What are you looking for?

We all hear about tire wear – everything from proper rotation to alignments to uneven tire wear. You say to yourself, “…that’s great, but I don’t even know what I’m looking for. I can’t even tell if I need new tires or not.” Fear not – we are here to help! Plus, these are things you can check yourself.

First off, we want to express the fact that tire wear is a dead giveaway that the wheels are out of alignment or that steering and/or suspension parts are worn. Anytime you find unusual tire wear, be sure to give the steering and suspension a thorough inspection to find out what’s causing the problem.

Moving forward, we’ll cover the bases on tire tread depths. We’ve all heard a great deal of information about this topic, some of it true and some of it not so true, all the while getting to be a little confusing.

Tires have wear bars (they look like flat spots) in the tread grooves to visually indicate wear. If the tread is worn down so the wear bars are flush with the surrounding tread, the tire is worn out and needs to be replaced. If you see cords or wire showing through the rubber, the tire is unsafe to drive on and is on the verge of failure. Replace the tire immediately! The same goes for any tire that has bulges (on the sidewall, for example) or deep cracks in the tread.

Tread wear can be measured using a penny. Yes, this is old-school, but it still works. Place the penny with Lincoln’s head upside down in a groove between the treads. If you can’t see the top of Lincoln’s lead, the tire is okay and still has some wear left in it. But if the top of Lincoln’s head is flush with the tread, the tread depth is at 2/32-inch or less, which means the tire is worn out and needs to be replaced.

The thing to keep in mind is the tread depth should be the same across the width of the tire. If you have more tread on one side of the tire compared to the other side, then your vehicle may have an alignment issue. If there’s less tread only in the middle of the tire, that usually indicates the tire(s) are over-inflated. If the opposite is true, where the most tread is in the middle of the tire, that would mean that your tires might be under-inflated. If any tire has “high and low spots”, meaning a tire has some tread & then almost none, (sort of like a washboard effect), that may signal worn shocks and/or struts.