5 Signs You Need New Tires

Checking a car's tires for wear and tearTake it from former race-car driver Johnny Unser — checking for telltale warnings of a worn-out tire is more important than you think.

“Checking your tires is like going to the dentist,” says Unser, five-time veteran of the Indy 500. “It’s something we don’t do often enough, that we put off until we absolutely have to.”

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), tire failure causes around 11,000 car crashes each year. Both Unser and the NHTSA recommend doing a quick tire inspection once a month.

Here’s What To Look For:

  1. Bulges, gouges or cracks
    When a tire deflates, it bulges at the sides. Unser says this is a sign of low tire pressure or a slow air leak. “If you see cracks in the sidewall, gouges or anything that looks odd, take it in to your dealer and have them look at it.”
  2. Tread wear
    The old-school penny test is one way to check your treads: Place a penny into the tread, with Lincoln’s head pointing down. If you can still see the top of his noggin, the tread is dangerously low. Most modern tires, however, have wear bars: bits of rubber woven into the pattern at a specific depth. “You can find the wear bars that go across the groove, and if the tread pattern is worn down to that wear bar, you need to replace your tire,” says Unser.
  3. Tire pressure
    Tires deflate at a rate of about one pound per square inch (PSI) per month. “You’re not going to wear your tires down in a month,” Unser says, “but you should check that you have the right inflation pressure.”
  4. Temperature
    Tire pressure drops in extreme cold. The challenge in summer, says Unser, is “excessive heat buildup in the tire.” If you’re heading out on a road trip with an underinflated tire, it will generate more heat and wear out faster.
  5. Vibration
    Watch out for vibration or thumping when you’re driving. If it feels like it’s coming from under the seats, the rear tires may be out of balance. Vibration from the steering wheel could indicate suspension issues. Unser says anything less than a smooth ride means you should take your car in to the dealer.

When it’s time to replace your tires, Unser recommends doing so in pairs or all four at a time for better performance and traction and, ultimately, a safer ride.

From a flat tire to a dead battery, be ready for anything with GEICO’s 24-hour Emergency Roadside Service.

How often do you change your tires? Tell us below.

By Maria Carter

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  1. Ham says

    This is a good article about tire maintenance. Here’s a few more pointers to remember. Tires wear out either by age or tread wear. As tires age the rubber becomes stiffer, tires decay from the inside out, and cracks start showing up on the side of the tire and in the tread.

    The last 4 numbers of the DOT number on the side of the tire show the year and month when the tire was manufactured.

    Check tire pressure when tires are cool to the touch.

    • Kenneth P. McManus Jr. says

      also if your rims are not so good or the seal around the bead is not good the tire will get flat quickly…. the more it becomes flat the worse the deterioration will be… if your tire is constantly flat… look at the edge of the tire between the tread and the side wall… if you see anything that looks like a large ring or small eccentric circles: it is bad.