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Sometimes it is easy to tell if you need new tires. However, sometimes tires will need to be replaced even if they have good tread left.

It is not only important to know how to tell if you need new tires. You should also be aware of how long tires last and how often you should replace them.

If the tread is at or below 2/32 of an inch, then you need to replace the tire. Another sign that you should replace the tires is uneven tire tread. You should also replace any tires that are losing air pressure, no matter how slowly.

The information in this article comes from expert opinions and personal experience. If you find that you need new tires, you can find a price comparison here:

Brand 225/45 R17 225/45 R18 225/45 R19
Dunlop $110 - $228 $124 - $187 $195 - $282
Continental $113 - $228 $158 - $257 $179 - $287
Pirelli $120 - $217 $156 - $227 $176 - $302
Goodyear $125 - $301 $111 - $251 $203 - $310
Bridgestone $138 - $316 $163 - $357 $197 - $385
Firestone $128 - $173 $128 - $177 $160 - $185
Michelin $140 - $287 $179 - $274 $198 - $267
B F Goodrich $120 - $286 $147 - $165 $150 - $170

Table of Contents

Why are Old Tires Bad?

Tires are a crucial part of an automobile’s safety. They support the weight of the vehicle and glide it smoothly along the road. However, worn out or old tires can increase the risk of blowouts. Blowouts can cause an accident and are more of a hassle than it would be to just replace the tires. Worn out tires also make it difficult to stop and slow down effectively. This can cause a crash or even make you wear out your brake pads.

How Often Should You Replace Tires?

Experts generally recommend that you change your tires every 5 to 10 years no matter the condition. After 5 years, you should get annual or semi-annual tire checkups as well. However, mileage is also a major contributor to the lifespan of your tires. If you are unsure about the age of your tires, you can find the week and year that they were made on the sidewall.

Generally, tires will last longer than 25 thousand miles and you should replace any tires that have been in use for 50 thousand miles or more. However, some tire manufacturers offer warranties as long as 80 thousand miles.

Ways to Tell if You Need New Tires

There are a lot of different things that tell you that you should buy new tires from tread depth to noise to cracks. It is important to regularly inspect your tires to ensure that they are holding air and are in overall good condition.

Tread Depth

Tread wear is typically measured in increments of 1/32 of an inch. New tires will have tread that is somewhere between 9/32 and 11/32. It is a good idea to occasionally check your tread depth to ensure that it is still good. The rule of thumb is that you should replace tires that are worn down to 4/32 of an inch or less and to replace them immediately if they are at or below 2/32 of an inch.

The easiest way to see if your tread is worn down too much is to use a penny. A penny can be placed into the grooves of the tread with Abraham Lincoln’s head down. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s head, then your tread is shallow enough that you should replace your tires. It is a good idea to perform this test every now and then so that you always have tires that are in a safe condition.

It is also a good idea to look for uneven tread wear. Sometimes, a tire will wear out faster in one spot even though the tread remains effective around most of the tire. Uneven tire wear can be caused by misalignment, poor suspension, or improperly inflated tires. It is important that you find the cause for the uneven tread wear and then replace the tires as needed.

Some newer tires have tread wear indicators that are built in to help you determine the quality and depth of your remaining tread. Tread wear indicator bars are barely visible on new tires, but will be more visible as the tire gets older and the tread wears down. They look like flat rubber bars that run perpendicular to the actual tire tread and will be visible when the tread gets low. If more than one is visible then you probably need to replace your tire. However, it is a good idea to check with the manufacturer for their specific recommendations as well. With any tires, if the tread wear bars are even with the tread wear, you need to replace them.

Vibrations or Noise

Any time you have odd noise or vibrations coming from your tires, you should have your car inspected by a mechanic because it could be a sign of a worn out suspension, poor alignment, improperly balanced or inflated tires, or a plethora of other issues. In addition, the issue that initially caused the vibrations may have also damaged your tires or causes uneven tread wear.

Wobbling is also a good indication that you need at least one new tire. Typically, you will feel the wobble at slower speeds. The car may bounce up and down and in severe cases the steering wheel may even move. This is caused by a separation between the internal belts which causes air to press onto the tread. This may lead to bubbles or bulges, but the bubble is not always visible. Either way, you will need to replace the tire.

Bubbles or Bulges

A bulge or bubble on your tire may mean that the internal frame of the tire has been damaged. When this happens, air pressure will be able to get to the outer layers of the tire. Bubbles on the tire are prone to blowouts and need to be replaced even if they still have good tread.


Old tires, even with remaining tread, may develop cracks along the sidewall. This is most common if the tires are in harsh temperatures or other harsh conditions because the rubber will gradually begin to degrade. This, in turn, compromises the entire structure of the tire because the rubber will become brittle. If you have cracks on your tire, especially if they are numerous or located throughout the sidewall, you need to replace it.  

Foreign Object

If there is a foreign object stuck into the tire, you will need to either remove the object and sufficiently patch the leak or replace the tire. A leak can cause moisture to seep into the tire and rust metal parts. Not only that, but the area of the tire near the hole may be weakened and lead to a blowout. If the tire is new, then you can maybe patch it as long as the leak is not too large.

If you have any tires that are leaking air, even if it is an incredibly slow leak, you should take care of it as soon as possible. Whether you patch or replace the tire depends on the age of the tire, the size of the leak, and other factors.

Low Traction

Poor traction, especially on wet surfaces, may be caused by one or more bad tires. This is caused by loss of traction, but may occur on wet surfaces even when the tread passes the penny test. If this is the case, it is better to be safe than sorry and you should replace your tires.

After Warranty Ends

Generally tires come with a mileage determined warranty that will cover all or part of the cost of the tire if it wears out faster than it is supposed to. However, if you have tires that make it past the mileage warranty, you may want to consider replacing them. This may not be as crucial of a replacement as it would be if the tires were worn out, making noise, or have low tread depth, but it is still something to think about.


An approaching Winter may be a good time to replace your tires, especially if you live in a place that gets a lot of snow or ice. If your tread is worn down, even if it is not at or below 2/32 of an inch, then you may not have good enough traction on your tires. Also, if you have Summer tires, then you may want to replace them with Winter tires. Sometimes, people move to a colder climate, but do not think about changing their tires before Winter. Instead, it is best to be proactive and replace the tires before they cause you to crash.

How To Tell If You Need New Tires

About The Author

Charles Redding

Charles Redding

I've spent many years selling cars, working with auto detailers, mechanics, dealership service teams, quoting and researching car insurance, modding my own cars, and much more.

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