What Your Tire Tread is Telling You
February 23, 2016 / Sara Davis / Stay Safe Behind the Wheel
Healthy tires are important for the safety of a car as well as anyone riding in it. This is why it is crucial to pay attention to the lifespan and tire wear patterns.
According to Geeks on Cars, tires should be in use for no more than six years, whether they were driven on or not. This includes the spare tire; if it has been inflated and ready for use for six years or more, it should be replaced.
If you don't know your tire's age, look at its side and find a four-digit number. This represents the week and year of manufacture. For instance, if the number reads "2414," the tire was made in the 24th week of 2014.
Tires are typically also rated for a certain number of miles. If a tire that is said to be able to last 50,000 miles gets to that point before six years, it doesn't necessarily mean it needs to be changed right away, but the owner should begin carefully inspecting the tires to make sure they are still in good shape.
Tread depth is a good tool to use when deciding whether or not to get new tires. Treads that are worn down to 2/32(or 1/16) of an inch are considered dangerous to drive on, but if you regularly drive in rain or snow, the treads should be even deeper.
Drivers living in rainy areas should change their tires when the treads get to 4/32 of an inch, and those who drive over snow and ice should be sure their tires don't get below 6/32 of an inch.
When you begin to pay attention to the way your tires are wearing, you may notice some patterns on your tires. These are important indications about how well you care for your car. Different wear patterns mean different things and ignoring them could lead to problems later on.
Next we'll discuss some tire wear patterns you should be aware of.
If you tire wear is only worn down the center, they are probably over-inflated. Filling your tires too much can wear them out faster.
It also decreases the surface area of the tire that actually maintains contact with the road, which reduces traction, according to Popular Mechanics.
To remedy this issue, check to see what the proper inflation of your tires should be. It should be listed in the owner's manual. Then, use a tire gauge to measure the tire pressure.
Cupping or Scalloping
This tire wear pattern is represented by what looks like hills on the edge of the tire. This typically represents problems with the car's suspension.
Shock absorbers are the most common cause, but other parts could play a role, too. The parts could be worn or bent, ProCarCare explained. This faulty parts cause the car to bounce when in use.
The fix to this is to replace the worn, broken or bent parts. Tire imbalances can also contribute to this wear pattern, so it's not a bad idea to move the worn tires to other locations on the car.
This can be spotted when the treads become rounded on one side and sharp and pointed on the other, so each one looks like a small ramp. The toe setting, or the car's alignment, is usually at fault here. Other times, the toe setting is fine but ineffective suspension bushing is affecting the alignment.
To cure this problem, make sure the toe setting is correct. If it is, move on to check the suspension, ball joints and wheel bearings.
If one side of the tire is wearing faster than the other, the alignment is likely the cause. The tire is leaning too much to one side or the other.
The first thing you should check is the tire's alignment. Fixing this should help.
However, there can be multiple causes that are affecting the alignment. Check the springs, ball joints and control arm bushings. Hauling heavy loads could also contribute to this, as could odd distribution of load weight.
When you realign the tires, be sure a typical load is in your car so it is adjusted to the way the car will typically be used. Also be sure to remember to rotate your tires frequently enough. Cars.com suggested doing so every six months, every 7,500 miles or every time you get your oil changed.
So regardless of your tire being over- or under-inflated or if the problem is more serious with the mechanical parts of your car, understanding the tire wear patterns will help extend the life of your car. The tires are the main thing protecting you and your car for the road beneath you, so it's best to take care of them.