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Getting a flat tire is an obvious sign you need to replace your tire or at least get it repaired, but it's probably best not to wait until a tire blowout before checking your tires and replacing them if necessary. If you're wondering whether you need to replace your tires, check out these critical insights to help you make the right decision.
How Do I Know When I Need New Tires?
Consider things like tread and safety, legal requirements, and performance when working out whether you need new tires. Additionally, the advice of a trusted mechanic can be invaluable.
The tread on your tires is designed to improve grip on the road by minimizing water on the contact patch, the surface area where the tire touches the road. When tires approach zero treads, you’ll find it increasingly hard to stop, turn, accelerate, and carry out other everyday vehicle maneuvers.
New tires come with a good amount of tread, but when your tires get down to 1.6mm across the width of the tread, it's reached the legal minimum and you should get them replaced. This is because, with a poor grip on the road, you end up with poor braking outcomes. You can check your tires' tread grooves. These have indicators bars to show you when your tires are worn out to the legal/safety limits. If the surface of the tread is at the same level of the indicator bars, you're at the limit.
If you don't have a tire gauge the then next easiest way to check your tread is with a penny.
What about fuel efficiency?
Surprisingly, new tires might be slightly less fuel-efficient than worn tires. This is largely due to rolling resistance. Worn tires have less rolling resistance than new tires. By some estimates, a 10% reduction in rolling resistance can lower fuel consumption by 3%. However, other factors like wheel alignment, driving style, and tire inflation could have a bigger impact on your fuel efficiency. Some tires can actually improve your fuel efficiency by one or two mpg according to consumer reports.
Regulations and laws on car tires
Tires play a central role in your car's safety system and so they're subject to stringent regulations. The Australian Design Rules (ADR) outline specific standards for wheels and guards. ADR 42, for example, says the wheel and tire must be covered by the guard. ADR 23 effectively says new tires have to meet certain test standards, such as resistance to bead unseating and tire strength, tire endurance, and high-speed performance.
The ADR also says tires need to meet specific labeling requirements, including details about speed rating, type of construction, and maximum load rating.
Importantly, the ADR mandates tires need to have four evenly spaced wear indicators showing when the tire wear has reached 1.6mm. Also known as tread-wear indicators, these look like small bars in rubber running across the grooves in between the tread. Again, when it reaches the legal minimum of 1.6mm in tread depth, your tire is considered to be unroadworthy and should be replaced as soon as possible.
Faults or damage could also make your tires unroadworthy. Cuts or bulges resulting in damage to your tire's sidewall or tread could also be severe enough to put your tires in the unroadworthy category. So if you have any damage to your tires, get a mechanic's opinion as to whether you need it replaced or repaired.
Keep in mind while the legal limit of 1.6mm applies, your vehicle manufacturer might recommend you replace the tires earlier than that for optimal performance. Check your owner's manual to find out what your manufacturer recommends.
Cheap vs quality tires
Tire prices can range significantly between options. While it’s tempting to opt for the cheapest tires, doing so could mean compromising on safety and handling capabilities, especially in wet conditions.
More premium tires are usually made of a softer rubber that enhances cornering and handling and in turn safety. Opting for the middle ground between your budget constraints and quality and safety could be the best way to approach it, and investing in decent quality tires could mean greater peace of mind on the road.
Protecting your investment
Having invested in some shiny new tires, you’ll want to maximize the life of your investment. You could extend the life of your tires with a few simple measures. Keeping your tires inflated at the right pressure is essential for good tire maintenance. If your tires are under-inflated, they're likely to wear unevenly, which in turn could cause premature wear.
Correctly inflated tires - as recommended by your vehicle manufacturer - will wear more evenly. Recommended pressure can vary depending on whether your car's transporting just you, the driver, or a full load of passengers. Check your tires' inflation pressure every fortnight and before any long drive for best results. Other ways to get more out of your tires include rotating your tires, having your car regularly serviced, and getting regular wheel alignment checks performed.
Replacing tires can seem like a major outlay, but it can be important for performance and safety on the road, in addition to meeting legal standards for roadworthiness. If your car tires need to be replaced but you don't have the money saved up, you can finance it with a loan. People who finance their car maintenance with a loan on average borrow $768, so it's possible to find a loan sufficient to cover some or all of your tire replacement needs.
Author Bio: Luke Fitzpatrick is an academic speaker at Sydney University. He enjoys writing about tech, productivity, lifestyle, and is a contributor to Forbes.