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Bald is Not Beautiful When it Comes to Your Tires Tread

According to most state laws, tires are legally worn out when they have worn down to 2/32″ of remaining tread depth. Tread wear can be identified by using U.S. coins substituted for a tire tread depth gauge as tires wear. Consult your local tire retailer if you need help with the condition of your tires.

No matter where you live, or what time of the year it happens to be, there is always the potential for inclement weather. Any time it rains or snows and you get behind the wheel of your car, you can be faced with driving risks. Depending on road conditions and your driving speed, stopping on wet roads can take up to four times the normal distance. And if your tires are worn … they can hydroplane, or skim over the surface of the road with little or no traction.

Unfortunately, there are more people than you may realize who are sharing the road while driving on worn tires. Recently, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) conducted a study of 11,500 cars, pickup trucks, vans, and sport-utility vehicles and found that nearly 50% had at least one tire with half-worn tread wear. Another 10% had at least one bald tire.

Worn tires … especially bald ones … can be deadly on wet roads, where the grooves aren’t deep enough to channel water out from beneath the tread. The result is hydroplaning, where the tread wear allow the tire to skim the water’s surface and the vehicle no longer responds to the steering wheel. Wet weather braking and snow traction also decrease with tread wear on balder tires.

Industry advocates like the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) remind drivers to check their vehicle’s tires as part of regular seasonal maintenance. According to RMA research, two out of three drivers don’t know how to tell if their tires are bald.

The accepted standard for tires to be considered bald is when one or more of their grooves reach 2/32 of an inch deep, compared with about 10/32 of an inch for new tires. FYI – tire tread wear is usually measured in 1/32-inch increments. To make bald tires easier for owners to spot, manufacturers have placed a series of molded horizontal bars at the base of the grooves. As the tire treads wears away the bars become flush with surrounding tread when the groove’s depth reaches 2/32 of an inch.

Traditional tread condition has been easily checked with a Lincoln penny. Placing the penny upside down within the tread, if you saw the top of Lincoln’s head, the tire needed to be replaced. However, testing shows that you should consider changing tires sooner. There is quite a dramatic difference between the stopping distance of a tire with 2/32- inch of tread compared to 4/32. Using a quarter will help you quickly find out if you have 4/32- inch of tread left. If you can see the top of Lincoln’s wig, then it is time to get new tires.

Since tire tread provides the gripping action and traction to prevent a vehicle from slipping and sliding, a tire is not safe and should be replaced when the tread is worn down to 1/16th of an inch. Not only is it extremely important for your driving safety to ensure that your tires have ample tread, but it’s also very important to make sure your tires are properly inflated. It can’t be stressed enough … if you drive on tires that are bald or substantially under-inflated you risk injury, or worse, to you, your passengers, and other drivers on the road.

It’s important to understand the risks you face as a driver when driving in challenging weather conditions and the affect worn tires can have.

Winter Grip Slips On Worn Tires
Deep grooves and an array of small slits, known as “sipes,” help new tires bite into snow. Shallower tread and worn-away sipes reduce snow grip, affecting traction on acceleration and overall braking performance.

Summer Rain and Hydroplaning Starts Sooner As Your Tread Wears Away
Common sense should tell you that the faster you drive on wet pavement, the greater the risk of hydroplaning. Simply put, higher speeds allow less time for water to escape through the tread grooves. Shallower tread worsens that situation by allowing more water to stay beneath the tire.

Less Tread = Longer Wet-Weather Stops
Reduced wet-weather braking can be even more dangerous than hydroplaning. Compared with new tires, well-worn tires take much longer to stop, even on vehicles equipped with antilock braking systems.

To better protect motorists, the NHTSA has launched a tire safety campaign called: “Tire Safety: Everything Rides on It.” Through ads, brochures and radio ads, the campaign advises car owners to check their tires monthly, as well as prior to a long trip, to be sure they have safe tread wear, and will stress the importance of proper tire inflation and vehicle load limits.

About Belle Tire
People have trusted Belle Tire for the best value since 1922. Because at Belle Tire we challenge ourselves every day to make sure that you always get the lowest tire price, period. Prove it to yourself. Take the Belle Tire Price Challenge. Challenge us online, over the phone or even challenge us right in the store. Come in to any Belle Tire, and we’ll check other stores’ prices with you, right at the counter, and prove to you that Belle Tire has the lowest tire prices, PERIOD! Plus, at Belle Tire, you’ll always get out the door with more value, services and protection with every tire installation than the competition can offer, at any price! For the Lowest Tire Price, Period and great low prices on Custom Wheels, Alignments, Brakes, Batteries, Oil and Lube, Shocks & Struts, Windshield Repair and Replacement, and more. Visit and also join our online communities: BELLE TIRE CARES BLOG | FACEBOOK | TWITTER


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Accurate Wheel Alignment Extends Tire Tread Life

Michigan and Ohio drivers experience five different seasons: summer, fall, winter, spring and pothole season. Sometimes called kettles or chuckholes, potholes appear after water freezes in cracks or crevices of the road surface. Periodic freezing and thawing causes them to widen and surrounding surface area to flake away. The hole then further expands as vehicles bump their way through it, loosening even more of the already fragile pavement around it.

An unexpected encounter with a monster pothole can cause thousands of dollars of damage to your tires, wheels, steering system and suspension components. Even a chance encounter with a medium-size pothole can inflict damage you might not notice by throwing your wheel alignment out of whack. If that happens, you might notice that your vehicle pulls to the left or right when the steering wheel is in a straight ahead position or notice excessive vibration at high speeds.

You might also notice unusual or excessive tire wear. That’s because, instead of running straight and true, your tires are now skidding or scrubbing across the road, almost as it they were constantly cornering. Fortunately, there are some tire discount stores that have state-of-the-art computerized wheel alignment equipment to quickly, accurately and affordably adjust any alignment problems that could cause your vehicle to pull or vibrate and ultimately shorten the life of your tires.

Balancing versus Alignment
Don’t be confused by tire retailers who say tire-wheel balancing and wheel alignment is the same thing or that balancing is good enough. Tires generate enormous centrifugal forces at high speeds. Balancing evens out weight irregularities in each tire and wheel combination. It helps ensure the tire maintains constant surface contact without skipping, jumping or bumping over the road. A wheel alignment ensures all four wheels and tires track straight and true. It centers them with your steering system, maximizes suspensions system performance and helps prevent uneven tire wear.

Alignment Geometry
Accurate wheel alignment is a matter of geometry. To ensure safe everyday driving with good directional stability and extended tire tread life, four critical suspension angles must be precisely aligned and adjusted to the vehicle’s factory specifications.

  • Camber angle measures how far the tire slants away from vertical when viewed from the front of the vehicle. Camber is negative when the top of the tire leans inward and positive when it leans outward.
  • Caster angle measures how far the tire slopes forward or backward of a line drawn through the upper and lower pivot points of the steering system when viewed directly from the side. Caster is negative if the line slopes forward and positive if it slopes backward toward the rear of the vehicle.
  • Toe angle measures the direction the tires are pointed compared to a line drawn through the center of the vehicle when viewed from above. Tires are toe-in if they intersect the centerline and toe-out if they do not.
  • Thrust angle compares the direction the rear axle is aimed compared to a line drawn down the center of the vehicle.  Thrust angle is on-center if the rear axle is parallel to the front axle and off-center if it is not.

Ask a Professional
If your vehicle pulls to the left or right when the steering wheel is in a straight ahead position, if experience excessive vibration at high speeds or if you notice uneven tire wear, it might be time for an alignment check. But, precisely adjusting the critical geometry angles engineered into today’s sophisticated suspension systems isn’t a job for an amateur.

ASE Certified Technicians at most tire discount stores have the training, tools and state-of-the-art computerized equipment to do it quickly, accurately and affordably. Even if you don’t have an unexpected meeting with a pothole, it’s a good idea to have your wheel alignment inspected every twelve months or 12,000 miles.

So, enjoy every Michigan and Ohio driving season. Have your wheel alignment checked by a professional after any pothole mishap or every twelve months or 12,000 miles. Many tire discounters offer free alignment checks that will tell you if you’re in need of an alignment.  You’ll not only maximize your suspension system and tire performance, you’ll also save money down the road because you won’t have to replace your tires as often.

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