Bald is Not Beautiful When it Comes to Your Tires Tread
No matter where you live, or what time of the year it happens to be, there is always the potential for inclement weather. Any time it rains or snows and you get behind the wheel of your car, you can be faced with driving risks. Depending on road conditions and your driving speed, stopping on wet roads can take up to four times the normal distance. And if your tires are worn … they can hydroplane, or skim over the surface of the road with little or no traction.
Unfortunately, there are more people than you may realize who are sharing the road while driving on worn tires. Recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted a study of 11,500 cars, pickup trucks, vans, and sport-utility vehicles and found that nearly 50% had at least one tire with half-worn tread wear. Another 10% had at least one bald tire.
Worn tires, especially bald ones, can be deadly on wet roads, where the grooves aren’t deep enough to channel water out from beneath the tread. The result is hydroplaning, where the tread wear allow the tire to skim the water’s surface and the vehicle no longer responds to the steering wheel. Wet weather braking and snow traction also decrease with tread wear on balder tires.
Industry advocates like the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) remind drivers to check their vehicle’s tires as part of regular seasonal maintenance. According to RMA research, two out of three drivers don’t know how to tell if their tires are bald.
The accepted standard for tires to be considered bald is when one or more of their grooves reach 2/32 of an inch deep, compared with about 10/32 of an inch for new tires. FYI – tire tread wear is usually measured in 1/32-inch increments. To make bald tires easier for owners to spot, manufacturers have placed a series of molded horizontal bars at the base of the grooves. As the tire treads wears away the bars become flush with surrounding tread when the groove’s depth reaches 2/32 of an inch.
Traditional tread condition has been easily checked with a Lincoln penny. Placing the penny upside down within the tread, if you saw the top of Lincoln’s head, the tire needed to be replaced. However, testing shows that you should consider changing tires sooner. There is quite a dramatic difference between the stopping distance of a tire with 2/32- inch of tread compared to 4/32. Using a quarter will help you quickly find out if you have 4/32- inch of tread left. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s wig, then it is time to get new tires.
Since tire tread provides the gripping action and traction to prevent a vehicle from slipping and sliding, a tire is not safe and should be replaced when the tread is worn down to 1/16th of an inch. Not only is it extremely important for your driving safety to ensure that your tires have ample tread, but it’s also very important to make sure your tires are properly inflated. It can’t be stressed enough … if you drive on tires that are bald or substantially under-inflated you risk injury, or worse, to you, your passengers, and other drivers on the road.
It’s important to understand the risks you face as a driver when driving in challenging weather conditions and the affect worn tires can have.
Winter Grip Slips On Worn Tires
Deep grooves and an array of small slits, known as “sipes,” help new tires bite into snow. Shallower tread and worn-away sipes reduce snow grip, affecting traction on acceleration and overall braking performance.
Summer Rain and Hydroplaning Starts Sooner As Your Tread Wears Away
Common sense should tell you that the faster you drive on wet pavement, the greater the risk of hydroplaning. Simply put, higher speeds allow less time for water to escape through the tread grooves. Shallower tread worsens that situation by allowing more water to stay beneath the tire.
Less Tread = Longer Wet-Weather Stops
Reduced wet-weather braking can be even more dangerous than hydroplaning. Compared with new tires, well-worn tires take much longer to stop, even on vehicles equipped with antilock braking systems.
To better protect motorists, the NHTSA has launched a tire safety campaign called: “Tire Safety: Everything Rides on It.” Through ads, brochures and radio ads, the campaign advises car owners to check their tires monthly, as well as prior to a long trip, to be sure they have safe tread wear, and will stress the importance of proper tire inflation and vehicle load limits.