It is critical to have adequate tread on your vehicle’s tires to ensure proper traction and to prevent premature failure. A blowout or other problems related to low tread can have catastrophic results. All tires are required to have tire wear indicators so that you can easily tell when they need to be replaced.
How Treadwear Indicators Work
The standard measurement for tire tread depth is in 32nds of an inch. Most new tires have a tread depth of approximately 10/32″. You should replace a tire immediately once it wears down to 2/32″. In most states, tread depth below 2/32″ is illegal. The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards(FMVSS) mandates that all tires be manufactured with tire wear indicators. Most tires are designed with at least six treadwear indicators. Tires for 12 inch or smaller rims usually have a minimum of three wear indicators. The treadwear bar or indicator gives a visual indication of the tread depth limit. If the treadwear indicator is flush with the rest of the tread, then the tire should be replaced immediately.
Why Tread Depth is Important
Adequate tread depth is very important because it ensures proper traction, especially during hazardous road conditions. Tires are designed with grooves that help dispel water away during rainy weather. A tire that is worn below limits loses its ability to effectively channel water away. Tires that are worn down to the tire wear indicators can also increase stopping distance, especially on wet roads. This can increase the likelihood of an accident.
Alternate Methods to Check Tread Depth
While treadwear indicators should be the primary way to determine if a tire needs to be replaced, there are other simple methods to check for adequate depth. One method is a quarter. This is done by turning the quarter upside down and sticking it between the tread. It is important not to touch a treadwear indicator during this check. If the top of George Washington’s head is visible, the tread depth on the tire is too low and needs to be replaced. You can also purchase a treadwear gauge to measure the depth. A digital treadwear gauge is ideal since it will give you a precise readout on the display
Milestones and Tips
There is no magical formula that can determine exactly how long a tire will last. The lifespan of a tire can be affected by a variety of factors such as design, how you drive, the climate, and scheduled maintenance.
Five years– If your tires are over five years old, they should be inspected at least once a year by a certified tire facility.
Ten years– If your tires are 10 years or older, it is recommended that you replace them despite any signs of damage or serious wear. This is important because tires this old could have internal damage that is not visible by inspection. Spare tires also fall under this guideline.
Proper care– The lifespan of a tire can be increased by performing scheduled maintenance such as tire balancing, rotation, and alignments. Overall care of the vehicle especially the brakes and suspension system is also important. Last but not least, the tire should always be properly inflated.