Your car's tires are the only connection between the vehicle and the road, so ensuring they're in the best shape possible should be a top concern. Over time, tires wear down and slowly lose their ability to maintain proper grip on the road. Leave them on too long, and the tires are at risk of a blowout, which can cause an accident.
The mystery many car owners seek to solve is how long do tires last. Is there a magic number of kilometres or years they can be in service? We'll cover this and how to maximize the life of your tires below.
There are two ways to look at a tire's lifespan: time and wear. On the time side of things, tires have an expiration date -- sort of. Since 2000, every new tire's sidewall has a stamped 12-digit code called the tire identification number (TIN) or Department of Transportation (DOT) code.
The last four digits of this code are always numerical and indicate the week and year the tire was manufactured. For example, a tire with "2620" as its last four digits was manufactured on the 26th week of 2020.
A tire's useful life is about 10 years, according to most tire manufacturers. However, some experts recommend having them inspected and considering replacement at six years.
Tire age matters because the rubber starts drying out over time, causing it to harden and lose its grip. The tread on old tires can also become brittle and separate from the tire itself, potentially resulting in a catastrophic blowout.
Wear is based on tire tread depth, which is the depth of the valley between two tread blocks. Most tires are OK until they reach 1.6 mm, but some winter tires and all-terrain tires recommend replacement at 3.2 mm.
Other variables can impact a tire's useful life, like manufacturer defects, but these are flaws in the design and aren’t the norm.
Predicting the kilometres a tire will last is where things get a little trickier, as this greatly varies with the tire type, driving conditions, and driving style. However, you can get a good idea of how far a tire should travel based on its warranty.
Tire warranties vary, and some tires have no kilometre warranty at all. Those with a kilometre warranty typically range from 40,000 km to 130,000 km. If the tire's tread depth falls below the manufacturer's recommendation before reaching the kilometre warranty, you'll likely get a prorated credit toward a replacement tire.
There's another side to predicting the number of kilometres a tire will last, and that's the treadwear rating. On the tire's sidewall, you'll find a stamped treadwear rating that ranges from 60 to 620. This rating indicates the distance a tire travelled relative to other tires in a 9,600-km test in controlled conditions.
The reference standard in a treadwear rating is 100, which represents the average tire. A tire with a 200 treadwear will wear two times slower than the average tire, while a tire with a 620 rating will wear 6.2 times slower than the average tire.
Generally, high-performance tires and summer tires have the shortest lifespan, as they use a softer rubber to enhance grip. In many cases, performance and summer tires lack a kilometre warranty too. In these instances, they only have defect warranties.
On the flip side, the tires with the longest tread life tend to be all-season tires because they're more focused on ride comfort and traction in the rain and snow than high-speed grip. These are the tires you'll generally see at the 130,000-km warranty range.
Your tires are your vehicle's only connection to the road, and how they interact with the road can greatly impact their lifespan.
Aggressive driving can increase the heat and stress the rubber endures, causing the tires to wear prematurely. Some examples of aggressive driving include:
But it's not always driving habits that cause the issue. In some cases, it's the road conditions you're driving in.
In Canada, we frequently encounter snow and ice on the road that can make your car tires slip and slide. While sliding on the snow and ice won't impact a tire's life, if a slipping tire suddenly grips on concrete, it puts stress and heat on the tire that can lead to excessive tire wear.
Buying a set of tires can be one of the most expensive maintenance items on your vehicle, so you want to ensure you're getting your dollar's worth. You can pull this off with proper tire maintenance and a few other tips, which we cover below.
If you find you run through tires quickly, you'll want to first look at your driving style. Are you frequently accelerating or braking too hard or cornering like an F1 driver? Or maybe you are driving too fast down the highway.
No matter the issue, adjusting your driving style is a quick and easy way to maximize the useful life of your tires.
It's not uncommon for car owners to head to the tire shop with their tire size and simply ask for the cheapest tires available. While this is sometimes OK, certain vehicles require specific tires.
For example, if you drive a large SUV, like a Lincoln Navigator, or a pickup truck, you may need a specific load rating or even a light truck tire to handle the extra weight. If you purchase a standard passenger car tire, you may put too much stress on the tire, leading to excessive wear or complete tire failure.
The same goes for the conditions you drive in. In Canada, we deal with frigid, snowy winters, and snow tires are a virtual requirement to get through it.
Winter tires have special tread patterns to avoid wheel slippage that can cause excessive wear, and manufacturers design their rubber compounds to remain soft in freezing temperatures. When all-season or summer tires experience sub-zero temperatures, their rubber can harden and become brittle, leading to excessive wear and even chipped tread.
So, when wintertime arrives, do your all-season or summer tires a favor and switch to some winter shoes.
Tire maintenance is critical to their longevity, and regular rotations are one of the most common maintenance items. A tire rotation is when you lift the vehicle and remove all four wheels, then move each wheel to a new position on the vehicle.
There are five types of rotation patterns. Some patterns are for specific tire types, while others are to counter uneven tire wear. These tire rotation patterns and their rationale are as follows:
Plan to perform a tire rotation at least every six months or 12,000 km, whichever comes first. Some cars require more frequent rotations, so check the maintenance schedule in your vehicle's owner's manual for the manufacturer's official recommendation.
To keep the tire's tread on the pavement, your vehicle's chassis must flex and shift. Over time, all this flexing and shifting causes the chassis components to lose their baseline positioning, which often leaves the tires sitting on the road at an odd angle. This is referred to as being out of alignment and can cause excessive tire wear.
You can combat this by having your vehicle's alignment checked every six months and having the alignment performed if needed. Four-wheel alignments can be pricey -- sometimes ranging from $60 to $100 -- but some shops offer lifetime alignments for a higher fee. Lifetime alignments often pay for themselves in just a few years.
The air pressure in your tires has an immediate impact on how they wear. Too little pressure, and the center section sags, causing all the car's weight to go on the outer edges, which results in excessive outer-edge wear. Too much air pressure makes the center section bulge, causing excessive wear in the middle of the tire's tread.
Combat this by checking and adjusting your car's tire pressure once per week. Always check and adjust the pressure before driving, as the heat from driving can increase the pressure in the tire, leading to a false reading.
Also, adjust the pressure to the manufacturer's recommendation, which you can find in the owner's manual or the tire placard in the driver's side door jamb. Never adjust the tire pressure to the maximum pressure rating listed on the tire, as this will almost always be way too high.
When buying a pre-owned vehicle, tire life is something you must be concerned with, but not at Clutch. All our pre-owned vehicles undergo a 210-point inspection and reconditioning process that includes inspecting the tires and replacing them if needed. This ensures you get a quality vehicle with plenty of tire life.
Want even more peace of mind about your tires? With the Clutch Protection Plan, you not only get extended coverage on mechanical failures, but you also get unlimited-kilometre coverage on damaged wheels and tires. This coverage includes mounting, balancing, and installation, plus it covers all the vehicle's tires, winter tires too.
So check out our assortment of quality pre-owned vehicles and put your immediate concerns of how long will my tires last behind you.