How To Tell If You Need New Tires

Warmer weather has arrived, which means it’s time to pack up our minivans, roll the windows down and take off on a summer road trip. But before you rev your engine, it’s important to inspect your tires in case they need to be replaced. Better to know now before you end up stranded on the roadside!

Here are five signs that it may be time for a new set of wheels:

1. Ask Honest Abe

This tried-and-true method will only cost you a penny—literally. Check your tread depth by placing a penny into the tire with Lincoln’s head pointing down. If part of Lincoln’s head is covered by the tread, your tread depth is still okay. However, if you can see all of Lincoln’s head, the tread depth is below 2/32 of an inch. You should replace your tires once they fall below that threshold.

2. Oops—Your Wear Bars are Showing!

Many modern tires have built-in wear bars, which are flat rubber bars built into the bottom of the tread grooves. When the wear bars (or wear indicators) become visible, it means your tread is low and it’s time to purchase new tires.

3. A Little Maintenance Goes a Long Way

Car maintenance is vital in extending the life of your tire. Rotate, balance and align your tires on a regular basis to prevent your tires from wearing out faster. Let’s break it down:

  • Tire rotation means moving the tires from front to back, left to right or diagonally. Front-wheel drive vehicles put the most pressure on the front tires, so rotating your tires a few times a year spreads out the tread wear on all your tires.
  • The more you drive, the more tread wear you will have. This wear changes the distribution of weight in the tire and it becomes unbalanced. Tire balancing will minimize uneven wear.
  • Tire alignment is unique to every vehicle—technicians will correct the angle of your wheels to the specific manufacturer’s recommendations. You should check the vehicle’s alignment whenever you notice a drift or pull in your steering.

4. Your Tires Have an Aged Face

Humans, tires – we both get older. As we age, so do our appearances. Cracks, gouges or bulges in the sidewall are a clear sign your tires are worn down and may need to be replaced.

5. Your Drive Feels Like a Massage Chair

Pay attention to vibration while you drive. Too much thumping may indicate a balance or alignment issue. Not only is this dangerous, but it also reduces fuel efficiency. It’ll be cheaper in the long run for a technician to inspect your vehicle—then use that money to pay for a real massage.

Bottom line? Before you take off on a week-long summer road trip, make sure your wheels are ready for the drive. If you’re a AAA member, turn to your local AAA Car Care Plus or Approved Auto Repair shop for tire maintenance or replacement. You can shop for tires online and have them installed at your preferred location.

Updated 5/12/22.