It’s a tale as old as time or, more accurately, since inflatable automobile tires were first patented in 1845: how often do I really need to change my tires? We’re not ashamed to admit that we have googled this question a hundred times in our 52 collective years of owning cars and SUVs. The answers were always wide-ranging and unclear, so we did some research to answer this question once and for all.
On average, tires should be changed every 40,000 miles or every six years, whichever comes first. More importantly, tires should be visually inspected at least once a month, if not more.
Yes, there’s a lot of information that contains different claims. For example, some tires claim they can last up to 10 years; others say they are rated for 60,000. Why the wide-ranging discrepancy? Because when it comes to figuring out exactly how often you should change your tires, there’s a lot of information beneath the surface that you should know. Let’s take a look at some of the most important information regarding how long your tires will last and when to replace your tires.
Why Changing Tires is Important
Before diving into the various numbers that complicate matters, it’s important to know why changing your tires at regular intervals is important. Thankfully, the answer to this one is easy: safety.
There are other answers, of course – well-maintained tires increase fuel efficiency; they make for a more comfortable ride; and they look nicer and last longer. But as two Dads who regularly carry the most previous cargo on Earth in our vehicles, the most important answer for why it’s important to inspect and change your tires regularly is this: tires are about safety. In fact, about 10% of all vehicle crashes are tire-related, causing more than 700 deaths each year, making it all the more important to take tire health seriously.
In many ways, tires are indiscriminate in that they don’t care how fancy, expensive or modified (I think the young kids say “mod” now) your vehicle is. Tires don’t care if your car is new or old, gas or electric, convertible or camper, pristine or filthy. But the one thing all vehicles have in common is that tires are the only thing keeping your vehicle in contact with the ground, so it’s worth inspecting them regularly and changing them as appropriate.
Making Sense of all the Tire Numbers on the Internet
Judging the overall health of your tires is a balance of miles, usage, condition, age, tread and quality. But when you factor all of those together, it’s pretty impossible to discern a clear answer for the best time to change your tires. Here are some of the stats used to determine your tires’ lifespans and the commonly held beliefs and recommendations for each category:
The average driver drives between 12,000 and 15,000 a year. So in four years you’ve added between 48,000 to 60,000 miles to your tires. So 48,000 is a bit past when you should change most tires, but it’s two years earlier than the six year recommendation that some places (e.g. other websites; manufacturers; garages) suggest – so which number are we supposed to believe if we want to keep our families safe?
We were confused and frustrated too. Things just don’t add up if you look haphazardly across the Internet, which is one of the many compelling reasons why we created TireTrend.com.
The reality is that overall tire health is product of all of these factors, but that doesn’t mean that consumers need to know all of the ins and outs when deciding when to change your tires. There is a common benchmark that works best for most consumers – tires should be changed every 40,000 miles or every six years, whichever comes first – but the most important action you can take to judge the the health of your tires is to inspect them regularly. Here’s some advice of what to look for when inspecting your tires.
Inspect them to Know How Often Should I Change Tires
The easiest way to know when it’s time to change a tire or tires is by looking at them with your eyes. Yes, it’s that simple. No fancy gizmos or technology is needed. Most attention should be paid to the tread (more on that below), but even a quick glance at the walls of your four tires courtesy of a simple walk around your vehicle can help spot a problem. Basically, if something seems out of whack, get it checked out. If the tire seems flat; the color of the tire has changed overall or in a spot; a bulge is present; or – of course – if something is sticking out of the tire, it’s time to seek professional help, and quick.
Now, some people can’t help but throw money at a problem (hello Washington and our wives!). If you truly want to spend a bit of hard earned dough at helping you inspect your tires, start with 25 cents. Here’s why: a quarter is an excellent judge of your tires tread, and your tread is a pretty good (though not foolproof) judge of a tire’s overall health.
If the tread is covering any parts of George Washington’s head, you’re in the clear. If the tread is flush with ol’ George’s bald scalp, it means you have about 4/32nds of an inch left, which means it’s time to start shopping around for new tires. If you can see any air between President Washington’s head and your tire, it’s time to get new tires installed.
This test used to be done with a penny whereby if you could see Abraham Lincoln’s head it was time to change your tires. Both coins work, though the quarter makes it a bit easier to see against a tire and likely may be a bit easier to find.
The other quick and easy test you should perform regularly is a check of the PSI (pounds (of air pressure) per square inch). You can do this easily with a tire pressure gauge. They range anywhere from $6 to $15 bucks, and we reviewed the best tire gauges for your car and garage. The recommended PSI for your tire and vehicle can be found either on the side of the tire itself or by opening the driver side door and looking on the inside of the vehicle frame.
By doing both of these inspections regularly, you’ll not only head off potential disasters, but you’ll quickly recoup the cost of both the quarter and the PSI gauge (and then some) – the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration estimates that you can save up to 11 cents per gallon by keeping your tires properly inflated.
Now you Know How Often You Should Change Your Tires
You’re now an expert on when to change your tires, what to look for to determine when it’s time to change your tires, and why it is important to regularly inspect your tires. All told, inspecting your tires takes less than a minute when doing a quick walk around and visually inspect your four tires, and less than five minutes to do an at-home-analysis of your tires with a quarter and PSI gauge. Most men spend longer in the bathroom (ok, this stat is not cited and remains disputable but our wives swear its true).
Do yourself, your family, and your wallet a favor and keep your tires in good health by inspecting them regularly and changing them when needed. And, when in doubt, talk to a professional – yes, they have a self-interest in selling you new tires, but most legitimate places will not only inspect your tires for free but also show you exactly what they think may be cause for concern before asking you to cough up any money.