Your tires see more direct wear from your driving than any other part of the car, and while they’re built to be tough and to last up to six years on the road, eventually they give up the ghost. But if you keep an eye on them and provide them with some basic TLC, you may be surprised at how long they survive. If you’ve ever wondered what are the different ways tires can wear out, here are the most common types of tire damage to look for.
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Tire treads are your best guide for tire wear. Obviously, worn surfaces are no good, but you can tell if a tire is ready to be replaced long before it goes bald. The penny test is the easiest way to see if a tire needs to be brought in for inspection. Turn a penny upside-down and stick it in the center tread. If you see any part of Lincoln’s forehead, take it in. Other forms of wear are more obvious. Look for worn spots and patterns. Your tires may be wearing out higher on the tread or sidewalls because of a problem with the axle.
Impact Breaks, Bubbles, and Bulges
If you hit debris, a curb, or a similar hard object, your tire risks an impact break. This happens when the internal frame (called the carcass) of the tire is damaged. When the cords break, air inside the tire leaks outward through the various layers before pressing against the sidewalls. If you notice a bubble after striking something, do not drive. Replace the tire with the spare and take it in to have it replaced. You could risk a blowout.
Cuts and Punctures
If you find yourself unavoidably driving over a bad stretch of road—a rocky area or the site of a recent accident before the debris is cleared—consider pulling over when the road clears. Even if the car is driving fine and the wheels still feel solid, you may have cut or punctured your tires. Cuts are just that—cuts in the tread or sidewalls. Punctures are caused by sharp objects that may remain in the tread. If you find one, change that tire and get to the shop immediately before you experience a blowout or more severe damage.
In discovering what the different ways tires can wear out are, it might surprise you that what looks bad may not be bad at all. You may notice certain marks along the sidewalls of brand-new tires. Small to medium divots like these don’t typically get much damage as a result of radial tire manufacturing. When the cords and other internal parts of the tire are joined, they can cause a slight indentation in the sidewall. But don’t worry! Unlike bulges and cracks, indentations are just a minor cosmetic issue. You may not even notice them until you look closely. Incidentally, tire blooming (or browning) is another part of the tire’s lifecycle that you don’t need to immediately worry about.