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Low tread tires often can go overlooked and unintentionally make your car more and more dangerous. Tread is the first signal telling you it’s time to replace your tires. As the tread wears on your tires, its grip and performance also decrease. 

This affects all aspects of driving including acceleration, steering, and especially braking. 

Generally, you’ll need to replace tires on three occasions. After your tires have worn out down past their usable tread depth, past the useful age life of the tires, and when you experience a flat or blowout.

The key is figuring out when these will happen and the symptoms that reveal when it’s time to change your tires.

Table of Contents

Minimum Tire Tread Depth

The legal minimum in the U.S is 2/32 of an inch. Now, this doesn’t imply that tires with 3/32 inch tread are safe, just the point at which your state safety inspection will fail.

As the tread on your tires wears down, they become less safe.

Tread Wear Indicator

Legally all tires are equipped with low tread indicators. When your tread is low enough to be level with these indicators the tires are considered ineffective to provide traction.

This is the point where you should replace your tires.

Importance Of Inflation

Over and Under inflation is equally dangerous for car tires.

Under-inflated tires effectively widen the contact area causing more friction and a squishy ride. This results in lower gas mileage and more wear.

Overinflated tires decrease the contact area and reduce friction. It effectively makes it as if you’re driving narrower tires, this results in difficult handling.

As the tire heats up from driving pressure increases and this could lead to a blowout. This could be deadly, so checking tire pressure is important.

All cars are equipped by the manufacturer with a sticker that has the recommended tire inflation pressure for your vehicle. Usually, it is located on the driver’s door jam.

If you don’t have a sticker then your owner’s manual will certainly have the specs recommended in it.

Most modern cars have TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) these days. These sensors aren’t always accurate and usually only work when the pressure is too low in a certain tire, so it’s best to check your tires manually and not rely on them solely.

Symptoms Of Bad Tires

Symptoms of bad tires may not be immediately evident at first, but wait too long and they’ll make themselves known in a hurry. 

Your car will be slower to accelerate and slower to stop. Less grip goes both ways. 

The tread on your tires is meant to create a certain amount of contact on the ground. Less tread means less contact.

Let’s not forget that we don’t just go in straight lines. Treadwear can cause more oversteer and understeer in turns. 

Check out the video below by Car Throttle to get an understanding of what oversteer and understeer are. 

Essentially your car will want to do either of two things when turning. It will kick out the back end causing you to spin or, it won’t turn in enough and you’ll slide going straight ahead instead of the direction you wanted to go. Either way, not what you wanted.

The type of tire you use also greatly impacts your car’s driving characteristics. Different tires, wear differently. It’s essential to know what your car has.

Specific Tires Specific Attributes

Certain tire tread designs affect wet grip, dry grip, and everything in between. Each tire is designed for a specific function. That can be terrain, a certain class of vehicles, temperature, even weather.

For example, winter tires have a softer compound to provide grip in snow and ice. Used accordingly in the right conditions (only in winter!), they can last many years. However, if you do it wrong and run these tires on dry hot asphalt, they won’t even make a full season.

The reason you need to know which type of tire you have/need is so you understand how fast they wear and what the procedure is to replace your tires.

low tread tires
Tread On A New Tire

How To Replace Tires For Your Car

First things first, if you can, try to replace all 4 tires at the same time. It’ll make things much easier to keep track of for one. 

Second, it’s the recommended practice because different tires may not be compatible and could drastically change the way your vehicle drives.

However, let’s say you just can’t spend the money right now and you need to replace just one set of tires because your car is either FWD or RWD. 

If you HAVE to replace a pair, put it on the rear axle. No matter if your car is FWD or RWD. Choosing this provides a safer understeer scenario in the event of traction loss. 

If your car is FWD and your steer tires are worn, have the rear wheels rotated to the front and the worn tires replaced and put on in the rear.

4WD? Replace all four tires!

Lastly, try to choose the same type and brand of tires for all 4 wheels. Even if you’re replacing just one tire. 

Tires are meant to work together. Having mismatched tires can wear out all your tires faster, ruin your fuel economy, in some extreme cases even damage wheel bearings and suspension. 

If your looking for a great price on new tires check out Priority Tire, they have a great selection of all kinds of tires from off-road to on-road and active discounts all the time.

Best Practices For Maintaining Tires

Lastly, you want to keep up with your tire maintenance. It doesn’t involve much more than checking your air pressure and glancing at the tread.

Rotate your tires with oil changes to keep it simple, and avoid parking your car for very extended(6 months+) periods of time to avoid flat spots.

In Sum

Tires are simple yet essential to our cars. Easily overlooking something like low tire tread can lead to catastrophe, so maintaining them is vital.

Now, when you inevitably do need to replace your tires, you’ll know why and how to do them properly.

Looking for other maintenance tips? Check out the guide here on how to thoroughly maintain your vehicle.

As an Amazon Associate We earn from qualifying purchases. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc, or its affiliates.

We might receive commissions if you click on our links and sign up/make purchases. However, please know this does not impact our reviews and comparisons. We try to keep things fair and balanced to help you make the best choice for your needs. Thanks.

 
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