The risks of driving on worn tires

As we have pointed out in past articles, the used tires are the only things that are actually linking your vehicle to the road that you are driving on. They are the objects that are bearing all the power from the engines, the stress of rough and bumpy roads as well as various vagaries of the weather that is thrown at it through the passing seasons. So it only makes sense that they need to be in good shape to perform properly. Sadly, many motorists do not take good care to make sure that their long time used tires are in good enough shape to pass legal guidelines, let alone perform optimally.

A tire can actually lose its footing quite a long ways before it even wears out fully. Tests have shown that even when a used tire’s tread is worn out to its halfway point, they give up a considerable amount of grip. Recent tests have shown that as many as fifty percent of the vehicles tested had atleast one tire with thread that was half or more wore out, and atleast ten percent had atleast one tire that was completely bald. Such tires can be dangerous on wet roads, as the grooves not being deep enough, cannot channel out enough amount of water when the tire travels over it. This results in something known as hydroplaning, where the tread of the tire actually starts to skim over the film of water on the road surface and the driver loses control over the car’s steering. Similar effects are experienced when driving on roads with slushy, snowy conditions.

When is a tire considered bald? Tread depth is measured in increments of 1/32 inches. For reference, on a new tire, the tread depth is 10/32. Legal guidelines state that when their grooves reach 2/32 of an inch deep. However, tests have shown that even at 4/32 inch, the tire’s control performance decreases by as much as half.

If you drive in a region where wet roads are not a concern, running with tires down to 2/32 of tread depth is much safer but even so, it is not recommended.

Safety tips for driving on used tires

  • Since the stopping distance of your car is going to be longer with worn tires, make sure you leave more than adequate room to the car in front of you. Keep increasing this distance the faster you are traveling. A good guideline to follow is to make sure you pass a road-side object atleast two to three seconds after the car in front of your does.
  • If you do experience hydroplaning, back off the accelerator to regain control of your vehicle.