Consumer Reports’ 6 Early Warning Signs That Show You Need New Tires

Tires are one of the most important aspects of safe driving. Consumer Reports harps on tire care, shopping for new tires, and tire condition all the time because it is the thing keeping our cars and trucks working properly. Since tires are so important, you should know these six early warning signs that show you need to consider buying new tires.

upclose shot of an all-terrain tire. Do you know what signs point to needing new tires
Do you know what to look for to know when it’s time for new tires? | Getty images

How do you know it’s time for buying new tires? 

There are several reasons why it would be time to get new tires. Tires not holding air, bald tread, and obvious damage are probably the most common and important things to keep an eye out for to know if it’s time for new rubber. However, there are more subtle warning signs that can not only help you know when you need to be buying new tires but can also help you keep your tires longer. 

Visible sidewall damage 

Obviously, if you shred a tire with a broken wheel or a blowout occurs, you know that tire is spent, but doing a regular visual inspection of your tires can keep you safer, and even maybe you help you keep your tires for longer. Keep a keen eye out for scuffs and scrapes on the outside sidewall of your tires; even little scrapes can weaken your tires and endanger you and others. 

How to keep uneven tire wear at bay?

According to Consumer Reports, proper inflation is the number one key to keeping your tires nice for longer and keeping you safe. An overinflated tire or underinflated tire can both cause uneven wear making your tire’s integrity quickly decline. Keep a tire pressure gauge in your car at all times and check tire pressure regularly. Also, rotating tires periodically can help mitigate uneven tire wear. 

How do you know if your tire tread is too low?

This is a simple thing to keep on top of as most tires these days have low tread indicators bars built into the tire itself. But even if your tires don’t show that information, every auto parts store sells a simple tire tread gauge. The minimum allowable tread depth is 2/32-inch. Anything below that means it’s time for new tires. 

Pro tip: You can use a quarter or a penny as gauges too. Put the quarter into a tire groove with Washington’s head toward the tire. If you can see the top of Washington’s head, then it is time to start looking. If you can see Lincoln’s head on the penny, it’s time to buy new tires today. 

What do lumps in your tire mean?

Lumps are basically never a good thing. Sometimes tires can form defects that look like a tumor or blister on the sidewalls of the tire. If you see these bubbles, it is an indication that it’s time to replace it. Unfortunately, these defects can show up with new tires as well as older ones. This is nothing to mess around with. If you see blisters or bubbles, those spots are weak and can lead to catastrophic tire failure. 

Can bad tires cause vibration? 

When it comes to driving, vibrations are rarely benign. Excessive steering wheel vibration is usually an indicator that something is off with your wheels or tires. This could come from a bent wheel, unbalanced tires, and defective tires. Even if the vibration isn’t your tires, it should be checked out by a mechanic.

Buy new tires when you need them

Putting off car maintenance is not a great idea, generally speaking. But, procrastination with tire care and replacement is a really bad idea. There is only one rule regarding tire care and safety; if you need new tires, buy them ASAP. With these six early warning signs, you should be more equipped to know when it’s time to get new tires. 

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