- Helping you drive happy

2013 Winter Tires : Checking for wear

Age and mileage are what do tires in. If we were all well organized, we'd probably only have to sift through our "car bill" folder and find the exact date, but we're clearly not.

What we can easily do is inspect the tires for treadwear. Nothing could be simpler than performing this check on our own. It's certainly easier than maintaining a folder full of bills in order...

Treadwear markers
The easiest and quickest way to get a sense of your tire's wear is by looking closely at the built-in treadwear indicators located between the blocks, inside the grooves. These small bumps or bars stick out above the very bottom of the groove. You can run your finger along the inside of the groove and you'll eventually find one; if you can't find them, better to dump the tires and not waste any more of your time.

A trick to remember: When the treadwear indicator is flush with the remainder of the tire's tread it's time for new rubber.

The Canadian way to test treadwear
Most of the time, old tricks no longer work in these times of iPads and wireless television. One exception to the rule is the quarter test.

Take a Canadian quarter, rotate the caribou's head until it faces down towards the inside of the groove. If you can still see the guy's nose, time to move on and get new tires. In practical terms, this means that the tread depth has fallen bellow 6/32 of an inch. Nothing prevents you from using the tires, but expect adherence and grip to drop off severely before winter's up.

In this scenario, be mindful of the distance you plan to travel. As well, not all tires wear at the same rate. We've all heard of some winter tires practically melting after only a season. We're also about helping you out with your next tire purchases. Check out our recommendations for both cars and CUV/Minivan/small SUV.

We've touched on this in the past, but here are the most important points to remember:

Tire pressure
Keeping your tires properly inflated not only reduces wear, but may also improve fuel consumption.

If you install your tires on your own, make sure the pressure is good before the install. The garage will do the same. Ideally, a few weeks down the line, bending over and checking where the pressure's at would be an excellent idea especially as tire pressure drops with ambient temperature. Filling tires with nitrogen is one way to slow the effects of the cold weather.

If you're not sure what your vehicle's recommended tire pressure is, it can be found in the owner's manual, on a label behind the gas or driver's door.

Rotation, balancing and alignment
The next best piece of advice to stretch your tire's life is via regular rotations. Every time the wheel/tire combos are installed -- or just the tires alone -- they should be installed in a different position on the car. Depending on the type of tire, directional for example, they can only be switched front to rear and not side-to-side. This information is located on the tire's sidewall.

Tire balancing should also be done on a regular basis or roughly every 10,000 km. If you get both your winter and summer tires mounted on the same wheels, you've nothing to worry about. If the winter tires are mounted on different wheels, it would be wise to get them checked every two seasons or if you hit a curb (by accident, of course).

An alignment every few years will also help extend the life of all your tires. Every few years should do it unless you begin to feel something off in the way your vehicle drives, such as pulling from one side to the other.

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