Inspect Your Tires Before Cold Weather Arrives – And You Won’t Need A Penny

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Now is the time to inspect your tires for safety and security. We walk you through it, tell you what you are looking for, and you won’t need a penny.

As the mild weather comes to an end and the ice, sleet, snow and cold temperatures return, it is always wise to take a good look at your tires and consider your options. You can inspect your tires yourself, almost always without any special tools or gadgets, and get a sense for whether you need new ones.

The first step is to check the tires visually for wear and tear and damage. There is a way to use a penny to determine if your remaining tread is deep enough. That’s a handy way to do the job, but every tire already has a tread wear bar built-in so that you don’t have to ask your grandmother for a penny from her change purse. We chose the new tire image above because it clearly shows where those tread wear bars are. If your tread has reached these bars, you need to replace the tires now. It’s as simple as that. If they are worn close to the bars, talk to your tire retailer or car dealer.

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On the topic of tire dealers, if you use a good one, they will be inspecting your tires every time you come in for service. Most use a form like the one above that indicates if your tires are in the green (all set), yellow (consider replacing soon) or red (time to replace now). The technician uses a tread gauge to measure your tread and will indicate how much is measured. The color codes help keep things simple. 

Next, we will look for uneven wear. The tires should be about the same level of worn all across the surface. If the tire is wearing like the one shown above, you have an alignment problem. Alignment is not a big deal usually. Budget about $150 for that when you get your tires replaced.

Next look for any cracks in the sidewall or on or between the treads. Our example above is extreme but helps to illustrate both types of problems. If your tires have these signs of sidwall cracks or splitting in the tread area, replace them now.

Sidewall bubbles are signs of damage from hitting potholes or road imperfections. A tire with a bubble should always be replaced.

Once you have inspected your tires, it makes good sense to check the pressure. Your pressure will be reduced by about 1 pound for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit of temperature drop, so check them again on the first very cold day. The correct pressure to set them to is NOT the “Maximum” shown on the tire. Rather, it is printed on a label on your driver’s side door jam. Why not also check you compact spare if you have one? It has a much higher pressure setting.

How do you know what pressure is in the tires? Simple in most cases. Many modern cars have a menu you can view on your car’s infotainment or trip information screen. Check if yours does in your manual, or ask your dealer to show you to access the menu.

If you don’t have a car that displays the pressure, simply buy a tire pressure gauge from a local shop or online. All of the ones above work great.

Checking your pressure is easy. You simply press the gauge’s business end against the valve. You will need to unscrew the valve cap before you do that. Watch that cap, those little devils always want to roll under the car if they are dropped.

If you need tires, we always like to suggest a local tire specialist shop that primarily sells tires. Check out their reviews online and find a good one. If you like your dealer, they may be able to help you out as well. Some more detailed stories that you may find helpful are shown below: