• Radial tires are made from durable yet pliable rubber. Reinforced by steel belts, the tread of the tire is the first contact your car has with the road. Friction and heat wear away the rubber after time and when the tread wears down to a certain point, the tire's effectiveness is compromised. The parts of the tread not in contact with the road collect and disperse rain, snow and other elements. The lower the tread, the worse the tire performs its intended tasks.

    Wear Bars

    Wear bars are raised indicators that connect the tread across the width of the tires. They stand at 2/32 of an inch. Although this is the U.S. standard to indicate the tire has reached its minimum value, driving on tires that are near the wear bars is much less effective than driving on tires with twice the tread wear left. Tires at the minimum discard measurement cannot effectively collect and disperse water or snow and are much more likely to hydroplane at lower speeds or slip on snowy roads. Most automobile and tire manufacturers recommend replacing tires when the remaining tread depth reaches 4/32 of an inch so your vehicle keeps the ability to handle wet roads. If you live in a region that experiences severe winter weather, 6/32 of an inch is the recommended minimum. That's a little more than half of the tread wear thickness of a new tire for most passenger cars. Although many drivers believe replacing tires at 6/32 is not cost effective, it's a lot cheaper to replace tires than to replace your car if you have a bad accident.

    Uneven Wear and Other Variables

    Another variable to consider when inspecting your tires is uneven wear. There are several types of tread wear, and each can indicate a different problem with the car. Many drivers buy tires and then neglect them by not checking for proper inflation or rotating them as part of a regular regimen. This can lead to severe uneven tire wear on the front axle, because the front tires handle the steering and 75 percent of the vehicle's braking capacity. Check the tires for cupping and uneven wear along the entire circumference of the tread. This symptom may indicate a weakened or broken suspension or front end components. Check for inner wear and outer shoulder wear on the tread. If one side wears away more quickly, you may have an alignment problem or need to rotate your tires more often. Also check for cracking along the sidewall and tread. Even tires with lots of tread life left can be compromised by the sun and age. When the rubber starts to crack, especially on the sidewall, you should replace the tire.

    Tire Maintenance

    The leading factor in premature tire wear is lack of maintenance. Tire inflation and rotation are easy to take care of, yet drivers neglect them even after paying a lot of money for tires. Underinflated tires will prematurely wear along both outer shoulders where the tread meets the sidewall. Overinflated tires will wear the inner tread more quickly. If you don't rotate tires enough to different spots on the vehicle, the tires in the front will wear more quickly than those in the rear. This problem is worse when the vehicle is front-wheel drive, because the torque of the transmission is added to the front axle. Rotate your tires every 6,000 to 9,000 miles and check tire pressure once a month.


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