How to Tell When You Need New Tires

May 26, 2023 3 min read

Your tires can handle a lot, ranging from roads covered in snow and ice to scorching summer pavement, but there is a limit to how long they can safely get you from point A to point B. The average tire is designed to drive around 50,000 miles, but that number can vary based on different factors. As the only parts of the car that physically touch the ground, tires are one of the key factors affecting a vehicle’s overall highway safety. Being able to recognize the signs of worn tires can help keep you and your passengers safe, no matter where the road takes you.

Spotting the Warning Signs of Worn Tires

Use this tire wear patterns guide to help you understand common wear patterns, what causes them and what you can do to ensure your tires are safe for your next road trip.

Middle Tread Wear

If your tires are wearing more in the middle of the tire, it may be a sign that your tires are overinflated. Having tires consistently overinflated may cause tires to ride on the center of the tread and wear prematurely.

The Fix: Your tire comes with inflation guidelines – the side of the tire will recommend the inflation pounds per square inch (PSI). Inflate tires to the manufacturer’s recommended inflation.

Outer Tread Wear

If your tires are wearing on the outer edge, your tires may be consistently underinflated. Underinflating your tires causes more weight from the car to flatten the tire and shift more weight to the outer treads.

The Fix: Rotate tires regularly, and make sure tires are inflated to the level recommended by the tire manufacturer. This is also a good time to make sure you know how to change a tire — try a practice run at home so you’re prepared for the real thing.

One-Sided Tread Wear

If your tires are wearing unevenly on one side or another, and your tires are properly inflated, it may mean your tires are out of alignment, causing your cars to ride on one side more heavily.

The Fix: Have your suspension aligned. 

Tire Cupping

Tire cupping (or scalloping) is apparent when your tire’s outer rim has what look like alternating hills and valleys. According to Popular Mechanics, tire cupping happens when your suspension is bent, or your shock absorbers aren’t working correctly — you may feel your car is bouncing as you travel down the road.

The Fix: Have a mechanic check your shock absorbers and suspension.

Feathering or Heel-Toe

This looks like your tire has “ramps” in the tread, either side to side or front to back. This is one of the most common tire issues, but also one of the easiest to correct.

The Fix: Have your tires rotated more frequently. Many mechanics and car technicians will automatically rotate tires during regular oil changes, but if not be sure to request it every 5,000 to 8,000 miles.

Checking for Symptoms of Bad Tires

It’s always a good idea to keep a watchful eye on your tires — they can be an early indicator when critical car maintenance is needed. You can extend the life of your tires by regularly inspecting them to check for signs of uneven wear, maintaining the recommended tire pressure and driving at safe speeds. Aim for at least a quick visual inspection once a week. Here’s what to look for:

  • Cracking or cuts in the sidewalls. Cracking can wear down the tire fast, and a small number of visible cracks can quickly lead to several major cracks that put your tire at serious risk of a sidewall blowout. 
  • Excessively worn tread. Most modern tires have tread-wear indicator bars running across the tread, which signal the minimum allowable tread depth of 2/32-inch. When the tread wears down to these bars, it’s time for new tires. Inexpensive tread-depth gauges are available at auto-parts and tire stores, or you can use a penny as an easy way to check the treadwear. Insert the coin into a tire groove with Lincoln facing down toward the tire. If you can see his head, that means your tread is overly worn and your tires need to be replaced.
  • Bulges or blisters. These signal potential weak spots that could lead to tire failure and warrant a trip to the tire shop.
  • Excessive vibration. Tire vibration could signify misalignment, internal tire damage or a suspension problem. Don't ignore it: Have the vehicle serviced right away.

Always There for You

If you find yourself stranded on the side of the road, few things can get you back on track faster than Farm Bureau’s Emergency Roadside Assistance coverage. Our 24/7 dispatch service will send reliable, professional help to get you back on the road quickly. Schedule a SuperCheck with an agent before your trip to ensure our Roadside Assistance coverage will be there for you when you need it!

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