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How Do I Know When It’s Time to Change Tires?

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2018 Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross

When was the last time you changed your tires?

It’s easy to lose track. We all have so many things competing for our time, staying up-to-date with your tires’ condition rarely takes priority.

But if you neglect your tires, you could be putting yourself, your passengers, and other drivers on the road in danger. Research reveals illegal or faulty tires played a major part in the death or injury of more than 30 people in motorway accidents throughout 2016.

It’s vital to change car tires before they cause problems, but how do you know when it’s the right time?

Your tires have worn down to the legal limit

Tires become worn down over time, though the rate at which this occurs depends on your driving habits, the surfaces your tires make regular contact with, exposure to the elements and more.

If you keep driving on a tire which has become worn beyond the legal limit, you could receive:

If all four of your tires are worn, you may:

  • lose your licence
  • receive a fine of £10,000

So, what is the legal limit?

The tyre tread must be at least 1.6mm — anything less puts you into risky territory. If yours is close to 1.6mm, consider changing your tires as soon as possible: they can wear down sooner than you expect.

Your tires have been punctured

Punctured tires should be repaired or changed by a professional only. Ask a specialist to examine them immediately, and they’ll determine if a complete swap is required.

If one of your tires is punctured while you’re driving, pull over and check the damage. Never try to remove the foreign object (a nail, for example). If you have a spare in the back, use it for the remainder of your journey.

A specialist may be able to just repair the tire and save you the expense of a replacement, but if the tire is well worn a full change might be best.

Your tires show noticeable signs of aging

Numerous factors cause your tires to age. Temperature, storage conditions, speed, road surface, pressure and vehicle load can all cause yours to appear older than they perhaps should.

Make sure you inspect your tires regularly for telltale signs, such as:

  • cracks on the sidewalls
  • distorted tire treads
  • bulges / blisters on the surface
  • tears

Tires carry a manufacturing date on the sidewall; this four-digit number tells you the week and year of production. Be aware that tires exceeding five years of usage should be checked by a specialist at least once every 12 months.

Your tires were manufactured more than 10 years ago? Change them as soon as possible, no matter how unnecessary that might seem. Tires that have aged excessively are more likely to lose their grip.

This is particularly dangerous on wet or icy roads, and when driving fast. Blowouts become more of a risk too.

Your tires are always underinflated

Check your tire pressure regularly to stay updated on their condition. If you find you have to keep inflating them and their pressure drops sooner than it used to, your tire(s) may have a slow puncture. Bulging on just one side of the tire is further proof.

Have your tires examined and, if need be, replaced if they always appear under-inflated.

Your tire wear appears to be abnormal

If you spot signs of uneven wear on your tires, your wheels may be misaligned, your suspension could have problems, or your transmission might benefit from inspection.

Abnormal tire wear will present itself in the middle or the edges, and should be addressed right away. Your wheels may need to be balanced and aligned: if you do this soon enough, your tires could last longer and perform better.

You notice vibrations while driving

Have you noticed excessive vibrations while driving? Some is normal, but if there seems to be more than you’ve experienced in the past, your tires could be due for a change.

This may be because of internal damage causing them to spin differently, though excessive vibrations might be symptomatic of other issues, such as bad wheel alignment or suspension issues.

Take your tires to be inspected by an expert. They should be able to identify the problem and recommend either a repair or replacement.

Your tires make odd noises

One sign that it’s time to replace your tires is new sounds different to those you’ve noticed before.

Such as? Thumps, squeaks or whining noises; any of these could be indicators of a problem with your tires, so make sure to visit a professional to get their informed opinion.

Your tires could have been damaged by going over speed bumps too hard or through excessive wear. Your tires may make sounds if the tread is nearing or passing the legal limit as well, so don’t leave it too long. Ignoring odd noises could leave you facing a fine, penalty points — or worse.

Your tires are a poor match for your car

Last but not least, you need to replace your tires if they’re a bad fit for your vehicle. The size and design of your tires impacts your car’s stability and handling, so don’t underestimate the importance of getting it right.

For example, avoid mixing cross-ply and bias-belted on the same axle: you must match them. If this is impossible, invest in new tires before doing any further driving on your current setup.


Changing your tires is unavoidable at times, especially if they’re affecting your ability to drive safely. While you may resent the expense, ignoring the issue could put you and others in easily-avoidable danger.

A sudden blowout or lack of grip can cause accidents, especially in wet or icy conditions. Look out for the signs explored above to stay up-to-date on your tires’ condition.

How often do you change your tires, and why? Let us know below.

This is a collaborative article.