How Old is Too Old for Your Car Tyres?

Jack Dreyer | Wednesday 31st January 2024 9:00am

Technician running finger through tread pattern of a tyre.

Your car tyres are essential when it comes to keeping you safe on the roads. So, it pays to make sure they donít get too tired and worn. But exactly how old is too old when it comes to these vital pieces of kit? Read on to find out what the Kwik Fit team have to say.

Most car tyres start off with 8mm of tread and, when they are fitted to the front axle, this should last for approximately 20,000 miles. As you clock up the miles in your car, your tyre tread gradually wears down until eventually - if you leave it too long - it becomes unsafe and potentially even illegal. Tyres can deteriorate in other ways too. For example, their sidewalls can start to crack over time, increasing the risk of tyre failure.

Unfortunately, you canít tell if your tyres are roadworthy simply by knowing their age or how many miles theyíve travelled. A whole range of factors impacts on their longevity. If you want to know how long you can expect your tyres to last - and be able to pick up on problems that could mean they need to be replaced - itís useful to ask yourself the following questions.

What sort of tyres do you have?

Not all tyres are created equal. Some are premium, others arenít. These motoring must-haves are designed to meet a lot of different - and in some cases conflicting - needs. For example, models that are made from harder compounds are designed for a longer life. However, these tyres tend to be noisier. In contrast, models made from softer compounds donít tend to last as long but they can give a quieter, smoother ride.

The type of tyres you have will therefore impact on how long you can expect them to last. Itís worth noting that original (first fit) tyres often last longer than replacements.

Do you drive aggressively?

The way you drive will also have an impact on your tyre health. For example, if you tend to corner and brake aggressively, you can expect to wear your tyres out more quickly. Frequently driving at high speeds, which causes your tyres to become hotter, will also increase the rate of wear.

In addition, if you often carry heavy loads in your vehicle, your tyres will deteriorate sooner.

Do you take steps to look after your tyres?

There are things you can do to care for your tyres that will make them last longer. One of these is to ensure that they are always correctly inflated, wheel alignment and your suspension system.

Person putting air into tyres.

Tyre pressure

Itís important to ensure that your tyres are always correctly inflated. Under-inflated tyres can lead to:

  • Tyre treads eroding at a quicker rate causing a reduction in grip
  • A negative impact on vehicle handling
  • Objects like nails and glass getting stuck in the tyre increasing the chances of a puncture
  • The rubber flexing more, causing greater damage to the side walls

On the other hand, if your tyres are over-inflated, they are more likely to suffer from tyre blowout due to their rigidness. Over-inflation makes potholes and other debris on the road more hazardous and can cause excessive wear to the centre of the tyre.

To find out what your ideal tyre pressures should be, check your vehicleís fuel cap or inside the driver door. Tyre pressure readings are more accurate when your tyres are cold so it's a good idea to check your tyres before you set off on a long journey.

You can check your tyre pressures using a tyre pressure gauge. To do this, remove the tyreís valve dust cover and attach the air hose. The hose automatically measures the tyre pressure for you. If youíre under or over inflated, expel or top up the air until the tyres are at the correct pressure.

Regularly checking your pressures is particularly important if you are planning to add a large amount of additional weight to your vehicle which puts even greater stress on your tyres.

Wheel alignment and suspension system

Pay attention to wheel alignment and your suspension system as well. Tyres wear more unevenly and quickly if there is a problem with the alignment of your wheels, or if components of your suspension system (such as your shock absorbers) arenít functioning properly.

What are the tell-tale signs of ageing?

Tyres generally wear out before they become dangerous due to ageing, but itís worth being aware of the signs of damage caused by exposure to rain, heat and sunlight. These problems are more common in trailers, caravans and other vehicles that are only used occasionally. Also, exposure to salt water in coastal areas, and contact with certain cleaning chemicals, can speed up the ageing process.

The major indicator that your tyres are deteriorating in this way is cracking on the side walls. These defects are caused by flexing and they increase the risk of tyre failure. Itís a good idea to get into the habit of inspecting your tyres for cracks from time to time. Meanwhile, if tyres on trailers or caravans arenít in regular use, make sure you check them before each journey.

Another tell tale sign to look out for is low tyre tread. Treads clear water from the surface of the road which is important for vehicle safety. Removing more water allows your tyres to grip the road better enabling you to stay in control of your car. Through regular use, tyre tread depth naturally reduces, which in turn, reduces the level of grip on the tyres. Less grip increases the chances of an accident as stopping distances are longer. Low grip levels also makes your vehicle more difficult to control if you need to swerve suddenly.

In the UK, the legal minimum tread depth is 1.6mm. However, we recommend changing your tyres before they reach this level as tyres with a tread depth of under 3mm have significantly worse grip than tyres above this amount. At 3mm, tyre tread wear rapidly increases, impacting stopping distances and vehicle safety.

If your tyres donít have Tread Wear Indicators, itís possible to check the tread depth of your tyres by undertaking the 20p test. Place a 20p coin in the main tread channels of your tyres multiple times, at various points around the tyre. Using this trick can determine if your tyres tread is too shallow and if you need to get your tyres replaced.

How can Kwik Fit help?

As weíve discovered, there are no set rules when it comes to tyre ageing. The important thing is to make sure you look after these pieces of kit and know how to spot any potential problems.

If you think your tyres need to be replaced, we can help. At Kwik Fit, we stock an impressive variety of tyres to suit your driving needs and your budget. For your convenience, we also provide express fitting and mobile fitting services alongside free tyre checks. Simply browse our website or get in touch with our experts to discover more.

Tags : Tips Tyres

Any facts, figures and prices shown in our blog articles are correct at time of publication.

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