Are you ready for some shocking news? You're probably not getting nearly as much life out of your tires as you could be! The lifespan of a mounted tire that isn't in use falls into the range of six to ten years. Even without racking up the miles, the rubber on tires will eventually age and become dangerous for use. Of course, few drivers ever manage to keep their tires usable for six years or more. Most drivers spring for a new set of rubber once the tread depth has worn to a dangerous level, but can you delay the inevitable and keep your tires for longer? It turns out that the answer is most likely an emphatic "yes!"
Friction, Heat, and Inevitability
Any tire that is in use will eventually wear away. As your tires travel over the road, they generate friction (and heat) which slowly wears down the rubber tread. The tread pattern on street tires exists to channel water and snow away from the tire, providing traction in inclement weather. When the tread wears down too much, your tires will become increasingly dangerous on roads that aren't perfectly smooth and dry. Given enough time, this fate will befall all tires.
Extending the life of your tread is possible, however. Two essential steps can increase your tire life and save you money by spreading out your tire replacement intervals.
Step 1: Avoid Aggressive Driving
The more aggressively you drive, the more heat your tires will generate and the faster the tread will wear. Peeling out of a parking lot might be fun, but the sound of your tires squealing is the sound of money going down the drain. Hard and fast cornering is another excellent way to reduce the life of otherwise good tires. If you typically track or autocross your car, then some aggressive driving is unavoidable, but street driven tires should be used gently whenever possible.
Step 2: Ensure Even Wear
The portion of your tire that touches the road at any given time is known as the contact patch. When everything is functioning properly, your contact patch will usually be wide enough to promote even wear. When there are problems, things look much different. Wheel balance issues, suspension problems, or incorrect tire inflation can result in unusual contact patches, ultimately creating uneven wear patterns on your tires. Uneven wear negatively impacts the handling characteristics of a tire and causes it to wear more quickly. To ensure even wear, regularly rotate your tires and inspect major suspension and steering components.
All tires will eventually fail, even if not in use. You may not be able to avoid this inevitable fact, but some careful driving and maintenance can help to guarantee that your tires go the distance. When your tires do start to become worn, visit a tire shop to look for replacements.