According to the Safety Council of Canada, tires are the most critical safety component on a vehicle, and they impact traction, handling, steering, stability and braking. Despite this, 23% of cars have at least one tire under inflated by more than 20 per cent. Under inflation is just one issue. Bald or unbalanced tires are equally dangerous and can lead to a blowout, hydroplaning, difficulty handling and even a loss of vehicle control.
Replacing your tires can help prevent these issues. Here are seven warning signs that it is time to replace your tires.
1. Your Tires are Old
Over time, tire treads wear, rubber loses its elasticity and becomes brittle, and reinforcing cords in tires lose their strength. The risk of failure increases as tires age. Most experts say that tires that are more than six years old should be replaced, regardless of detectable levels of wear and tear.
2. Monitoring System Warnings
Since 2008, many new vehicles have included tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS), but these are not yet mandatory in Canada. If you have TPMS, don’t ignore it. Pay attention to alerts and act on them quickly. However, even with TPMS in place, you should check your tire pressure at least monthly and always before a long trip. Handheld tire pressure gauges are relatively inexpensive, and many gas stations have tire pressure and filling stations available.
Consistently low air pressure is a sign of trouble. If your tires are losing pressure, take the vehicle in to be serviced. A mechanic may patch the tire, but it could be something much more severe that requires a new tire.
3. Uneven or Low Tire Tread
The quality of your tire tread is critical to the safe handling of your vehicle. Get your tire tread checked regularly. Watch for both uneven and low tire tread. You can check it yourself by looking at the tire tread wear indicators. These are bars of hard rubber that lie sideways across the tread. The tire needs to be replaced when the indicators are flush with the tread.
Another way to test your tire tread is the quarter test. Insert a 25 cent Canadian or American coin in one of the grooves with the caribou (or Abraham Lincoln) facing down. If you see the tip of the caribou’s nose or the top of Abe’s head, your tire tread is too low, and you should replace your tires.
4. Check for Cracked Rubber
Cracked rubber is a sign that your tires are breaking down. UV light, oils, chemicals, and other elements will slowly reduce the quality of the rubber in your tires over time, causing them to become brittle. While minor cracks are not necessarily serious, they are an indication that this process has begun, and they will only expand over time. This can put your vehicle at risk for a severe and sudden blowout. Cracks are a critical sign that it is time to replace your tires.
5. Odd Vibrations
Vehicle vibrations can be the result of serious tire problems. Vibrations can indicate out of balance wheels, which can adversely affect tire quality and clearly signal that you need to have your tires checked out. Vibrations can also be caused by worn struts or shocks that further deteriorated tires, or by worn wheel bearings. All of these must be checked out by a mechanic.
If your vehicle shakes when you’re travelling at highway speeds, it could indicate wheels that are either unbalanced or misaligned and again, a mechanic will have to take a look. However, if your car shakes no matter what speed you travel, the problem is likely the metal belts inside your tires. When this happens, you will need to replace the tires.
6. Strange Noises
If you hear strange noises from your car, don’t ignore them. Squealing noises can indicate under inflated or improperly aligned tires, which can cause one tire to drag on the road. This can be a serious issue resulting in the need for new tires, particularly if it has been going on for a long time. Humming tires could be the result of issues with your wheel bearings or uneven wear on tires, both of which could indicate a need for new tires. Deep thuds could indicate alignment issues or tires that are either overinflated or under inflated. Your mechanic should take a look.
7. Bulges and Bubbles
Small bulges and bubbles in the sidewall of your tires are air bubbles caused primarily by impact damage from potholes and speed bumps. This damage is very serious, and the tire could fail at any time, leaving you with a flat or, worse, a tire that suddenly explodes on the highway. These bubbles are irreparable, and the only thing you can do is replace the tire.
Stay Safe on the Roads
Driving safely is as much about maintaining a safe vehicle as it is about your actions while you’re on the road. Replacing worn or dangerous tries is a critical part of that safety.