Though vehicles can’t function without them, few drivers think about tires until something goes wrong. A flat tire or a tire rotation recommendation during a routine oil change appointment may be the only time many drivers give much thought to their tires. That, no doubt, leads to some confusion about what to do when tires inevitably need to be replaced.

Technically, a driver is rolling on worn tires the minute they leave the tire shop. However, the change to a completely worn tire is gradual, sometimes taking years depending a person’s driving habits.

The life expectancy of tires can fall between 25,000 and 50,000 miles. That’s a big gap, and car owners should check their vehicle manuals to see if their vehicle manufacturer recommends a more specific replacement interval. The lifespan and amount of distance a driver can get out of a tire is dependent on a combination of factors:

• Design of the tire

• Driver habits

• Weather conditions

• Road conditions

• Tire maintenance

It’s worth noting that mileage is not the only barometer drivers should use to determine if they need to buy new tires. The following tips can help drivers determine if now is the time to outfit their vehicle with new tires.

Measure the tread

A tire assessment should always include measuring the amount of remaining tread. Drivers can do this on their own in various ways. One method involves looking at the tread wear bars, which are little bridges in the grooves between the ridges. If the bars are even with the tread pattern, then the tire has very little tread remaining and must be replaced. The quarter test is a popular way to determine if tires must be replaced. Put the edge of the coin into the tread, with the Queen going in headfirst.

If the top of the Queen’s head is covered by tread, that’s good. If the top of her head is entirely visible, it’s time to replace the tire. The exact tread measurement for an end-of-life tire in Canada is 1.6mm.

Check for other signs of wear and tear

Little remaining tread is not the only sign tires must be replaced. Tires with cracked sidewalls, discoloration and/or bulging need to be replaced. 

Confirm a larger issue isn’t lurking

Uneven wear on tires is typically a byproduct of a more significant issue. Though tires that have worn unevenly will need to be replaced, replacing them without correcting the more significant issue will only lead to more uneven wear on the new tires. That’s a costly mistake. Poor wheel alignment or suspension issues are typically to blame for uneven wear. This issue can be fixed and should be addressed before purchasing a new set of tires. Nails and stones stuck in the tire should be obvious and taken care of by a professional tire installer as soon as possible.