Do You Need New Tires for Winter? Here’s How to Tell

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With winter fast approaching, it’s the perfect time of year to think about getting new tires. But how do you know when it’s time to buy new tires, and which ones should you get? If you have specific questions, you should direct them to the specialists at one of your local auto repair shops. But here are a few basics to get you started.

  1. Measuring Tread Depth

    In general, a tire doesn’t need to be replaced until its treads are shallower than 2/32 of an inch. The easiest way to measure is by placing a penny upside down into the tread: If all of Lincoln’s head is visible, the treads are too worn down, and the tire needs replacing. Keep in mind, though, that driving in wet or snowy conditions may necessitate deeper treads. You might want more like 6/32 of an inch if your region gets heavy snow.

  2. Assessing Wear Patterns

    Evenness of wear is nearly as important as tread depth. It affects not only traction, but also steering and efficiency. This is one reason it’s so important to get your tires rotated regularly. But if you’ve let your rotation go too long and some areas of your tires are more severely worn than others, you may just need new tires.

  3. Choosing the Right Tires

    If you’ve checked the tread depth and wear on your tires and figured out it’s definitely time for a new set, then it’s time to start shopping. You can find your base tire size by checking in the owner’s manual. You can also look on your existing tires, but keep in mind that a previous owner might have put on the wrong size before you bought it. Tire size can have some serious impacts on performance — both bad and good — so you should talk to a tire specialist if you want a smoother ride, better handling, greater efficiency and so forth.

  4. Buying Used Tires

    When buying tires, you’ll be faced with a choice between used and new tires. While plenty of used tires have some wear left in them, you’ll want to inspect them carefully. Here’s what to look for:

    • Tread depth and wear: You’ll need to check tread depth and wear on used tires just as you would on your current tires. If the wear is extensive or uneven, then you should pass.
    • Punctures or patches: Punctures and patches are both signs of a problem tire.
    • Dry rot: Dry rot tends to show up as hairline cracks in the tire’s sidewall, and means the tire is a road hazard.
    • Separation: If a tire is separating, then you need to steer clear.
    • Age: Never buy a tire that’s more than six years old. The date a tire was made will be stamped on the tire in four-digit form: The first two digits correspond with the week of manufacture, and the last two indicate the year.

    If a tire avoids all these pitfalls, then it may be worth taking a little risk to save some cash.

Are you thinking about buying new tires before winter sets in? Ask any other questions you might have in the comments.

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