sure that your tires are passable or if it’s time to get a new set for your car, truck, van, or SUV, we can help. An AutoZone associate would love to help you check your tires and offer advice.

If you do decide that you need your tires replaced, check out our list of Preferred Shops in your area, to find a shop that sells and replaces tires.

Advice, how-to guides, and car care information featured on and AutoZone Advice & How-To’s are presented as helpful resources for general maintenance and automotive repairs from a general perspective only and should be used at your own risk. Information is accurate and true to the best of AutoZone’s knowledge, however, there may be omissions, errors or mistakes.

Be sure to consult your owner’s manual, a repair guide, an AutoZoner at a store near you, or a licensed, professional mechanic for vehicle-specific repair information. Refer to the service manual for specific diagnostic, repair and tool information for your particular vehicle. Always chock your wheels prior to lifting a vehicle. Always disconnect the negative battery cable before servicing an electrical application on the vehicle to protect its electrical circuits in the event that a wire is accidentally pierced or grounded. Use caution when working with automotive batteries. Sulfuric acid is caustic and can burn clothing and skin or cause blindness. Always wear gloves and safety glasses and other personal protection equipment, and work in a well-ventilated area. Should electrolyte get on your body or clothing, neutralize it immediately with a solution of baking soda and water. Do not wear ties or loose clothing when working on your vehicle.

FREE Loan-A-Tool® program requires returnable deposit. Please note that the tool that you receive after placing an online order may be in a used but operable condition due to the nature of the Loan-A-Tool® program.

Related Posts