Driving on worn out, thin tires is a big risk, but many people simply don’t know that they have a problem in the first place. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says that drivers are three times more likely to be involved in an accident if their tires are underinflated (often due to worn tires) by 25% or more. Considering this, it’s essential to know when to replace your tires to minimize risks to you and your family. Here are things to consider:
Take a Look at Your Tires
A good place to start is with a look at your tires themselves. The U.S. Department of Transportation has a Tire Identification Number present on the exterior sidewalls of your tires. If those tires were sold in the United States, they will have this elevated stamp on them. This is a standardized method of branding and provides important information about the tire. For example, the stamp can help to tell regulators about potential recalls concerns or safety standards for the brand.
You’ll find the key number located right after the three-letters DOT. The number will range between 8 and 13 characters. With this information, it is possible to identify key information about the tire including who the manufacturer is, where it was made, the size of the tire, and the age of the tire. This number identifies the batch of tires produced at that time.
Why should you care? Whether you are shopping for new tires or just looking at your current tires, this information is important. Often times, car manufacturers overseas will not intend for vehicles to be imported overseas. And, they do not test their tires against the usually more stringent requirements in the U.S. As a result, they will not have the proper labeling on the tire. If you see the letters DOT, do not assume the tire is approved by the Department of Transportation unless the following set of letters and numbers ranges from 8 to 13 characters.
You can use the information provided to you from a search of your DOT number and letter combination to determine who the manufacturer is and also the right time to replace your tires.
Keep these tips in mind as you consider when to change or replace your tires:
- Check the tread depth of the tires. Look for new tires if the tread depth is 4/32” or lower.
- Your tires should still have some level of all-weather grip still in place. If this is worn, replace them right away.
- If there are holes or punctures (even those that have been repaired), it may be time to replace the tires.