Checking a car's tires for wear and tear

5 Signs You Need New Tires

Take 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 NHTSA recommend doing a quick tire inspection once a month to see if you need new tires.

How To Tell If You Need New Tires: 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
    One of the best ways to tell if you need new tires is the old-school penny test: 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 Changes
    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 car that won’t start, be ready for anything with GEICO’s 24-hour Emergency Roadside Service.

By Maria Carter

Next article: Top 5 Tire Myths Debunked

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    Leave a comment

  1. Randy Pena says,

    These are outstanding informations that people sometimes tend to ignore . Thanks for the helpful suggestions .
    Randy Pena

  2. Andria Payne says,

    Another Good one, I am lax with my tyres and I know I will pay the price if I act stupid. I will check them and have my mechanic give them a through check out. Thank You. Andria.

  3. Carol O'Meally says,

    Hello this is a good idea to send out these info.
    I like it. And appreciate it. Keep me posted. Thank you for sharing.

  4. Suzanne Sotelo says,

    Thank you for providing this information. It helps me to be proactive, economical, efficient and safe.
    GEICO ROCKS SO I CAN ROLL 🙂 Suzanne Sotelo & Sons

  5. Linda says,

    Excellent information! The tips are especially handy for someone with little repair experience/knowledge. I appreciate the car-care reminders, and info on how to recognize possible problems. Thanks GEICO!

  6. Walmart Greeter says,

    Without a spare, you are set up for a possible towing bill if beyond 50 mi (ford), and maybe a motel bill waiting for a dealer to open. Many popular changers won’t risk damaging your fancy large diameter aluminum rims. That sealer has an expiration date and it can ruin your tire pressure sensor, so get ready for a dealer price. You cannot mix sensors since brands have unique radio channels, but you can buy, and install, an entire generic set for $400. Now this a lot of collateral cash for simple flat tire.
    A friend customized a scissor jack for me and I found a plugging kit without “temporary” disclaimers. Should also mention that my large rim tire (part of factory bundle) has no temporary spare with the same feet per turn so the traction control must be disabled to use one. Neither will an extra performance tire fit the well in the trunk. Things to think about! All roads lead to the dealer these days.

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