Every mile, the average car tire rotates about 1,000 times, depending on its overall diameter. Every rotation, car tires leave just a little bit of rubber behind, gradually wearing down the tire treads. Eventually, car tires that started with 12/32” of tread depth will slough off all that “extra” rubber and you’ll end up with “bald tires.”
Now, considering that NASCAR and drag races are run with slick tires, basically tires with no tread, it might seem logical that your plain-Jane commuter car tires can, too. Unfortunately, there are serious consequences running bald tires, not the least of which are legal requirements you keep your vehicle safe, but why have a legal requirement at all?
The simple fact is that, unlike NASCAR racers, commuter cars and other vehicles do not travel on controlled surfaces. In a single day, you might run across dry concrete, wet asphalt, steel grates, puddles, gravel, mud, and debris, none of which a bald tire can handle safely. Legally, a bald tire is defined as having tread depth under 2/32”, and most tire shops recommend replacing tires once they hit 4/32” in Summer or 6/32” in Winter. What are the consequences of ignoring these legal requirements and suggestions?
- Hydroplaning – Tire tread grooves are specifically designed to channel water away from the center of the tire, but tread depth under 4/32” leaves little room for water movement. This significantly increases the chances of hydroplaning and loss of vehicle control. Under 2/32”, your vehicle may hydroplane even on “wet” surfaces, not even standing water.
- Traction – Tires are not made from a single kind of rubber, but use different compounds in different parts of the tire. The “sticky” traction surface compound is far different from the underlying body of the tire. If you’ve worn the tread past 2/32”, the tire carcass offers almost no traction, made of a less “sticky” rubber. Even on dry surfaces, you’ll find it difficult to accelerate, brake, and corner without slipping.
- Overheating – A little bit of friction is a good thing, because that’s what keeps your tires from sliding all over the place, but with friction comes heat. As tread depth wanes, contact patch increases, increasing friction and increasing heat. Unable to dissipate the excess heat, your bald tires are setting up for a driver’s worst nightmare – a tire blowout. Tire blowouts are caused by overheating and melting, which can be caused by tire underinflation or by insufficient tire tread.
Clearly, driving on bald tires is dangerous, which is why the law requires you replace them before they become unsafe. Many do not realize that balding tires can be a huge deal. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that tire failure annually causes over 10,000 car crashes, nearly 20,000 injuries, and over 700 fatalities. If you are in a crash, and bald tires are found to be a factor, you may face fines or jail time for failing to maintain a safe vehicle. The moral of the story is simple. Keep your car safe by following these three simple steps:
- Check and adjust tire pressure, at least every two weeks, to maintain traction and prevent abnormal wear.
- Check tire tread depth, every 1,000 miles or monthly, and replace them when they reach 4/32”.
- Rotate tires, every 5,000 to 7,500 miles or six months, to distribute wear patterns and help your tires last longer.
If you have noticed that your tires are wearing down, be sure to consult Performance Plus Tire for all of your tire needs. Replace your tires before they become both a safety and legal liability. Buy your tires online.