The Garage Tires

How Long Do Tires Last and When Should I Replace Them?

Unlike microplastics in the ocean, tires do not last forever.
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A car is one big, intricate assembly of parts that will eventually fail. That much is true. It’s up to the owner to inspect and maintain the vehicle to ensure these parts are either serviced or replaced before they create unsafe situations. One of the biggest priorities is a car’s tires, so it’s crucial to know just how long they last.

As the sole connection between the ground and the car, a tire takes on a lot of responsibility. It provides grip, stability, comfort, and protection, among other things. With that pressure comes a bunch of outside forces that are constantly wearing on tires, breaking them down. Weather, road conditions, and age degrade the rubbers, chemicals, and plastics that make up a tire. 

Just how long that degradation takes is different from case to case, but there are a few general rules to follow. Most normal car tires last anywhere between 45,000 and 60,000 miles but that’s not a hard rule. There are so many factors to consider, which is why this question requires a deeper dig to really solve.

Tires come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and designs.
An assortment of tires., Deposit Photos

How Long Do Tires Last? 

The longevity of each tire will be different depending on the design and numerous wear-and-tear factors. Manufacturers and service companies suggest general mileage limits to help prevent driving on unsafe rubber. Given that most drivers put 12,000-15,000 miles per year on their car, and tires usually hold up for 45,000-60,000 miles, tires typically last anywhere between three and five years.

To get a more precise answer, it’s best to check your specific tires’ guidelines. Tires vary wildly in composition, with some using softer rubber for better grip and others using harder rubber as well as more ply to shoulder heavy loads or simply last longer. By looking up your specific make and model’s life expectancy, you’ll have a better idea of how long they’ll last. And if they’re wearing quicker than the manufacturer says they should, there’s a chance something is wrong with your vehicle’s alignment.

Discount Tire suggests replacing tires, regardless of the tread depth, after six years of use.

How Old Are Your Tires?

The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) requires that all tires must list the month and year the tires were produced on the sidewall. On tires made in 2000 or later, this can be found in the last four digits of the Tire Identification Number. Of those four digits, the first two convey the month and the last two convey the year. For example, a tire that reads DOT U2LL LMLR 3209 means it was made in the 32nd week of 2009.

Before 2000, three digits were used, with the first two digits translating to the month and the last digit marking the year.

What Are Tires Made Of?

Michelin states that a tire’s ingredient list features more than 200 raw materials. The main components include elastomers such as synthetic and natural rubber, reinforcing fillers such as carbon black and silica, plasticizers such as oils and resins, chemicals such as sulfur, and reinforcements such as steel and textile fabrics. Here’s the breakdown of the major parts of an average radial tire:

Inner liner

An innertube made of synthetic rubber that maintains the air pressure

Carcass ply

Thin textile cords affixed to rubber that provide structure and support 

Lower bead area

Located at the exterior “edges,” this is where the tire holds onto the wheel when rolling over the ground

Beads

Each wheel features two beads, or circular metal wires, that maintain an airtight fit with the rim of the wheel and keep the tire seated

Sidewall

The outside-facing section of tire that protects it from curbs and other damaging exterior forces

Casing ply

Providing a majority of the strength of the tire, the casing ply is made of up a bunch of tiny metal cords

Cap ply

What Michelin also calls the “zero degree belt,” the cap ply is made of rubber-covered reinforced nylon cords and maintains the tire’s shape while reducing heat 

Crown plies

The structural base of the tread

Tread

The tread is the pattern seen on the flat outside portion of the tire. In addition to this part of the rubber creating flash chemical bonds with the ground, the tread helps push away moisture and dirt from the surface of the tire. The tread is responsible for traction and grip, and without it, the tire can become slippery and unsafe.

Tire Tread Gauge
A tire tread gauge., Deposit Photos

Tire Health Checklist

A lot can go wrong with a tire, so it’s important to constantly check that it’s up to snuff. Look for and be aware of these factors when examining the health of your tires: 

Pressure

Measured in pounds per square inch (PSI), this refers to the air pressure inside the tires.

Tread depth

This refers to how deep the patterned exterior ridges of the tire are.

Punctures

Check for anything that has penetrated the tire and innertube that could cause air to leak out.

Cracks/dry-rotting

Look for cracks or splits in the tire. If found, the tire is not safe for driving and should be replaced immediately. 

Over/under inflation

Inflating a tire with too much or too little air will cause uneven tread wear and will detract from its full performance capabilities.

Balance

The mass distribution of tires needs to be even and balanced in order to function properly.

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It's important to check your tire's air pressure at least once a week.
Checking air pressure., Deposit Photos

Video

Reading will only take you so far. It helps to have someone actually show you how to do things. That’s why we’ve attached this video by 1A Auto. It covers how to measure tread depth with both a dedicated tool and a penny. Remember that tread depth is only part of the story, though. As you check it, look for cracking, severe wear, and other signs of damage.