Is it time to replace your tyres? 5 tell-tale signs of damage

Did you know that your tyres at a tread depth of 1.6mm are only 55% effective when compared to the new? This further implies that your brakes are also only 55% effective.

Sounds scary?

Health of tyres is critical to the steering and safety of the entire vehicle. No tyre is immune to failure due to impact damage, punctures, improper inflation, and overloading. There are, however, five signs that indicate their worsening condition and time for a replacement.


It’s time to order a new set of wheels when:


1. Tread depth is less than 3mm.


There are 3 ways with which you can gauge the tread depth quickly –

  • Tread Wear Indicators (TWI): Each tyre has certain TWIs inside its grooves which can point towards the need for replacement.
  • 2-rupee coin test: Place the coin on the tyre (digit side facing you). If the tread covers the rim of the coin goes over the rupee symbol, then you’re in the safe zone. If the tread is just touching the rupee symbol or shows a gap, then order a new set of tyres.
  • Depth measuring gauge: Available in every tool shop, this gauge gives more accurate results. It is also small enough to be stored in your glovebox.

Remember to check the tyre from at least 2-3 places especially those that seem most worn.


2. There are visible cracks in the sidewall.


The sidewalls of the vehicle that are usually parked in the open develop ‘dry rots’ or thin root-like cracks. Slight cracks are okay, but excessive cracks call for a change to new tyres.

Further, an object lodged in the sidewall or treads is even more dangerous since it might penetrate the tyre all the way through. While most punctures are repairable, some need immediate tyre replacement.


3. Bulges or blisters appear on the tyre.


Blisters indicate a weakened spot on the outer surface of the tyre. They can burst at any time leading to an accident and damaging the vehicle and its riders. So, keep an eye out for such bulges and rush to a service centre if you spot one.


4. The machine produces a vibration while driving.


Vehicles generally vibrate a bit when driven, especially on poor roads. However, if you drive it regularly, you’ll be able to assess when the vibration feels abnormally high. This signals a misalignment of the wheels.

Wheels get misaligned due to uneven weight distribution causing excessive wear to wheel spindle & bearings, heating up of tyres, wobbly steering, and poor fuel economy.

So, if you observe vibrations, drop down your speed and safely drive to the side of the road. Inspect your tyres for any visible damage. If it is damaged and you happen to have a spare tyre, change it. If you can’t locate the source of the humming, drive to the service centre for a thorough inspection.


5. Air pressure is dropping unexpectedly.


Checking air pressure is basic and yet bears to be reminded of. Check your tyres’ cold air pressure at least twice a week. If it’s dropping more than 2psi of the manufacturer’s recommended range, then there may be a leak.

Cracked or dented wheels, old or damaged valve stems and cores – any of these can cause this leakage. So, inspect them when mounting new tyres and replace, if required.

Note: Some bikes have different pressures recommended for front and rear tyres and they should be referenced accordingly. Also, don’t go by the pressure stamped on tyre’s sidewall as it is only for the maximum load.



If the above symptoms are absent


In such a case, pat yourselves on your back. You have been a responsible driver and kept your tyres healthy.

However, your tyres still may be old and ageing. This may not cause a flat but will greatly affect its performance. An under-performing tyre is not the ideal tyre for your vehicle.


A tyre ages like a human


A 5-year-old tyre that’s still in use should be thoroughly inspected by a professional at least once every year. A 10-year-old tyre is better used as a swing by the kids even if it appears to be in a usable condition. That’s because, apart from the usage, heat and exposure to the sun’s UV rays alter a tyre’s structure.

To check the manufacturing year, look at side markings on the tyre – four digits enclosed in an oval (mm/yy).

Also, ageing affects in-use and spare tyres equally.


Over to you


No matter how good a tyre is promised to be, its longevity and mileage depend on its design, driver’s habits, road and climate of usage, and maintenance. Hence, check for the signs of probable damage regularly. It’s better to be safe than sorry.



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