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As the seasons change, especially from Summer to Winter, we must remember to prepare our vehicles for the sake of safety. Driving all summer on road trips on questionable roads can be a detriment to your tires and tread. While the seasons are still transitioning, make sure to check up on your tires so you’ll have optimal traction when you need it most. These are the five points of inspection for your tires.  

1. Tread

First things first, checking the tread on your tire. Tire tread is important because the channels allow water to pass through. This prevents hydroplaning and gives your tires better grip on the road. Street tires, likely the tires on your vehicle of choice, have wear limit indicators that are small raised bridges within the grooves of the tire. When the tire is low enough that the indicators contact the road, it means the tire is done. However, you shouldn’t wait until the tires are bald because, as you lose tread, you lose traction.  

Most countries have tire tread laws to make sure everyone is driving safely. In Ontario, motor vehicle safety laws require the driver to change the tires when the tread is no less than 1.5 mm deep, or when the indicators touch the road. Vehicles that weigh more than 4,500 kilograms must replace their front tires when their tread is no less than 3 mm deep.  

An easy way to spot check tread depth is to stick a nickel between treads with Queen Elizabeth’s crown facing down. If the top of her crown is visible, then the tire is below 1.6 mm and should be replaced. Note, tires don’t wear evenly so be sure to insert the coin in various points on each tire. Tires wear more on the inside but if your tires are over inflated then they will wear more in the middle. 

2. Age

Even if your tire treads aren’t worn down, you still should be wary of how old the tires are. Most manufacturers recommend changing tires every six years, though the tires should never be older than ten years. If you’re buying a used vehicle and don’t know how long the tires have been on the vehicle, you can check the age by checking the ID number on the sidewall of the tire. The ID begins with “DOT” and the last four digits are the week and year the tire was made. Old tires don’t have the same road grip that new tires do and are prone to cracking and could unexpectedly fail while you’re driving. Note: This tire shown was made in the 26th week of 2013. 

 

3. Wear & Tear

Next after checking the tread, check the tires for any inconsistencies. This will look like bumps, bulges, knots or exposed cord or tread. If you see any of these on your tires, you should replace your tires immediately. The tire shown was not rotated and got uneven wear on the interior.

4. Tire Pressure

Now, after checking the tread, it is time to check the tire pressure. Most new cars have a tire pressure monitor built into the vehicle to tell the driver when and which tire is low. However, if you own an older vehicle, you’ll have to check manually. You can usually buy a pressure monitor gauge at gas stations or a grocery store for pretty cheap. I always recommend keeping one in your car to make sure you can check the tire pressure whenever.  

To check the pressure, simply insert the valve stem into the gauge while your tires are “cold”, either before driving or at least 3 hours after driving. The ruler at the end of the gauge should shoot out and stop at the pressure of the tire. Refer to the driver’s manual to check how much pressure should be in your vehicle’s tires. If the pressure is low, you can fill up your tires at a gas station. Gas stations usually have an air compressor that you can use for free or for a few cents. After filling up your tires, check them again in a day or two to make sure you don’t have a leak. If you find that you do have a leak, take your vehicle to a mechanic immediately. 

5. Seasonal Tires

When replacing your tires for the season, winter and all-weather tires aren’t required by law however, they do help with traction during the winter months. It’s recommended to use 4 winter or all-weather tires. Though if you’re only using two winter tires, they must be installed in the rear of the vehicle despite the drivetrain your vehicle has. Winter or all-weather tires on the rear axle helps for stability in turn and in braking; no matter if your vehicle is FWD or RWD. If you live in northern Ontario, you can legally use studded tires which offer better grip in icy conditions, particularly wet ice.  

Even if you don’t have studded tires, you should consider changing your tires for the season. Studies have shown that winter tires perform better than all-season tires in the winter. This is due to their rubber composition and structure. Winter tires are made from a different rubber that stays flexible in colder temperatures and has a different type of tread that is more effective in snow and ice. 

Despite what season it is, always check your tires and make sure they’re up to snuff. Tires are the most important parts on a vehicle and should be maintained properly so your vehicle can live longer. Tires are also some of the best safety features on a vehicle, providing traction and grip when and where you need it most. If you take your vehicle to regular maintenance, then you should have very little to worry about. As they say in the industry, love your vehicle so it will love you back. 

Credit: Edmunds.com, Lesschwab.com