Worn Tires v. New Tires: The Difference Isn’t Always Clear

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Once you decide it’s time to buy new tires, there’s lots of information out there about how to choose the perfect tires for your vehicle, but what you can’t find is information about how those tires perform over time. The second you drive away the tires start to wear, so all the data you have quickly becomes irrelevant.

Everyone knows it’s not safe to drive with worn-out tires. If the treads are too low, then you lose traction and that’s when you run into trouble. A worn-out tire makes a car more likely to slide whether it’s snow, rain, or even ideal road conditions, which is why it’s important to regularly check the condition of your tires.

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Once the tire tread reaches 2/32 inches of depth, it’s considered unsafe and it’s time for a replacement. You might think that’s all there is to the story. When the old tires wear out, put new ones on and you’re in better shape, right? Well, maybe.

Since all the data about tires looks at how they perform when they’re new, there’s not much data about how they perform throughout their useful life. Getting to the point where they’re worn out is a slow process that starts the moment you drive away from the shop. Depending on how you drive, road conditions, and the vehicle you drive, even the same tire may wear differently for different people.

The assumption is that any new tire is better than an old one that’s reaching the end of its useful life, but that’s not always the case. It is possible to get a new tire that doesn’t perform as well. This sounds wrong, but Michelin is taking a closer look at the issue of worn tires and has surprising results.

It compared wet stopping distances on tires that were new, in the middle of their useful lives, and at the end of their lives. The results from these tests were all over the map.

Even buying an expensive tire with a good stopping distance at the start that beats other tires doesn’t ensure it’s going to maintain that edge until the end of its life. On the flip side, even when the tread depth is still okay, a tire that doesn’t maintain its performance as it wears might need to be replaced before the tread depth is considered unsafe.

So, how do you know if you’re actually improving your situation when you buy new tires and when they really need to be replaced? Right now, it’s difficult because tire makers don’t release comprehensive data on how their tires perform throughout their lives. Michelin hopes to change this and is encouraging the industry to test new and worn tires and release the data to the public.

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Until tire makers start releasing worn tire data, you don’t have a way of knowing how well your tires will wear over time. The folks at Michelin encourage you to ask the professionals installing your tires about tire wear. They see worn tires all the time and have informed opinions about tire wear.

Michelin’s hope is to bring more attention to the issue. If this issue concerns you, and it should because tires are important for your safety on the road, then voice your opinion. Tell dealers, tire shops, and government officials you want more detailed information about how tires wear.

It’s time for tire companies to share the full story on worn tires so consumers can make more informed buying decisions.