Winter Weather Will Reveal a Hidden Danger: Driving on Worn or Bald Tires.

Dec 09, 2010, 12:15 ET from U.S. AutoForce

MADISON, Wis., Dec. 9, 2010 /PRNewswire/ -- Twenty-eight million vehicles – nearly 11 percent of the cars and trucks in the U.S. – have at least one bald tire, according to the results of a survey sponsored by the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA).  In other words, of the 39.7 million motorists (according to AAA estimates) who will drive to their destinations this Holiday season, nearly 4 million will be at risk from at least one bald tire, the RMA said.  The 6,300-vehicle survey is part of the RMA's ongoing effort to educate motorists about the dangers posed by bald and underinflated tires.

According to*, Tires can lose their footing long before they're worn out. Tests show that tread can give up a significant amount of grip when it's still at the halfway point.

Also from*, in most states, tires are legally worn out when their tread depth reaches 1/16 inch (or 2/32 inch as found on standardized tread-depth gauges).  The easiest way to measure this, if you don't have a gauge, is to hold a penny upside down in the tread.  If the top of Lincoln's head is visible, you need new tires.  But using a penny standard doesn't work for all weather conditions.  We have found in our tests that a tire with just 1/8-inch tread was notably worse in hydroplaning resistance and snow traction.  By our experience, when your tires have less than 1/8 inch of tread left, it's a good time to start shopping for replacement tires.

As a better indicator of tread wear, place a quarter upside down in a tire groove.  The distance from the coin's rim to George Washington's hairline is about 1/8 inch.  If you see more of his head, consider shopping for new tires.

Consumers can find more information and links through U.S. AutoForce® at

Look for tires that do well in tests for braking, handling, and resistance to hydroplaning.  Winter traction should also be considered, if applicable.  Let tread wear, ride comfort, noise, and rolling resistance be tiebreakers.  A manufacturer's warranty doesn't always reflect how a tire will wear.



SOURCE U.S. AutoForce