There is a good chance you are carrying around some information in your head that does not have a source. You have no idea how it got there or came from, but you have faith in it nonetheless. Your beliefs regarding the useful life of tires may fall into that category. We’ve believed that our go-to round rubber bits had a finite and very brief lifespan before the effects of aging became significantly detrimental to their overall performance. It appears that we were incorrect. Way wrong.
According to Woody Rodgers, a tire product information specialist who has worked at Tire Rack for the past 16 years, if you store your tires correctly and take good care of the tires, they can last you up to ten years.
Tires have a shelf life that is nearly unbounded when they are properly maintained in a climate-controlled warehouse, and once they are on the road, taking care of them properly can add many years to the amount of time they are usable. We generally see a service life of six years and an entire life of no more than ten years since the product was manufactured.
This is what Rodgers calls the “6 or 10 rule,” and those are important numbers. In this case, the tire needs service whenever it is in the car, used, or kept outside. Exposure to ozone or UV rays and big temperature changes shorten this life span.
That depends on where you live and how you drive, of course. Rodgers said, “It is difficult to determine how many years the lifespan of a vehicle will be because it can change so drastically from one driver to the next and from one region of the country to another.”
Rodgers says that you should check and maintain your tires every month instead of writing a date on your calendar. Check the tread depth and look for sidewall cracks caused by the sun or not having enough air in the tires. Rodgers believes this presents an issue because most of us rely on the wear bars on the tires or the good ol’ penny test to notify us when it is time to replace our shoes.
Wear bars usually show up when the tread is 2/32 of an inch deep, which is fine for dry places like Los Angeles or Phoenix but not so great for places that get a lot of rain. Instead, 4/32 tread depth is the safest minimum for letting water out under the tire and lowering the risk of hydroplaning. How can you measure 4/32 if you don’t have a depth gauge like the above? If you can, you should get new tires. Also, winter tires (and all-season tires) need even more depth—about 6/32—to eliminate snow and slush.
The last problem is inflation. Rodgers says that, on average, tires lose about one psi of air pressure every month and lose or gain one psi for every 10-degree change. Your car’s tire pressure monitoring system may be unable to keep up with these changes.
Most systems are set up to tell the driver that a tire is low only when the pressure is less than 75% of what is recommended. Rodgers says that’s way past the point where it would hurt the tire and shorten its life, not to mention hurt your gas mileage. It is important to check the pressure of your tires using a decent gauge in cool air, which may require you to take the vehicle out of the garage.
What about putting things away? Rodgers says most street tires don’t care if they are mounted or unmounted, stacked on the sidewall, or standing up on their tread. As long as you keep your tires out of the sun, in an area with low ozone, and where the temperature does not fluctuate too much, you should be fine to go.