It is perhaps one of the most talked-about subjects amongst both everyday consumers who just purchased their first new Camry and seasoned automotive enthusiasts who spend their days swapping out ultra-exotic low-profile wheels on their customized imports in order to squeeze every last drop of performance out of them: How many miles a tire should actually last.
Like everything else that operates in the “wear-and-tear” world, there are a number of factors that come into play here. However, while tentative in nature, it’s important to point out that tires do in fact have an expiration date. The “factors” that we mentioned are dependent on many things – how aggressive a driver is, how many times he or she performs those smoke-filled “burnouts” from a stop, how carefully a driver handles the vehicle on steep turns. There exists a general consensus that every six years or so, most tires should be inspected, if not replaced, and should be totally swapped out after a decade of use, irrespective of the layer of tread exhibited.
The issue of wear is a much more straightforward element: Rubber manufacturers and safety advocates stress that tread depth reaches 2/32 of an inch when a tire is worn out. For the aforementioned seasoned car enthusiast, that’s all well and good – but what most average car owners commuting to work and bringing their kids to hockey practice want to know is how long a new set should last before showing signs of needing to be replaced.
The U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association believes it’s all about a rubber company’s building practices and warranties; some manufacturers offer a warranty as high as 80,000 miles or more, which reflects some confidence in that particular tire’s longevity based on technology, engineering, and design factors. Other models, the USTMAsays, may be designed for 30,000 miles of service – or less. The key here is, as we mentioned in the beginning, is aggressiveness, as some high-performance rubber on aggressively-driven vehicles will be worn to 2/32 of an inch before even seeing 15,000 miles (though these are extreme cases).
Here’s a fact: The average American puts between 14,000 and 15,000 miles per year on a motor vehicle, and the numbers are similar – though not exact – for drivers in neighboring Canada. If you’re kind to the rubber wrapped around your wheels (that is, you don’t constantly peel out when stoplights turn green and the rubber is properly maintained), most new tires currently available should last about 60,000 miles.
If you’re interested in analyzing how soon you’ll be wearing out that black rubber on your vehicle, it begins with determining how many miles are driven each year, then dividing the number of miles on the car’s odometer by how many years it’s been owned (beginning when you first purchased the vehicle and accounting for any mileage it had on it at that time). From there, any advertised warranty on the make and model of the tire can be compared to determine how many years of service can be expected.
Generally speaking, the best way to preserve the lifespan of a tire – while you and your passengers remain safe – is to maintain them properly. The following are some maintenance tips and fundamentals:
• Tread – Many makes boast tread-wear indicators, realized as “little bars” in the tread pattern that indicate when the tire is worn down to replacement level; they’re accompanied by a noise that alerts the driver. Additionally, the NHTSA recommends putting a U.S. penny in the tread with Abraham Lincoln’s head upside down and facing toward you – if you can see the top of Mr. Lincoln’s head, new rubber is in your future.
• Pressure – To ensure even wear, tire manufacturers and automakers recommend that vehicle owners verify their tire pressures on a monthly basis; it’s best to check pressures when the rubber is cold, which means the vehicle has not been driven for a few hours.
• Balance/Alignment – A tire should be round and the wheel/tire combination needs to be balanced; mechanics and tire shops use a machine which spins the wheel to see where high and low spots are, and to detect any imbalance.
• Rotation – Perhaps one of the most important (yet often overlooked) things you can do for tire longevity, rotation can help prolong their lives; most owner’s manuals recommend a certain pattern for rotating to spread the wear evenly.
Expect at least 50,000 miles from the rubber that comes on any new vehicle…but as you hopefully gleaned from this post, tire life depends on many factors.