It doesn’t matter what kind of vehicle you drive; without a good set of tires, you’re going nowhere. The tires on your car, truck, or SUV are your connection with the road. They can affect everything from your traction to your handling to your fuel economy.
Unfortunately, despite them being so important, most people drive on their tires for a lot longer than they should. This decreases the performance of your vehicle and places you in a dangerous situation. In fact, in 2017, 738 traffic fatalities occurred because of tire-related issues.
You can avoid tire-related problems when you’re driving by knowing how long your tires should last. It’s also important to know the signs that indicate it’s time to buy a new set. This guide will help you learn everything you need to know
How Long Do Tires Last?
The short answer is that it depends on a lot of factors. The type of tire you buy, the climate you drive in, your driving style, the tire’s rubber compound, your vehicle, your maintenance routine, and the tire’s overall age will all influence how long a tire will last. Tires wear down over time, it’s inevitable. However, driving with bald tires is a risk of its own and you should be very careful before you decide to take that step.
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A general rule is that a tire should last about four to five years or 60,000 to 75,000 miles. If you don’t drive often, you may fit the year threshold first. If you drive a high amount of miles, then you may hit the mileage threshold long before the year guideline.
Different Types of Tires
There are four general categories of tires: all-season, summer, winter, and all-terrain. The type of tire you buy and the climate you drive them in will influence the rate at which the tire wears away. For example, all-terrain tires are meant for driving off-road. If you regularly drive with these tires on pavement, they’ll wear away more quickly than the manufacturer intended because you’re using them in a manner they’re not designed for.
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Tire manufacturers must put a treadwear rating on each of their tires. This is a number rating that’s given to the tire based on its performance against a control tire. The control tire is assigned a treadwear rating of 100.
Each tire is then given a rating based on its comparative performance against the control tire. So a tire with a rating of 200 will have taken twice as long for the tread to wear away as the control tire. If you’re curious about what your tire’s treadwear rating is, you can look them up on the NHTSA database of tire ratings. It also should be printed on your tire, but depending on the age and wear of your tire, it may not be legible.
The bulk of tires on the market today have a rating in the 201-500 range. The higher your tire’s rating, the longer your tire should last.
- 15 percent are rated below 200
- 25 percent are rated 201-300
- 32 percent are rated 301-400
- 20 percent are rated 401-500
- 6 percent are rated 501-600
- 2 percent are rated above 600
The more aggressively you drive, the faster your tires will wear. This is because you’re putting more demand on them. If you’re the type to step on the gas when the light turns green, then you’re wearing away your acceleration tires faster than necessary. To see if this is happening to you, take a look at the tires that receive the power from the engine. If you have a front-wheel drive car, then it’s your front wheels. Rear-wheel drive cars will have you looking at the back tires.
When your acceleration tires are noticeably more worn than your other tires, it means you’re accelerating too hard. The tires are working extra duty to grip the road as increased energy and torque are applied for your vehicle to accelerate.
This same sort of accelerated wear happens if you are braking hard too often. This also requires the tire to work harder, and thereby wear away faster.
Not all tires are built the same. Different rubber compounds are used depending on the final intended use of the tire. Summer and performance tires tend to have softer rubber compounds that are designed to excel in higher heat. Unfortunately, the softer rubber also tends to wear faster.
Winter tires tend to have harder rubber compounds because the rubber needs to stay functional in frigid temperatures. While this means you’ll have less wearing, it does put the tire at a bigger risk of chipping. This is especially true of winter tires that are meant for driving on snow and ice. Take them for a cruise on asphalt, and you’ll find them wearing away incredibly fast.
Colder temperatures result in a drop in tire pressure. This means that those living in colder climates are at greater risk of driving on under-inflated tires. At the other end of the spectrum, those living in extremely warm climates are at risk of their tire pressure rising and creating excess friction with the road.
The sun’s UV rays are also damaging to rubber. If your vehicle is left out in the sun for long periods of time, you could experience your tires drying out and becoming brittle.
Do you have a routine maintenance checklist for your tires? If not, then you’re not getting the full useful life out of your tires.
Start by checking your tire pressure and tread regularly. This will ensure you have even treadwear across each tire individually and as a set.
You should then have your tires balanced, rotated, and aligned. Balancing your tires helps them to rotate smoothly and evenly. This will reduce the shake and vibration that can happen when your tires aren’t balanced properly. You should always have newly installed tires balanced.
Having your tires aligned will maximize their life by ensuring the tread wears evenly. It adjusts the tire to the correct tilt so that it has the ideal contact patch with the road. A misaligned car will veer off to the right or left when you let go of the wheel. This means that only one side of the tires is in contact with the road because the tires aren’t tilted or aligned correctly.
Finally, you should regularly rotate your tires. Rotation prevents irregular and uneven wear, which extends the life of your tires. Your vehicle owner’s manual should tell you how often and how your tires should be rotated. Most manufacturers recommend that you rotate your tires every 5,000 to 8,000 miles driven.
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How your tires get rotated will depend on your specific vehicle. For a front-wheel-drive car, the two front tires get shifted straight back. Then the rear passenger gets moved to the front driver’s side position. The rear driver’s side tire gets moved to the front passenger position.
Rear- and four-wheel drive vehicles should have the rear tires shifted straight forward. While the front tires will flip sides and shift backward.
If your vehicle requires different-sized tires, then rotation isn’t possible.
If your tires aren’t properly inflated, they will wear away faster than they should. Tires are designed to operate at peak performance within a specific range of air pressure. This range of air pressure also matches the size and weight of your vehicle. This enables your tire to adequately support your vehicle when driving down the road.
The first part of this variable is inflating your tires to the tire manufacturer’s recommended air pressure. This will ensure you have even contact with the road across the width of the tire.
Too much air in your tires will result in the center of the tire bulging out. This means the middle of the tire will wear away long before the outer edges even begin to see wear. Too little air in your tires will cause the outer edges to wear faster than the middle of your tire. When either of these situations happens, you’ll have to replace the tire sooner than its expected useful life. Driving on a tire where half the tread is missing is dangerous.
The other component with air pressure is to check that you have the right amount of air pressure for the vehicle you put the tires on. One of the many jobs your tire has is to help cushion the ride of your vehicle. A softer rubber compound and larger sidewall help create this cushioning. Sometimes people think less tire pressure will also help with this. It doesn’t.
Instead, it creates excess stress on the tire’s sidewall and can cause the tire to fail much sooner than it should. You should also consider this if you want to change the wheel size on your car. Changing the wheel size will change the size of the tire required for your vehicle. This can also change how your tires perform and wear.
Tires are only good for so many years. So when buying tires, you want to buy a set that is more recently manufactured. Buying tires that are four or five years old means you’re buying tires that are nearly at the end of their useful life despite never being used. Old tires have leached polymers and oils that keep the rubber soft and pliable. This makes the tire prone to cracking and shredding apart.
Another time when age becomes an issue is when you’re storing a vehicle. Tires are meant to be driven on. Vehicles that sit for too long can suffer from tires with flat spots or dry rot. If you have a vehicle in storage, you’ll either want to drive it periodically or store it without the weight off of the tires.
Check Your Tires Today
Now that you know how long tires last and what causes them to wear, you’re ready to take care of your vehicle’s tires. Head out to your garage or driveway and take a look at the tread on your tires. If it’s in good condition, then check the air pressure. This will help you confirm your tires are in good condition.
If you find that your tires are worn and ready for replacing, then don’t wait. The sooner you replace your worn out tires, the safer you’ll be when driving on the road. Once you have new tires on your vehicle, keep this article in mind so you can take care of your tires and get the full useful life out of them.