Tires are one of the more expensive general maintenance items your vehicle has, and new tires can cost you up to thousands of dollars. When you’re shopping for tires, it’s fair to ask, “how long will these tires last?” The last thing you want to do is purchase new tires for your vehicle every single year or every 15,000 miles. As we explained in our guide on UTQG ratings, the treadwear rating of a tire isn’t really an accurate indicator of how long a tire will last.
Generally, the best way to get an estimate of how long a tire is supposed to last is to look at its mileage warranty. This won’t be 100% accurate however, as there are many factors that impact your tread life. First, we’ll discuss those factors and then we’ll offer some tips on how to get the full life out of your tires. Before we jump into that, we always advise getting new tires when the tread depth has reached between 2/32″ to 4/32″ for passenger cars. If you have light truck tires, they should be replaced when the tread depth measures 6/32″. Legally, most states will require 2/32″ of depth, while some states, like California, require 1/32″.
Factors that affect tread life
There are some general factors that affect all tires, regardless of whether they’re all-season, performance summer, or winter tires. Obviously, not all tires are created equally and some will naturally wear quicker than others. Putting that aside for the time being, here are the factors you should consider that impact your tire’s tread life expectancy.
Road hazards and road condition
The general condition of the roads you drive on can affect the life of your tires. Road hazards such as potholes or driving on unpaved roads can reduce your tire’s life. Even roads that have been coated in salt or de-icer can cause your tires to degrade quicker than expected, even with winter tires. While it can be difficult to avoid driving on those roads if you have no choice, it’s important to know how they affect your tires. If you’re unable to avoid it, make sure to schedule routine checks on your alignment, suspension, and tires.
This may be the least surprising factor, but how you drive plays an important role on how quickly your tires wear out. “Spirited driving” as we like to call it, can reduce the tread on your tires at a faster rate, which is why racing on the track can get expensive. If you want to get the most out of your tires, avoid hard cornering, quick acceleration, and sudden braking.
Vehicle weight can vary significantly, even with conventional passenger cars like coupes and sedans. An all-electric sedan like the Tesla Model 3 will weigh nearly 2,000 pounds more than a compact Fiat 500. Heavier cars can cause tires to wear out faster. Performance impacts tread life as well, as vehicles with more torque — again, like battery-electric vehicles — will have reduced tire life depending on how you drive.
There’s a good reason why you should have a dedicated set of winter tires if you experience snow or ice. Driving on performance or summer tires in the cold can reduce their life. The same goes with driving on winter tires in the heat. If you experience extreme temperatures, make sure you have the right tires otherwise you’ll be getting a new set much sooner than expected.
It’s often overlooked by many car owners, but you need to performance general maintenance on your tires too. That includes driving with proper tire pressure, rotating your tires, and making sure your vehicle’s alignment is within manufacturer’s recommended specifications.
How to maximize your tire’s life
Now that you know several factors that can affect your tire’s tread life, it’s time to gain some knowledge on how to ensure you get the most out of your tires. For starters, get in the habit of regularly checking your tire pressure. You can learn more on the impact of driving on underinflated or overinflated tires here. Our next tip is to avoid aggressive driving. That means accelerating just a bit slower from those red lights, slowing before sharp corners, and stopping a bit earlier so you don’t have to jam hard on the brakes. There’s a noticeable difference in tread life when you don’t drive aggressively.
As we mentioned just above, general maintenance is really important for the life of your tires. Find a local tire shop you can trust and schedule routine alignment and suspension checks to go with rotating your tires every 5,000 miles or so.