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The tires on your car may be one of the most important components that can increase the safety of you and your passengers on the road. Often, when people purchase a used car, they make sure the engine and body are in excellent condition. But how can you tell if the tires are suitable and safe to drive on?

Your vehicle tires have many functions like supporting the weight of the car, providing traction and braking force on surfaces, and absorbing shock when riding over potholes and road bumps. Many people will think they can save money when replacing their car tires by purchasing used tires that look fine at first glance.

Used tires can have plenty of tread life remaining, but what if they were cheap tires to begin with? Old, used tires may have invisible signs of wear tear that can cause a tire blowout while traveling at high speeds. According to Consumer Reports, you’re gambling with your safety when you buy used tires:

“The tire could have been driven overloaded, underinflated, or to excessively high speed. Any one or a combination of these factors could lead to internal damage not visible from the outside. In short, the used tire could be unsafe.”


You can equate mileage with wear and tear when it comes to tires. The best way to determine if the used tires have endured a lot of miles is to check the tread depth. If you can see all of Lincoln’s head when you insert a penny into your tire’s tread groove, then the tire is not worth the money you will spend before needing new tires.

This test indicates your tread depth is less than 2/32 inches. New tires generally start with a tread depth of 10/32 inches to 12/32 inches. A reduced tire tread means the tires have lost their gripping power which makes it easier for the car to lose footing on wet, hot, or curved surfaces.

How old is the rubber?

It’s difficult know the condition of the rubber and whether the tires have been exposed to road salt, extreme temperatures, or constant direct sunlight. All of these factors can deteriorate rubber tires and cause unseen, internal flaws. Old tires with defective rubber material are an accident waiting to happen.

When tires are not cared for properly, they will usually show signs of sidewall bulges, damage around the valve stem and rim, and scrapes, cracking, cuts, and old punctures on the tire treads. Old tires may also have endured many small but damaging incidents including running over foreign objects and sideswiping curbs.

Internal defects

While it’s easy to spot problems on the outside of the tire, internal defects can also lead to a higher risk of failure. Tire manufacturers add a mileage life span to each make and style of tire. In other words, the tires you buy are made to last for a certain amount of mileage and/or time. Internal tire components (such as the tire liner) can start to weaken after tires reach that manufacturer limit. This allows air flow to infiltrate the internal tire structure. When this happens the rubber components start the process of oxidation.

Oxidized rubber can become brittle and can also start the process of material separation. When you combine low tire tread with internal tire decomposition, it makes having a blowout on the road that much more likely. Rotating your tires regularly can help to eliminate pressure points and reduce failures while on the road.

Has the tire been recapped or recalled?

Sometimes used tires for sale are recalled products where the manufacturer found a defect that could pose a significant safety threat. Other used tires have been recapped, which means new tread has been applied to the tire base, and when done incorrectly can cause a tire blowout. While retreaded tires are deemed safe to travel on for many more miles, it is a possible point of failure in the process. If the recapping of the old tire was performed with inferior quality material or workmanship, the tire can shred into pieces at high speeds when the retreaded portion separates from the tire base.

It is worth the safety of yourself and your family as well as the protection of your vehicle to purchase new tires when needed. Even if you must buy an average grade tire which will cost less, you can still have peace of mind while traveling along the road.