Angie’s List Report: Knowing when tires need replacing, repairing

Cooper tires on a vehicle. Photo courtesy of MGN.
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Knowing when your tires need replacing or repairing

A flat tire isn’t always as obvious and dramatic as one might think. More often than not, you’re driving down the road and feel a vibration in the steering wheel. 

Or your vehicle starts to pull to one side. Both situations are often a sign of tire trouble.

Angie Hicks — co-founder of  Angie’s List — said, “The best way to maintain your tires is to do a periodic, just visual inspection of your tires. If you see cracks on the sidewalls, it may be time to get them replaced. If you see a bulge in the side of your tire, you definitely want to get it replaced because you’re likely going to have a blowout soon.”

Your tires need to be replaced when they’re under one 16th inch of tread. And you don’t need any special equipment to check them.

“Stick a penny upside down in the top of your tire, and if you can see the top of Abe Lincoln’s head, then your tire tread is way too low and you need to replace your tires,” Angie said.

Tire expert Chris Fox says if just one or two tires need to be replaced you don’t need to buy a whole new set.  The other tires still need to be somewhat new, however.

“If you have an all-wheel-drive vehicle, if you replace one tire, there can’t be more than 5/32 of tread difference between the other three,” Fox said. “If so, it can create problems with the differential, the drive-line system.”

Just as making any other large purchase. make sure any new tires you buy really are new. Check the D.O.T. number on the sidewall. 

The last four digits indicate the week and the year that the tire was made. 

While it’s common to see new tires that are actually six to twelve months old, don’t consider anything older than that.

And it’s always best to replace all four tires at the same time if you can afford it. 

But Angie says it’s okay to patch a punctured tire as long as the hole is less than a quarter-inch wide and located on the crown of the tire — not near the edge or sidewall.

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