By Anthony Santiago - Editor-in-Chief

September 6, 2022
how often to change car tires

How Often to Change Car Tires

Tires are expensive, especially if you live in a hot climate where you spend most of your time driving around town. But how do you know the right time to change your tires? What about your new used car, do you need to buy tires right away?

I'm going to tell you how to determine whether or not you should replace your tires, and when to do it. In addition, I'll explain why you shouldn't just throw away old tires and buy new ones when you might not need them.

All Season vs Dedicated Snow and Summer Tires

I live in Northern NJ where we get some snow but not enough to merit dedicated snow tires. A majority of car owners may have all-season tires and would be perfectly fine throughout the year. Depending on your local and typical road conditions can impact your decision on keeping your tires exclusively all-season or seasonal.

For example, if you live in areas where snow is deep or the municipality doesn't plow as often as you like, dedicated snow tires or winter tires might be a better option.

In either case, tires in general last 4-5 years on average. However, depending on your driving style, they might only last you 1-2 years. This is especially true for budget brand tires where the tread warranty is typically not honored.

Snow tires are run per season as outside temperatures drop. You will want to switch to winter snow tires when the temps drop to under 40 degrees Fahrenheit. The snow tire compounds are soft and will provide good traction. However, they will wear out much faster because of this on asphalt so keep that in mind.

I have owned summer tires and they perform well but it is a little bit of a hassle when I need to swap them out before winter hits. If you live in warmer climates like California and Florida, you could run summer tires all year round on dry roads. Summer tires provide maximum traction and are considered high performance tires.

So, based on your location, you might have all season tires or summer tires. Check your tires to get better acquainted with your tires overall.

When to Replace Your Tires

Most manufacturers recommend changing your tires every five years. However, depending on how and where you park your car, they could last longer. It's the elements and the UV Rays that cause the most damage to your tires and cause them to break down faster.

There are three main things to think about when determining if it’s time to replace your tires: tread depth, age, and any damage or repairs.

how often to change car tires

Here’s how you can tell if your current set of tires is ready to be replaced:

Tread Depth

The most important factor in determining if your tires are ready to go is the amount of tread left on the tire. You want to make sure there’s enough tread remaining to provide traction while driving. On average, we recommend having at least 3/32nds of a millimeter of tread left. You can also review the wear bars that are commonly integrated with the tread pattern.

This translates into approximately 0.25 inches of tread depth. When looking at your tires, look for the lettering stamped onto the sidewall of each tire.

A penny and a quarter is one way to determine how much tread is left on a tire. You can use a penny to easily check if you have enough tread left. Place the penny upside down with Lincoln's head touching the tire. If you can see the top of Lincoln's head then you will need to replace the tire or tires.

If the coin is flush with the top of the tire, it indicates that about half of the tire's original thickness remains. If the penny and quarter are touching Lincoln's head, it means the tire needs to be replaced. Note, you MUST check the thinnest part of the tread because the tires are only as safe as the lowest tread.

All tire manufacturers recommend replacing tires if the penny and quarter touch Lincoln's head. This is because the amount of tread remaining on the tire is directly related to the safety of driving on the road.

Your tread wear is an important part to pay attention to. You must look under the car and check for excessive wear. For example, the outer tread wear might look ok but the inner section under the car might be worn through the tread. This is dangerous as it could lead to hydroplaning, especially on wet roads or icy roads. You might have worn tires and not even know it.

Hydroplaning can happen if you have worn out edges. This happened when we didn't check the alignment of the car and the inner edge worn down to a flat spot.

If you have uneven wear, then you MUST also look to get an alignment.

Age

To ensure you're buying quality tires, you should inspect the manufacturing date stamped on each tire. The stamping date indicates the exact day the tire was manufactured.

The stamping date is usually found on the sidewall of the tire near the tread area. There is a prefix of DOT at the beginning of the date code. Look for DOT and then take a look at the following letters and code.

The last four numeric digits represent the Week and the Year when it was manufactured. For example, if the last digits are 1120, then this would mean that the tire was manufactured on the 11th week of the year 2020.

You will want to have tires that are under 5 years old. However, some brands can be driven on for up to 8 years. It depends on the tire's condition and if there is any dry rot.

Another thing to keep in mind is that your tires might have all different dates, so that means some tires might be newer replacements. Just look to replace those that are older and have the most wear.

TIP: Tires should be replaced in pairs to ensure the vehicle handles appropriately but I have replaced single tires from time to time in a pinch. Again, it's recommended but not gospel.

how often to change car tires

Nails, Bubbles, and Sidewall Damage

During the life of your tires, you will most likely experience a flat tire. This does not automatically mean that you need to replace your tire. A professional patch or plug can get you back on the road. A tire can be repaired if the puncture is near the middle of the tire tread and not on the side wall.

Secondly, DO NOT DRIVE on a flat tire. If the tire is flat and you drive any distance, you might be damaging the cords in the sidewall which would compromise the integrity of the tire. Just use your spare and get your tire patched at your local tire shop.

Nails and Flat Tires

My personal experience with tire patches and repairs are good overall and have allowed me to drive for thousands of miles safely year after year. Simply remove the nail or screw in the tread and dismount the tire from the rim. Then a strong professional patch will be placed on the inside of the tire for a secure, and high quality repair.

You can use a plug but I prefer a patch. Please note, my general rule of thumb is that a tire can be plugged or patched once and not have any issues. However, if that tire is punctured, I would plan to get it replaced.

Sidewall Damage

Any sidewall puncture will deem the tire damaged and the tire will need to be replaced. Sidewall damage includes cuts or missing material. In addition, if the bead of the tire is damaged from an accident or improper mounting, I would also aim to replace the tire.

From experience, a bad bead will continue to slowly leak air and will be more of a headache as time goes on. Bad beads means that I will replace the tire.

Bubbles in the Sidewall

Bubbles in the sidewall seem benign. However, they are silently putting you at risk for a blowout. Bubbles are internal damage and are a clear indication of visible damage. Bubbles in the sidewall are due to impacts to the tire and the pressure damaging the nylon cords in the sidewall. Bubbles appear since the cords are torn and the rubber is expanding.

You might think the tires are strong but you should go get this tire replaced as soon as possible. You do not want to have a blowout on the highway. Unfortunately, tire bubbles can not be repaired. Plan for a tire replacement in the near future.

Tire Dressing and Sprays

Regarding extending the life of your tires, tire dressings and sprays do not extend the life of your worn tires since most of the life is determined on the tread life. If you are experiencing any dry rot or cracking, tire dressings and water based dressings cannot repair the damage. Any tire dressings that claim to extend the life are full of hogwash.

Your best approach is to keep your tires inflated with the proper pressure and rotate them regularly.

We will be reviewing our favorite tire dressings in a future article.

How to Fill Up Car Tires with Air

Fill your car tires with air using a tire pump. This is one of the easiest methods to fill your car tires without wasting any time.

  1. Step 1: Open the valve cap on the back of your car and remove the rubber plug inside.
  2. Step 2: Insert the nozzle of the tire pump into the hole and press down firmly until the air starts flowing.
  3. Step 3: Continue pumping the air until the desired amount has been pumped into your car tires.

What is the Ideal Tire Pressure (PSI) for Car Tires

The proper PSI for your tires can be found in the driver's side door pillar or the gas tank flap. You can also review the owner's manual.

However, a rule of thumb is to fill your tires at 32-36 PSI and 36-38 in the rear for RWD vehicles.

how often to change car tires

Best Time to Rotate Tires

Every 5,000 Miles or every oil change. I suggest that you rotate your tires at least once a year.

Tire rotation is one of those things you probably don't think about too much, but it's important nonetheless. If you're like most drivers, you've been told to change your oil and filter regularly, but you never really thought about how often you should check your tires' inflation levels or whether you should replace them. But there are some good reasons why you might want to consider rotating your tires.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), you should rotate your tires every 5,000 miles to ensure maximum safety and performance. It doesn't matter if you're driving a car or truck, because both types of vehicles use similar sized tires. In fact, according to NHTSA, "truck tires are designed to handle heavy loads over long distances." So even though you might assume that a smaller vehicle needs less frequent tire rotations, the truth is that larger vehicles require more frequent tire changes than smaller one.

Don't forget to rotate your tires with the spare tire as well. This will help ensure that the oils in the rubber are pliable as well. Tires can quickly degrade if they are not driven on.

Common Problems that Cause Low Air Pressure in Tires

If your tires lose air pressure over time, it could mean there’s something wrong with the valve stem or the seal around the rim. Another reason is that you have a nail or a screw that punctured your tread. The best thing to do is to fill up your tire and head to your tire shop for a patch.

In the past, I have had bad valve stems that allowed air to slowly leak from the rim as well. A new valve stem fixed the issue.

Final Thoughts on When to Change Car Tires

In conclusion, it's never too late to replace old tires. In fact, you should probably replace it if you feel that it is not performing as expected based on your driving habits. There are warning signs like low air pressure, sidewall bubbles and drifting that indicates to you that something is wrong.

So whenever you notice that your tires aren't wearing evenly, get them checked out right away.

With proper care and basic tire maintenance, you can enjoy a comfortable ride and a quiet ride for years to come and thousands of miles of service.

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Anthony Santiago - Editor-in-Chief

About the author

I am a passionate car enthusiast who likes to help people save money and avoid headaches when it comes to cars. I believe that everyone can find the right car at the right price. I share my tips and experience so you can learn quickly and maximize your next SUV, truck or car purchase.

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