How to Know When You Need New Tires

tireWhen you think about vital systems on your car, truck or van, what comes to mind first? For many of us, we think about the engine, the transmission, the radiator or the heater/air conditioner. We think of our brakes, our oil or even our air filters. However, what many of us fail to realize is the importance of our tires. That thin layer of rubber and steel belting is all that stands between your car and the surface of the road. In addition, without tires, you’d find it very difficult to go anywhere. Over time, your tires wear out, and knowing when it’s time to replace them is very important. Regular tire maintenance is also vital. 

Maintenance Matters

Tires are not cheap, and you need to ensure that you get the most miles possible out of them before you have to shell out cash for replacements. That means knowing what maintenance needs to be done, and when it should be done. Here’s what you need to know.

Air Pressure – The air pressure in your tires is incredibly important. If it’s too low, you’ll wear out the sides and need replacement sooner than you should (you’re also more susceptible to blowouts). If it’s too high, you’ll wear out the center tread on the tire (again, a replacement will be necessary if this isn’t caught in time). Check your tire pressure regularly (once every week to two weeks) and ensure that you set the pressure by the rating on your driver’s side door placard, not the PSI rating on the tire’s sidewall.

Rotation – Rotating your tires might not seem like something important, but it really is, particularly if you want to avoid having to replace them before it’s time. How do you tell when your tires need to be rotated? Ideally, the tread depth will be the same on the front and rear tires. To keep it this way, rotate them regularly – every other oil change is the norm. To determine if you’re in need of a rotation, simply look to see if the best tread is on your drive tires (front for a front-wheel-drive and rear for a rear-wheel-drive).

Alignment – Your vehicle’s alignment determines how straight it tracks while driving down the road. However, if your alignment is out, your tires will wear in strange patterns. Check for cupping or scalloping on the inner or outer edge to see if you need an alignment. Alignment wear generally only shows up on one or the other. If there’s edge wear on both sides, it’s usually a tire pressure issue.

Even Tread – If you check your tires and the tread is even on all four, then they should be left where they are (you don’t need a rotation). Additionally, if you have the best tread on your drive tires, then you also don’t need a rotation. Rotating only needs to be done when the tread is uneven, with the drive tires having the lowest.

When to Replace Your Tires

How do you know when to replace your tires? You can do this easily – the tread is measured in 32nds of an inch. You can purchase a tread depth gauge at your local auto parts store and keep an eye on the depth very easily. Just insert the gauge and check the depth. When you start to get down around 3/32 of tread, it’s time to replace them. You can also have your tread checked during basic maintenance services and follow the mechanic’s recommendations.

Having tires in good condition is vital to your safety on the road. Use these tips to ensure that you have tires you can count on.

Don Elfrink is our resident auto expert and the owner and operator of, a company selling auto mats throughout the nation. Before AutoMatStore, Elfrink was the operator of an automotive production site. AutoMatStore focuses on logo, carpeted, molded and all weather floor mats.

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  1. I wish gas stations were still all full service. It would even be nice if at each pump they had air hoses right by them. Then I wouldn’t have to wait for someone else to move their vehicle out of the way. Maybe that just means I’m impatient though:)

  2. Inflation strikes even for the penny trick! Horrors! :)

    • Thanks for the tip!

  3. No reference to the old “Can you see the top of Lincoln’s head on a penny?” trick? :)

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