Tires are the only part of a car that touch the road. For safety’s sake, it’s important that tires be in good condition. Replacing them when they wear out is crucial, but how long should tires last?
The answer depends on several factors, including the type of tires, your driving habits, road conditions and maintenance. By understanding what can damage tires and learning how to take care of them, you can help your tires last longer and keep yourself and your passengers safe.
Factors that put wear on tires
While there’s no way to predict exactly how long a set of car tires will last, it’s easy to identify the factors that cause them to wear out quickly:
- Age. Rubber compounds break down over time, making old tires safety hazards.
- Road conditions. Potholes, sharp objects, curbs and speed bumps all put added stress on tires.
- Climate. Extreme changes in temperature and prolonged exposure to sunlight break down rubber.
- Driving habits. Taking off too quickly from a stop or slamming on brakes can cause tires to skid on pavement.
- Neglect. Ignoring changes in your tires’ handling characteristics and not checking air pressure can cause damage.
- Using tires improperly. Putting new tires on damaged rims, using summer tires in the snow, or mixing tire types on the same vehicle are moves that lead to uneven wear and damage tires.
Inspecting car tires
If tires have extremely shallow treads or uneven wear, or wires that are visible under the rubber, these are signs that the tires are worn out and are overdue for replacement.
Check tire pressure once per month. Tires can lose up to one pound per square inch, or PSI, per month, so be sure to check and fill regularly. The recommended pressure for most car and truck tires is between 30 and 35 psi.
Additionally, check the depth of the tire treads using a penny. Grip the penny holding onto Abraham Lincoln’s body, and place his head between the treads of your tire. If the tread covers any part of his head, then the tire is still safe to drive on. If his head is completely exposed, it’s time for new tires.
But maybe what you’re due for is more than just a fresh set of tires. This auto loan calculator will help you determine whether you can afford a new car.
Typical tire lifespans
How long should tires last? That depends on the quality of the tires, their treadwear rating and how well you maintain them. Typically, tires are expected to last between 40,000 and 90,000 miles. However, some tires can wear out in as few as 20,000 miles. The average distance that people drive per year is between 12,000 and 15,000 miles.
Those who drive fewer miles than average should inspect tires regularly. Tires that are 10 years old should be replaced regardless of how they look. This is the maximum age for tires to be safe on the road. Check the manufacture date of the tires on the side, and have them professionally inspected every year once the tires reach five years old.
Warranties on tires
Some manufacturers and retailers offer tire warranties when you purchase new tires. These prorated mileage warranties offer credit toward new tires if the tires wear out sooner than expected.
Are warranties worth the added cost? They are not always what they seem. Car owners often get fractional credit to use toward tires made by the same manufacturer. This means that car owners can’t use the credit to trade up to higher-rated tires. Additionally, they may find a lower price on discounted tires that would better suit their needs — especially if their current tires wore out much sooner than expected.
Based on the average lifespan of tires and the number of miles that people typically drive, you can expect your tires to last for three to four years before the treads wear out. However, every car and driver are different, and it’s impossible to predict exactly how long a set of tires will last. Manufacturers provide expected lifespans, but you should regularly inspect tires rather than rely on your odometer to determine when to replace your tires.
While some factors that affect the conditions of car tires are beyond your control, proper maintenance and identifying obvious hazards can help you get the most mileage out of your tires.