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Should You Replace Old Tires Even If They Have Tread Left?

Let’s say you’re interested in buying a car that has old tires, but they still have a lot of tread left. Or maybe you don’t drive much, and your car’s tires are getting old but don’t look very worn. Should you replace those older tires even if they have a lot of tread remaining? Or is it acceptable to use an aging tire until its tread is worn out? We have the answer.

It’s Not All About Tread

We suspect you wouldn’t be asking this question unless you had some inkling that replacing a car’s aging tires is the right thing to do, even if they still have some tread left. And indeed, old and worn tires can pose a serious safety hazard, even if their tread depth is still excellent.

There are several reasons why. One is dry rot, which is the primary issue that afflicts tires when they sit while a car doesn’t get used very much. Dry rot is exactly as it sounds: Tires start to degrade and rot over time, causing the rubber to lose its flexibility and crack. Dry rot is a serious problem that can potentially be even more hazardous than worn tread, as it can cause issues such as lack of functionality and tread separation.

Old tires can also develop flat spots. If a tire has been sitting on a car that hasn’t moved in a while — months, for example — it can cause permanent flat spots in the tire (from where the car was sitting) that could dramatically diminish safety and ride comfort.

How Old Are They?

But don’t worry: Everyone has a different definition of “old,” and your concern for your tires might be unfounded. Three things play a major role in a tire’s aging — time, climate and storage. If a car is stored while sitting on its tires for months at a time, flat spots could develop — and that means it’s time to get the tires replaced. If a car is used in a hot, dry climate and rarely driven, dry rot is more likely. And if your tires haven’t been replaced in at least 4 years or longer, it’s probably time to consider a new set.

With that said, all cars, tires and storage situations are different, so it’s worth checking with a mechanic to confirm a tire’s state if you’re concerned. Or you could go a different route: If you have any worries about the safety of your old tires, simply replace them. Tires are a very important part of a vehicle’s performance and safety — and when it comes to tires, it’s certainly better to be safe than sorry.

Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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