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DIY Tire Inspections – How to Check Tire Tread, Tire Pressure and More!

Tire inspections are important for used car shoppers, but they’re also important for drivers that want to be sure their vehicles are safe for the open road.

Tires are an important (and expensive) part of your car, and no one wants to be surprised by having to replace their tires just a few months after buying their ‘new-to-you’ ride. Before you make a purchase, do a proper tire inspection. Old tires without much life left in them shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, but they may give you some wiggle room when you’re negotiating price with the seller.

How to check tire tread

Whether you’re car shopping or making sure your own car is safe to drive, tire tread is an important indicator of how much life there is left in your tires. Buying a vehicle with low tire tread means you’re likely in for a significant expense not far down the road, while driving on tires without much tread left could impact your safety. Tires with proper tread depth help avoid sliding and skidding when you brake and keep your car performing its best.

Not sure how to check tire tread? The best way is to use a proper depth gauge. You can find these in any hardware or home improvement store like Canadian Tire or Home Depot. They’re small and inexpensive and make a great addition to any car safety kit (here’s what else your emergency kit should contain). A depth gauge has a pin – find it and insert it between the tire’s treads. Push on the gauge’s base plate and make sure it’s lying flat against the tire tread. Once it’s flat, read the numbers visible – that’s your reading!

It’s recommended to repeat these steps in a few different spots around the tire – average out your readings to find the number you should use. Here’s what the numbers mean:

6/32” – you are good to go

5/32” – it’s time to start looking around – you’ll need new tires soon

4/32” – tires need replacing

No hardware store handy? No problem – as long as you have a toonie in your pocket! Just slip the toonie into your treads – if the tread hits the bear paws, you are good to go! If the silver part of the toonie is covered by tread block, your tires are about half-worn, and if the tread barely hits the letters CANADA or DOLLARS, it’s time to start tire-shopping!

Get more info on tire-shopping options here.

Driving on properly inflated tires is key to your vehicle’s safety and longevity. When tires are underinflated, too much of the surface touches the road, which creates excess friction and overheating – leading to premature wear-and-tear and possibly causing the tire’s treads to separate from the tire, or even a tire blowout.

How to check tire pressure

Some people choose to overinflate their tires because they think it will make their car handle more responsively and get them better fuel-efficiency. However, driving on overinflated tires can cause rounding in the tread section, meaning faster wear on the outer edges. It can also cause traction loss or spinning, especially in the winter.

You can find the recommended tire pressure setting for your car in your owner’s manual. Check your pressure regularly and always adhere to the manufacturer’s recommendation – not the maximum pressure or the recommendation on the tire’s sidewall. Click here for a step-by-step on how to check tire pressure.

Full tire inspection

Keep an eye out for the following, which indicate there may be a problem with your tires:

  • If the tire is worn off on both edges, this is a sign of underinflation
  • If the tire is worn in the centre, this is a sign of over inflation
  • If the tire has cups or dips in the tread, this is a sign of worn parts
  • If the tire has sawtooth edges, this is a sign of misalignment

If you notice any of these patterns when you’re car shopping, talk to the seller about them, or alert your mechanic when you take the car in for a pre-purchase inspection. If you notice them on your own tires – have an expert take a peek.

Click here for tips on how to inspect a vehicle’s interior and exterior before you buy.