A Junkyard Guide to Used Tires
These used tires are getting ready for a second life to be re-used on the road again.
Used tires can be a great way to save money when owning a vehicle. Most salvage yards only charge a fraction of the price of a new tires. Tires are one of the most overlooked and yet durable and important components on a vehicle. Aside from the operator they are the front line of safe travel. The National Highway Safety Administration estimates that every year roughly 11,000 tire-related crashes happen.
Are Used Tires Safe?
The short answer, YES! A used tire is just as safe as a new tire so long as its in good condition. Just because something is used doesn’t mean that its lower quality. You can purchase perfectly good safe used tires for pennies on the dollar from most auto recyclers. BUT, you need to inspect a tire before you purchase it to make sure its safe and free of leaks!
Tire Types, Ratings, & Sizes.
You want to make sure you are putting the correct tires on your vehicle. The first step when searching for tires is finding out what size tires your vehicle takes. You can find this in your owners manual, on the drivers die door jam, or through a google search. If your vehicle is an AWD you may want to avoid running uneven or miss matched tires as this can cause transmission damage.
Tires have the type, size, and rating, along with the DOT information written on the sidewall. In the image below you can see the tire size is [ P215/60R16 ]. The first letter “P” stands for Passenger. You only want to use P (Passenger Metric) or LT (Light Truck Metric) and never use a trailer (ST) or temporary (T) tire on your vehicle. “215” is the width of the tire in millimete
How to Inspect The Condition of Used Tires
This is where taking your time and being thorough will ensure you get a good safe tire. Also, its important to note that most yards sell their used tires as-is where-is with no warranty or refunds so you don’t want to get stuck with a damaged tire.
Tread Depth and Uneven Wear
The state inspection requirement is 2/32nds of tread depth for an inspection. If you take a penny and stick Lincolns head into space between the tread, the tread should protrude over the tip of his head. Good tread is essential to maintaining control of your vehicle. Good tread allows water and snow on the road to be pushed into the voids around the tread allowing your tire to maintain contact with the road while driving.
Check for Uneven wear. This is something to avoid as this can cause alignment and steering issues. I will usually roll the tire along the ground inspecting the “horizon” of the tire. You should notice a nice uniform roll with even wear across the horizon or tread of the tire, with no bumps or abnormalities. Sometimes tires will have broken bands inside them or bubbles and rolling is a good way to detect this as the tire will appear to ‘hop’ as its rolled.. Never use tires that have bulges or weird abnormalities in the shape.
Make sure there is no “weather cracking” on the tire anywhere. Cracks are a sign the tire has started to degrade. Eventually these little cracks will begin to leak air. You can also be looking for screws, nails, or other foreign objects that may have punctured the tire. Punctures can be patched as long as they not too big, and are an inch away from the sidewall. If a tire has a hole along the edge of the tread or in the sidewall the tire is no good.
Make sure the bead is good. The bead is the inner rings that mates the tire with the rim. The beads should not have any tears or major cuts in it. Sometimes you can get away with minor shallow nicks that are a result of the tire machine. But again use caution as there needs to be adequate surface area for the bead to seal to the rim.
You also want to look at the inside of the tire to make sure there’s no plugs, or punctures you missed from the outside. Plugs aren’t the end of the word as they seal just fine if done properly. If you see wear marks on the interior of the tire from the rim riding directly on the tire from being flat (usually a bunch of loose rubber grounds inside) then the tire is no good. This happens when the tire is driven under-inflated and the weight of the vehicle causes the rim to eat into the the tire. Under no circumstances should you ever use a tire that shows interior wear like below.
Directional Tires & Matching Tires;
You can’t mix and match Directional and Non-Directional tires. Most tires are non-directional meaning they can be mounted either way and it won’t make a difference. If you have directional tires on your vehicle you need find directional replacements. A directional tire means the tread pattern is designed to roll in one direction. You can usually figure this out by looking at the tire sidewall. Look for an arrow with the words “rotation” printed somewhere on the side. You can also figure this out by looking at the tire tread as it won’t be asymmetrical like a non directional tire.
For a Maine state inspection you are allowed to run tires that don’t all match as long as they are all non-directional and put on in matching pairs. This means that the tires on the front are identical to one another, and the tires on the rear are the same. Each axle should have a matching pair in order to pass an inspection. All wheel drive vehicles need to have 4 identical tires in order to avoid mechanical damage to the transmission.
The National Highway Safety Administration estimates that keeping up on your tire pressures can save you %11 in fuel costs ever year! Tires should be regularly inspected for proper pressures and overall condition. Regularly checking the pressure will extend the life of your tires and decrease the likely hood of a catastrophic failure due to under-inflation. If your tire looks low, check it. Another useful tip is to feel your tires after you have driven (make sure there not too hot first!) as a warm tire can be a good sign of under inflation or other mechanical problems that need attention.
Used tires can be a great way to cut down on the cost of vehicle maintenance. Also getting the full use out of a tire helps to reduce the rate at which we produce environmental waste. Who knew “recycling” could be so easy!