Tread is your indicator for when tires should be replaced. Bald tires (or those with virtually no tread) are extremely dangerous because they do not function properly in wet conditions and are more susceptible to punctures and blowouts. When you purchase tires you should ask how many miles they expected to last as they can vary significantly. Monitor your mileage and periodically do the “penny check” to assess tread levels. Turn a penny upside down and place it between treads. If you can see Lincoln’s head on the penny, the tread is too low (generally around 2/32″) and it’s time to replace. Fortunately for tire owners and Mother Earth, recent improvements in the compound materials used in tires are helping the environment, improving safety and extending tire life.
Improper tire pressure (too much or too little) is actually the most common cause for tire failure. Find your vehicle’s recommended tire pressure printed on a sticker inside the driver’s door (not on the tires themselves!). It’s important to check inflation much more frequently that your treads (monthly is ideal). For consistency, pressure should be tested at room temperature (around 70 degrees) because it will vary with temperature. Proper inflation is a easy way to get more from your tires and your vehicle as it improves fuel economy and slows the wearing of your tread.
It is commonly recommended to rotate your tires every 5000 miles, which may be every oil change for some or minimally every other oil change. Proper rotation can increase tire life by up to 30% because tires wear differently when placed in the front versus the rear of the vehicle. By rotating them regularly the tread levels degrade more evenly across the tires. Tire rotation also ensures optimal handling especially when coupled with regular alignment checking (every 10,000 miles).
Avoid the trap of buying your tires solely based on price, learn to buy smart. When shopping for tires, remember that price isn’t the only factor you should consider. Make sure that you are buying tires that are appropriate for the type of travel that you will be doing. Remember that tires are priced based on the mileage that they are expected to provide, so make sure that you are comparing apples to apples.