How to tell if you need new tires

12 minute read Published on Nov 18, 2023 by BrokerLink Communications

Close-up of man's hands pushing vehicle tyre against black background

One of the most important parts of your vehicle is the tires. If the tires aren’t working as they should, it can have serious consequences, both for yourself and other drivers on the road. That is what makes changing your tires so important. And we’re not just talking about when to change your winter tires. We’re talking about when your all season tires have reached the end of their life and need to be replaced. Keep reading to learn how to tell if you need new tires.

How long do tires last?

Generally speaking, most tires have a lifespan of ten years. It’s worth noting that this lifespan applies whether the tires have been in constant use or not. Experts recommend replacing both the spare tire that’s been sitting in your trunk for ten years just the same as the all-weather tires you use for most of the year after ten years. Although most tires’ lifespans hover around a decade, auto professionals recommend taking your tires to be inspected after five years to ensure they are still in working order. This is in addition to regular maintenance, such as checking the inflation pressure, which should be performed monthly. You can learn more winter car maintenance tips and summer car maintenance tips by contacting BrokerLink.

It is worth noting that while most tires may last ten years, the age of the tire is not the only indicator that it should be replaced. There are many factors, ranging from improper inflation to overloading, that can cause a tire to wear out sooner than ten years. That is why it’s so important to perform several other tests well before the ten-year mark to determine if you need new tires.

Tips to determine if you need new tires

Below, the BrokerLink team has put together a list of tips that can help you determine if you need new tires. From the penny test that evaluates tread depth to looking for cracks on the sidewall of the tire, keep reading to discover how you can tell if you need to replace your old tires:

Coin test for tread depth

Tread depth is an excellent indication of a tire’s wear and tear. The tread on your all-season tires should never be less than 1/16 of an inch in depth on winter tires, this increases to 5/32 of an inch. While you can buy an instrument that specifically measures tread depth like a professional, there is an even easier way of doing it: with a coin. In the United States, this is known as the penny test. However, in Canada, you can perform a similar test with a quarter or toonie. Start by placing a quarter with the caribou facing down into one of the tire grooves. You want as much of the caribou to be covered as possible. If the tip of the caribou’s nose is still visible, then your tread depth is too worn and your tires should likely be replaced.

If you don’t have a quarter on hand, you can also perform this test with a toonie. Start by inserting the toonie into the tire groove. You should still be able to see the polar bear’s paws. If the silver part of the toonie is covered by the tread block, your tires are probably around 50% worn, and if the tread only covers the words Canada or Dollars, then your tire tread is far too minimal and your tires should be replaced as soon as possible.

Please note then when performing the coin test for tread depth, you should perform the test on all four tires and on various parts of each tire. It is possible for tires to wear unevenly, but if even one section of a tire doesn’t pass the coin test, it’s probably best to replace it. Further, if you notice that your tire tread has worn extremely unevenly, it could be a sign of other issues with your vehicle, like wheel misalignment or improper inflation.

Please note that tire tread wears faster the more that you drive on wet, slick, or icy surfaces. Given the winter road conditions throughout most of Canada, you should take care to check your tread depth throughout the winter and into the spring to ensure your tires don’t need to be replaced. You should also check your tread depth before and after a long trip. Contact BrokerLink for more car maintenance tips for your road trip.

Tread wear indicator bar

Depending on the age of your tires, they may feature a tread wear indicator bar directly on the tire. You may not be able to see this bar when the tires are new, but as they wear, the bar starts to become more and more visible. Typically, tread wear indicator bars look like flat rubber bars that run along either side of the tread. The two bars can be found on each individual tire. If one or both of the indicator bars are visible, chances are your tires need to be replaced, though you can perform the coin test mentioned above if you want to double-check.

Cracks and cuts in the tire sidewall

Cracks in the sidewall of your tires clearly indicate that they are reaching the end of their life. Thankfully, checking for cracks is easy and only requires visually inspecting your tires. Every month, we recommend carefully looking at the sidewall to see if you notice any new cracks or cuts. If you notice evidence of cracks, you should take your car to a mechanic as soon as possible, especially if the cracks are getting worse. Sidewall cracks can be a sign of serious issues, such as a leak in your tires.

Tire blisters

If you’ve started to notice bulges or blisters on the surface of your tires, this could mean that it’s time to invest in a new set. When tires begin to weaken, bulges and blisters may start to appear. If there is a bulge or blister in your tire, you can bet that it’s a weak spot, which means it could be at risk of blowing out. Thus, when performing a visual inspection of the sidewall, check the outer surface of the tire for blisters and bulges too.

Excess vibration when driving

Vibration is common when driving any vehicle, but there is a normal amount and an abnormal amount. If you’ve been driving for some time, then you probably know what a normal level of vibration feels like on the road. However, if you’ve recently noticed that your car is vibrating more than usual, it could be a sign that the tires need to be replaced. Although an increase in vibration could be a sign of several problems, like tire misalignment, unbalanced tires, or wearing down of the shock absorbers, it could also be a sign that there is something wrong with the internal part of the tire. Overall, if you notice that your tire is vibrating heavily, even on paved roads, it’s worth having your tires checked by a professional.

The importance of tire maintenance

Let’s face it - your tires are the only thing between you and the road. This makes them incredibly important. They offer traction in all kinds of conditions, allowing you to safely steer and navigate the road, whether in the winter or summer. Unfortunately, most drivers do not give tire maintenance enough care, waiting until something bad happens, like a blowout or flat tire, before giving their tires the attention they deserve. We’re here to explain the importance of tire maintenance and provide some tips to ensure your tires last as long as possible.

The benefits of regular tire maintenance for your car

The reality is, that with how much time people spend on the road, tire maintenance is incredibly important. As with general vehicle maintenance, the purpose of regular inspections is to increase the lifespan of your vehicle and nip small issues in the bud before they turn into larger issues. This not only saves you money in the long run but also makes your car safer to drive. If you want your tires to last as long as possible and be as effective as possible on the road, then tire maintenance is a must. Tire maintenance can take many forms, from monthly visual inspections performed at home to annual check-ups conducted by a professional at your local car dealership or auto body shop.

Tips to ensure long-lasting tires

Give your tires the longest life possible by following the tire maintenance tips below:

Make sure your tires are properly inflated at all times

Tire pressure is crucial to the longevity of your tires. Unfortunately, many drivers don’t know how to properly inflate their tires, and improper inflation can lead to many issues. Improper inflation most commonly takes the form of over or under-inflated tires. The result? Problems with steering, braking, and accelerating. Take care to check your tire pressure on a monthly basis, or more frequently during the cold months when tire pressure goes down faster, and top up pressure as necessary. If you don’t know what your tire pressure should be, find the vehicle information sticker which should clearly state the ideal pressure for the front and rear tires on your car. This is typically stuck on the driver’s side front or back door. It can also be found in the owner’s manual for your car.

Rotate your tires regularly

Rotating your tires is just as important as inflating them. Did you know that tire rotations can increase the lifespan of your tires while also improving performance? It’s true. Experts recommend rotating your tires twice a year or every 10,000 to 12,000 kilometres, whichever comes first.

Schedule a wheel alignment

Scheduling a wheel alignment is another tip for long-lasting tires. Wheel alignments can help you avoid uneven tread wear, with experts recommending them every 25,000 kilometres or once per year.

Balance your tires

Unbalanced tires can pose major problems, such as early tread wear. Thus, when you have your tires rotated, we recommend that you ask the mechanic to rebalance them as well.

Inspect your tires monthly

As mentioned above, regular maintenance from a professional is important but so too is inspecting them at home. Experts suggest inspecting your tires on a monthly basis. Routine tire inspections should involve checking your tire pressure and visually inspecting the sidewall and outer surface of the tires for signs of wear, like cracks, cuts, bulges, blisters, and punctures.

Change your tires between seasons

Changing your tires between seasons is crucial, especially in Canada where weather conditions have a huge impact on the road. As soon as the cold weather sets in, we suggest swapping your all-season tires for winter tires. Winter tires increase traction and make driving on the road much safer. Even better, installing winter tires on your car can make you eligible for a Toronto car insurance discount. Contact BrokerLink to learn 5 ways to save on car insurance.

Make sure all four tires are the same

Mixing and matching tire models is never a good idea in the long term. While it might seem more cost-effective, especially if one tire is more worn than the other, replacing one or two at a time can lead to uneven tread wear and other issues. Chances are, if one tire is seriously worn, the others could do with a replacement too.

Replace your tires as soon as you notice the warning signs

Don’t wait to replace your tires. Rather, replace them as soon as you notice the signs above. Whether the tread depth is completely worn, you’ve noticed cracks in the sidewall, your tires have reached the ten-year mark, or your car is vibrating much more than it once was, you should have your tires replaced as soon as possible.

Drive less frequently

The less you use your tires, the less likely they are to wear. So if you are able to spend less time on the road, consider doing so for the sake of your tires. Depending on how little time you spend driving, speak to your insurance provider about low mileage car insurance. If you fall below a certain threshold of kilometres annually, you might qualify for a low mileage discount, which usually translates to much cheaper rates.

Have punctured tires repaired by a professional

It can be tempting to perform your own tire repairs, but for serious repairs, such as punctures, you should only trust a professional. No amount of YouTube videos can adequately teach you how to repair your tire properly, and given the importance of this car part, you don’t want to run the risk of making it worse.

Take care when storing tires

Tire storage matters. If improperly stored, it can quickly shorten the lifespan of your tires. So whether you're storing a spare tire or your winter tires during the summer months, make sure to keep them in a cool, dark space away from direct light. They should also be nowhere near gasoline, grease, or any substance that could degrade the rubber. If you’re storing them outside or in a garage, you should also take care to keep them off the ground. Waterproof coverings can also prevent moisture from building up, which can increase wear.

Contact BrokerLink for more information on how to tell if your tires need to be replaced

Need help telling if your tires should be replaced? Get in touch with BrokerLink today. We are auto experts, which means that we can answer a wide range of questions, including how to tell if you need new tires. As seen above, there are many tests and inspections that can be performed to help you determine if your tires are at the end of their life. Tire maintenance is of the utmost importance if you want to ensure safe driving year-round.

As a full-service insurance brokerage, BrokerLink can help you find a car insurance policy that meets your needs. Our licensed insurance advisors are experts in all types of auto insurance, including accident benefits coverage and much more. We can also help with other tasks like renewing car insurance. Learn more about BrokerLink’s unbeatable car insurance services by reaching out today. We can be reached by phone, email, or in person at any one of our 200+ insurance offices across Canada.

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FAQs on tire replacements

How long do tires typically last?

The average lifespan for a car tire is ten years, though it ultimately varies based on the model of tire, as well as how the tire is cared for. Regular maintenance can increase the lifespan of a car tire.

How much does it cost to replace tires on your car?

The answer to this question also varies, depending on the make and model of vehicle, as well as the type of vehicle. For example, tires for SUVs or pickup trucks may be more expensive than those for sedans or minivans. For this reason, tires can set you back anywhere between $50 and $350 per tire.

Can I file a car insurance claim for tire damage?

Car insurance will not cover general wear and tire to your tires. However, if you have comprehensive insurance and your tire was damaged due to an insured peril, like theft, vandalism, fire, or water, then you can file a claim with your insurance provider, and they may issue a payout to pay for the cost of replacing or repairing the damaged tire. Find answers to common car insurance claims questions, like Can you cancel a car insurance claim? and How many car insurance claims per year?

Can I replace two tires at a time?

Experts do not recommend mixing and matching tire models. Thus, if one or two tires need to be replaced, you are likely better off replacing all four tires with the same model of tire. This will help prevent uneven tread wear and other issues, like oversteering.

What tread depth should tires be replaced?

Tires should be replaced as soon as the tread depth reaches 1/16 of an inch for all-season tires or 5/32 of an inch for winter tires.

Should I buy new tires or used tires?

The decision is yours to make, though buying used tires is typically riskier than buying new tires. Since you don’t know the whole history of the tires, such as whether they have been properly inflated and loaded in the past, you run the risk of the used tires wearing out much faster. If you are interested in purchasing used tires, we recommend having them inspected by a professional and performing several tests on them yourself. You can also ask about taking them for a test drive to check the vibration.

If you have any questions, contact one of our local branches.